A Land Far, Far Away Pt. 02bytheMaven©
"What are you so fucking happy about?"
Mecca sat in the passenger's seat, an almost irritatingly bright smile on her face, both long, lean caramel-colored legs tucked beneath her shapely ass. "What's not to be happy about?" She held a fry out to him, and he opened his mouth to receive it. "I'm here, you're here, and my cell phone hasn't rung once since I hung up with April."
He finished chewing and swallowing before answering. "We've been on the road for almost five hours, and we're still not at this Tomlinson Run-place. We both smell like we just escaped from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. It's the beginning of April, but it feels like it's the middle of July. And after I repeatedly told the fucking drive-thru bitch no mayo, there's extra mayo on my hamburger!"
She shoved another French fry in his mouth. "But I'm more than happy to share my nuggets with you, and the god of tubers has blessed us with an over abundance of fries."
"Soggy fries," he grumbled.
"And let's not forget the blowjob I gave you while hurtling down the highway just a few hours ago."
"Well . . ."
"Or the hot sex we had on the other side of the guardrail while cars passed by overhead." She presented him with another deep-fried tuber.
He opened his mouth, chewed, then swallowed, the barest amount of color rising to his cheeks. "That was kind of hot, wasn't it?"
"I'm a very good lay," she boasted with a smile.
He shook his head, the blush spreading to his neck and ears.
"Want a nugget?"
She popped one into his mouth then allowed her fingers to linger on his lower lip. "Of course, you weren't half bad yourself."
He turned his head away from her, causing her hand to drop back to her lap. "You talk more shit than anyone I know."
She fed him another bit of food.
"That stupid bitch."
Mecca rolled her eyes, reaching back into their shared bag of food.
"If it wasn't such a tremendous waste of time, I'd find the nearest exit ramp, backtrack the way we came, throw this shitty food in the dumb bitch's face and cuss her till she ran in the bathroom crying."
"That's awful," she laughed.
"How hard is it to make a fucking hamburger without mayo? There's the hamburger. There's the mayo. Don't put it on there. Sheesh!"
Mecca laughed again. "I know it's a big deal to you, and I know how picky I am about my own food, but . . . Ours isn't the only food order in the world. They probably take hundreds if not thousands of orders every day, and, working in the food service industry, I know how hard it can be to keep one order straight from another, which is why I always tell my staff to continuously question the customer to make sure they get each order as accurate as possible. Some people will tell you when you've made a mistake, which is good because it gives you the opportunity to correct the situation: go above and beyond the consumers expectations. But if they don't like the food, and they don't say anything, chances are they won't come back, and they'll probably advise people they know not to eat there . . . Which is why you have to be so careful with customer service. Word spreads like wildfire, man."
"Shitty burger," he cursed again.
"Well, when we get to the campsite I promise I'll cook you something you do like to eat, and mayonnaise is nowhere in our food supplies."
He stuck his tongue out. "Blech."
He opened his mouth and chomped down. "Exactly where is the 'nugget' located on a chicken, anyway?"
Mecca shrugged. "The real mystery is chicken fingers. They don't even have fingers."
Having completed their fast food meal, she crushed the cardboard container and stuffed it back in the bag, then crumpled it, dropping it on the floor, the combined waste landing with a thud, the uneaten burger weighing it down. She then stretched her legs out in front of her and placed her feet flat on the floor. "Remember when Happy Meals came in boxes?"
"What?" he laughed.
"Happy Meals," she repeated. "They used to come in brightly-colored boxes instead of overly-recycled, completely transparent, totally washed out bags."
Daniel nodded. "Yeah! And they used to have collectors' glasses, actual glass and not that smelly plastic/acrylic shit."
"And lunchboxes used to be made of metal: embossed, painted and bolted together."
His smile grew. "Yeah. That shit was built to last; I think I still have one or two of mine. Up in my dad's attic somewhere. All the 'cool' kids had metal lunchboxes, and everybody else had to brown bag it."
"I had Strawberry Shortcake, Holly Hobby, Pac-Man, and Mickey Mouse and the Ice Capades. Then they just . . . stopped making them, I guess, and I had to get the plastic ones."
