“We need gas,” yelled Abe, straining over the sound of the engine as the old Indian cruised down the highway. He turned his head slightly toward Dot, “And breakfast.”
The early morning air was crisp and pushed tiny tears from the corners of Abe’s eyes. He welcomed the sensation.
Keeps me awake, he pondered.
Dot rode behind him on the motorbike. Abe figured she had never ridden one before, as she sat backwards. Her shoulder blades bumped lightly against the small of Abe’s back as she perched atop the gear attached to the fender.
He thought of her there, passing the long hours of the night. Surveying the vast, departed landscape. Watching it bend by degrees into the now blazing horizon.
They must have been close to Flagstaff. Abe recognized it by the change in the air, along with the evergreens that seemed to pop up out of nowhere. He pulled off the highway next to a tiny whitewashed building covered with hand-painted signs above the windows. There were four separate panels, but their messages ran together like one continuous thought.
Sugar’s Diner Everyday Specials Free Coffee With Breakfast Arizona Souvenirs
And in the four long windows below the signs: Get. You. Some. Sugar’s.
Abe parked the bike in a narrow dirt patch beside the building. He groaned as he stood, helping Dot with her helmet as she pulled herself off the assemblage of gear. Abe released one of the saddlebags from the fender and slung its long leather strap over his shoulder.
As they approached the front of the diner, Abe wondered at their reflection in the glass.
Odd pair, he thought, stopping short of the entry. They were silhouettes, masked against a backdrop of sun-swept trees and road.
A beam of sunlight reflected off a passing car. Thrown back from the diner’s glass facade, it flashed across Dot’s face. She was smiling.
“You think I don’t see you.” She said, tugging lightly at the hair on Abe’s arm.
He frowned in confusion.
Their eyes met again in the reflection. Abe saw her small frame. Her striped sleeves with a rip on the shoulder. Her too-large rubber boots with the laces in front.
And then he saw himself.
Immensely tall. Darkened eyes. Leathery hands. And a heavy coat of fur from head to toe; completely naked but for that dense hair and the saddlebag hanging from his shoulder.
Abe’s face froze. Astonished.
Dot skipped forward and opened the door. The sound of clanking silverware and conversation from inside broke the silence, as a waitress hurried past the entryway. She hoisted a plate of breakfast in one hand and two full cups of coffee in the other. Several menus were pinned under her arm.
“Just you two?” she asked, pausing mid-stride. She bit her lip and scanned the interior. “There’s a clean table down at the end.”
Abe stepped in and followed Dot as the waitress ambled ahead through the narrow aisle. He felt suddenly huge, clumsily navigating the thin stretch before him.
There was a linoleum-capped bar on one side, filled with slow-talking older men. The tables along the front were abuzz with conversation between couples and small children. And the surfaces in between were cluttered with used dishes and half-emptied cups of coffee and juice.
The waitress motioned toward a booth in the corner. Dot continued past, turning down a short hallway to the restroom. Abe settled into the seat, its vinyl cushion gasping from his weight. He let the saddlebag slide off his shoulder.
Sunlight from the window filtered through streaky hand-painted lettering. Get, spelled backwards.
Water in glasses and menus in plastic sleeves dropped onto the table in front of him. He mechanically turned his coffee cup over as the waitress moved away. She swung back in a moment, filling it up.
Rituals, he mused.
Dot returned. She slid herself playfully across the seat, nearly bumping against the window on the far side. Settling in, she promptly disappeared behind the oversized menu.
Abe scanned his own, laid out on the table before him.
“They have pie,” he said, reaching for his coffee.