Blue Plate Special
by Claire Beck
She stood at the side of the road with her thumb out, hoping for a ride. Mae hadn’t hitchhiked since she was in her 20’s back in 1960 or so. She mused that it was a lot easier to get a ride when you were a young curvy girl in bell bottoms with blonde hair down to your ass than when you were a pleasantly plump dowager in your mid-sixties with a trick knee and a cheating husband.
Not that he’d actually done anything. At least, she didn’t think so. It was really more about the way he’d looked at the waitress. How his eyes followed her as she flitted from table to table. The way he’d made eye contact with her as she wrote down the blue plate specials he ordered for both of them. And the fact that Mae didn’t even like halibut, which was the blue plate special. It was like she wasn’t even there, and he just ordered the first thing he saw on the menu.
There had been other times like this, where his eye seemed to wander. He’d answer her questions with a distracted single-syllable answer that told her he wasn’t even paying attention. Just completely checked out. She could slit her wrists and stand in front of him spurting blood all over the place and singing the National Anthem and he’d crane his neck to look around her to the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition on ESPN.
How dare he.
Well, this was the last time he was going to discount her. She was going to pack her things and head out to the Super 8 until she could find a nice little apartment. She had some savings, and her job ought to just cover a little one bedroom place.
Occasionally a car slowed and the driver craned his neck to look at her on the side of the road, dumpy, put out and glaring back with all the resentment 30 years of marriage to someone who didn’t love you could conjure up. No one stopped, though. She probably wouldn’t, either.
She was in a fairly nice blouse with polyester pants and carried a matching bag. That probably didn’t matter much – they probably thought she was some homeless crazy who had perhaps pissed her drawers and smelled bad.
She turned and walked a little further down the road, trying to look like she was out on a purposeful walk, rather than an angry woman who had just left her husband at the diner on the corner. God, she didn’t want him to drive up and see her here. She’d much rather he drive home slowly, looking for her, and worry. He’d be sorry.
Just then, she heard the crunch of gravel under a car tire behind her and adrenaline dumped into her bloodstream. If it was him, what should she do?
But it wasn’t. It was a police car. It rolled slowly up beside her. The passenger window rolled down. The officer behind the driver’s wheel leaned over to speak to her. He looked like a real straight arrow with his close-cropped hair and mirrored sunglasses.
“Ma’am, do you need some assistance?”
“Well, I supposed I do,” she said somewhat huffily, though her eyes swam with tears.
“I need to get home. I left my husband, and he has the car. Could you give me a ride?”
She got in the back seat of the cruiser after a short exchange with the officer in the mirrored glasses. The cruiser left the side of the road and picked up speed.
Mae was never seen again.
by Tony Schrieber
Your name is short like an epithet
Spit from the lips in disgust.
You appear after strong or gentle rains
Then dry to fly away as fine dust.
You incubated the first life of souls
In primordial ooze where creatures grew.
You gave Sir Raleigh a chivalrous stage
When upon your field his cape, he threw.
You provide caring mothers a purpose
To shine and polish a child’s smudged face.
You hold a fen’s seasonal promise
Where, in dormancy lie frogs, newts and dace.
You cement secrets in your once thin brew
Where you onetime swallowed mammoths entire.
Now archeologists dig through solid rock
To reveal bony secrets you locked in your mire.
Your substance mixed with grass and formed,
Provides adobe to build homes and church.
But a rainy season can release your wrath
And bury whole villages in a sudden quick lurch.
Like yin and yang in a balanced world
You provide your own soiled give and take
Whether formed into pottery, blocks or tombs
Or still lying at the bottom of a placid lake.
In inert ways you provide a bane or a boon,
A bier for careless step or a bed for flower bud.
Your power lies in your life altering essence
Whether called muck, mire or just plain mud.