"I can't remember all the ones I had, but I know Star Wars and The Dukes of Hazzard were among them. And Styrofoam! Everything used to come in Styrofoam."
Mecca nodded. "And the drinks used to stay cold, and the burgers used to stay hot."
"And the shit didn't fall all over the place. You actually got your food kind of the way they made it."
"So you could just eat it instead of reassembling it."
He smiled and laughed, a bright twinkle in his eyes. "Whatever happened to those days?"
"Environmentalism. Styrofoam was non-biodegradable, so, after public and political pressure, they stopped using it."
Daniel scoffed. "There's no such thing as environmentalism."
"Seriously. Nobody wants to save the earth; they just wanna save a buck."
Mecca purred, placing one hand on his shoulder and the other on his knee. "Forget French or Italian, cynicism is the true language of romance. Talk logic to me, baby."
"Will you quit?"
"No-no, tell me more about 'Forget the world; save a dollar."
Daniel sighed. "I don't wanna start a fight about this."
"Who says I wanna fight?"
"C'mon. You recycle everything. They don't have a program in your neighborhood, so you make a special trip to the recycling center just to drop off your junk. You use those crazy little canvas bags to pack your groceries in. You drive a Hybrid. Given, it's an SUV, but still . . . And your restaurant recycles; you make them do it."
"True," she nodded, "but like you said, sometimes it's less about ecology and more about economy. Some people (like me) don't really give a shit about the big picture, and how what we do today affects what we can and can't do tomorrow. I'm a realist, Daniel, and I live in the real world. This so-called War on Terrorism isn't really about 'terrorism;' it's about oil. They have it, we want it, so let's take it.
"As a result, the price of oil has skyrocketed, and the price of gas is ridiculous, which is making the price of everything ridiculous. Now, does the average American give a shit that oil is a non-renewable natural resource, and once existing supplies are gone we're screwed? No. They're just sick of paying so much for gas that they'll do whatever they have to in order to avoid it. Which means buying smaller cars that use less gas, buying fuel-efficient cars that get more miles per gallon, or buying a car that relies on an alternate source of energy, be it ethanol, electricity or whatever else it is they're coming up with."
"Diesel," Daniel said.
"Like that makes any sense. Diesel's the most expensive gas there is. But, anyway, everybody recycled in Pennsylvania, and, if I'm not mistaken, businesses were required to do it by law. Having spent . . . just over eight years there, some things just rubbed off on me."
"And the canvas bags?" he questioned.
"Are totally kick-ass! They have handles (unlike paper bags) and they don't break like those increasingly flimsy plastic ones. I mean, what the fuck? You put a loaf of bread in one of them, pick it up, and it busts in two. Yeah, yeah, let's save the earth, but give me something I can carry my groceries in first. People gotta eat."
"And speaking of food, what about all this organic shit? Apparently, you have to pay more if you don't want your food injected with hormones and peppered with pesticides. Like, all this stuff that's supposed to be 'all natural' is supposed to be better for you, and help you live longer, but it costs so fuckin' much the only bastards who can afford it are the ones who have healthcare out the wazoo, anyway."
"So, we're not gonna fight about this?"
She laughed, punching him in the shoulder. "No. I assume we're pretty much on the same page. I mean, I'm not gonna go out of the way to trash the place or anything; I watched Captain Planet when I was a kid. And Woodsy Owl and Smoky the Bear."
"MacGruff the Crime Dog," he ventured.
"Nooooo, but there was another one. When Earth Day was Arbor Day . . . I think it was a cardinal. Charlie the Cardinal? Does that sound right?"
He watched as she scrunched her face up, her dark brown eyes narrowed in concentration. "I wouldn't begin to know."
"But he danced around with a bunch of trees and shit. It was kind of funny in this really campy musical sort of way. Something about planting a tree . . ."
"I remember that Bob Denver one. Plant a tree for your tomorrow. Plant a tree for your today . . . Or something like that."
"Geez we're old!" she laughed.
"Don't remind me," he said. "Anyway, I say we'll blow each other to smithereens long before we cut down the last tree and suck up the last drop of oil."
"Now, that's a cheerful thought."
He shrugged. "Watch the news. Pick up a paper."
"You can't go by that."
"Whatta you mean? It's the news."
"If it bleeds, it leads," she said. "Nobody wants to hear about all the people that weren't robbed or weren't murdered or didn't lose everything they had in a fire. People are . . . pretty awful at the core. It's as if we thrive off the misery of others. Like gossip. You don't wanna hear how great your neighbor's life is and how everything they touch turns to gold. You know why?"
"Envy," he said simply.
"Exactly. Nobody's ever happy with what they have; we always have to compare ourselves to others, and we don't like it when we come up short."
"So instead of working harder to lift ourselves up . . ."
"We figure it's easier to throw a few stones and knock them down."
Daniel shook his head; Mecca frowned.
"Not me, though."
He paid her a cursory glance. "What?"
"I've never knowingly done anything against another person. I've wanted to. Time and time I've wanted to, but . . . it just would've made me feel bad in the long run. Like that movie 'Dead Man Walking.' I know what Sean Penn's character did was horrible and unforgivable, but," she shrugged, giving this utterly helpless, desperate sigh, "call me naïve or whatever, but, every life has meaning, value and significance. Everybody has a mother or father, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, lovers, ex-lovers, and I don't feel that I--or anyone else, for that matter--has the right to fuck with those connections. It isn't meant for one human being, who is completely and utterly fallible, to sit in judgment of another human being and say 'How dare you?'" She shrugged. "I mean, none of us have a clean slate, and one sin is just as offensive as another. Live and let live, you know."
"You reap what you sow."
"Yeah," she nodded. "Divine retribution. The laws of karma. I've never had a problem with another person that didn't get taken care of in some way, shape or form."
"The racist bitch that wouldn't promote me at one of my former jobs. I got sick of her shit and found a new job, and then four months later, she lost her job due to corporate downsizing."
"Then there were these two girls that used to torment me in high school. One isn't married and has four different kids by three different dads. And I heard the other one's basically a crack whore."
"Coupe de grace: the guy that . . . sodomized me . . . totaled his favorite truck and broke his leg two weeks after he did what he'd done. Had to spend a week in the hospital because they thought some bone marrow had gotten into his bloodstream, and, apparently, that's really bad."
Daniel loosened his non-existent collar, wiped imaginary beads of sweat from his forehead and cleared his throat a little too loudly. "Remind me never to fuck you over. You've got some powerful voodoo working on your side."
She slapped his shoulder then gave it a light squeeze. "Puh-lease. My great-grandmother was the witch, not me."
He chuckled, scratching the bit of reddish-blond hair growing at the tip of his chin.
"Seriously. She was a Wiccan. My grandma used to tell me stories about her that just fascinated me. Her natural remedies and her herb garden, a little animal sacrifice every now and then."
"No. She was never sick a day in her life."
"Then how'd she die?"
She was quiet for a moment, then she spoke. "They found her dead in the middle of a clearing in the woods behind her house. Natural causes, they said."
"Shut the fuck up."
"No. I wouldn't make up shit about my family for anything in the world. I mean, shit, they're odd enough all on their own. And I've always taken each one of them at face value, exactly as they are."
He chuckled lightly, shaking his head.
"Believe what you want." She bent over and readjusted the garbage at her feet.
"Yet you don't believe in magic . . ."
"She was the Wiccan, not me. I'm Catholic, remember? I believe . . ." her voice trailed off, and he found himself taking his eyes off the road and the road signs just to look at her.
"You believe in what?"
She put on a thoughtful smile, the most tranquil light shining through brilliant brown eyes. She turned to face him, bent her left leg and tucked it beneath her right one, then leaned forward, resting her left elbow on her bent knee. "I believe that before we're born God tells us everything we're going to go through in this life. What color we're gonna be. Who our parents are. Where we'll live. All the people we're going to meet, and all the shit we're going to go through: good things and the bad things, and things that happen just because they do. I mean, He tells us everything that's going to happen to us from the moment we're born till the day we die. And then after He tells us all this stuff, we get to decide if we want this life not. If we do," she clapped her hands, clasping one about the other, "we're all set. This is what we get, and there's no going back. If we don't want it, it gets passed to somebody else, but . . . since everybody's different, the events of 'your' life unfold differently than if you'd chosen it for yourself."
"So," he said, "if He told us all this, why don't we remember it?"
"Birth is traumatic, and traumatic things make us forget. But every now and then will get these glimpses of the things He told us. Like déjà vu. We haven't actually been there before, but we were told we'd go there, and something important was going to happen. Or when you just meet somebody, and you can't stand them."
"Because you have this vague recollection that they're going to cause you some amount of harm."
"Yes!' she smiled. "Exactly."
"And people you've just met, yet you feel like you've known them forever."
"He probably showed you all the years you were going to spend with this person and how happy they were going to make you, and the first time you meet them is just . . ."
"A tremendous relief," he half sighed, half cried.
She poked him in the ribs. "Cut it out."
He squirmed beneath her touch, but kept his hand steady on the wheel.
"You're so . . . atypical male."
"Like, if I was writing a romance novel, no offense to you and everything I find completely endearing and overtly erotic about you, but most girls--notice I said 'girls' and not 'women'--wouldn't buy you as a romantic lead. I mean . . . you're losing your hair, you're carrying some extra weight, you're clumsy and aloof and . . . pale."
"Shrek," he said.
"You're describing Shrek. Except for the 'pale' part. I guess green could be considered pale, though . . . He's big, bald, obnoxious, completely lacking in social skills and graces."
"Hey. I'm much more obnoxious than you are, and a slightly receding hairline is a far cry from being Curly from the Three Stooges."
He ran his hand over his cloth-covered head. "I thought about shaving it all off once."
"No! You love your hair. Terri said you about cried when you had to cut it all off for that job in the jewelry store."
"Fuck that. I don't cry."
"But it's just starting to grow back. The way you like it, right?"
Daniel scoffed. "That's what I need, right? A mullet?"
"You do not have a mullet."
He scoffed again. "You've forgotten what's under here, haven't you? Or rather, what's not under here."
She waved him away. "Whatever."
"But, as I was saying, girls go for the tall, dark and seemingly-romantic type. They're too young and empty-headed to know what a real man is made of. They'll get older and they'll learn that those types of men are only interested in anorexic bimbos, whose boob size is bigger than their IQ. They want a woman that's easily placated, easily controlled and easily disposed of, or rather, a girl that's easily placated yada-yada-yada."
He laughed in spite of himself. "And what do women want?"
"He's funny, sensitive, intelligent, and articulate. He's artistic, prolific and multi-talented. He's big like a bear, cuddly like a kitten--"
"Going bald under his cap . . ."
She backhanded his shoulder. "Not to mention highly successful and extremely wealthy in his own right. He's no pretty-boy; he's a man. And real men have flaws and foibles and--"
"Damaged hair follicles?"
"But, screw anyone who doesn't see you for the great guy you are. It's their loss and my gain."
"And this was brought on by?"
She shrugged, again scrunching her face into a misshapen form. "Just stuff."
"Ride of the Valkyries" began to resound through the car.
Daniel swore. "Not again. Don't answer it. Toss the damn thing out the window, and I'll buy you another one."
"Fuck you." She dug the phone out of her purse and looked at the caller ID. "April again."
"Don't you dare open that phone. Ya'll are just gonna go through the same shit all over again, and I don't wanna hear it. You told her what she has to do, and if she doesn't do it, it's her ass. Fuck her. It's your fucking day off. Make them leave you alone."
She closed her eyes, shaking her head. "Heavy is the head that wears the crown."
'Ahhh, hell no.' Before she could flip the phone open and give a verbal greeting, he snatched it from her hand, rolled the window down and tossed it alongside the highway.
"Screw the $500 fine. It's worth it."
She punched him full-force in the side of the arm, causing the car to swerve to the left. "You asshole! That's my job you're fucking with. If she's not going to come in, I have to find somebody to cover for her."
"There is no one to cover for her, and there's nothing you can do about it."
"I listened to you tell her that over and over again, and unless something's changed--"
"Then what the fuck are you yelling at me for? You have an assistant manager; let her do her fucking job and assist you."
"But it still comes back to me."