by Larry Whittaker
From Vol. 2 No. 2, 2002
We slipped out of the pine groves and onto a grassy savanna of Arizona, the highway split the ground like an opened book and we rode the spine dreaming of food. Where the road came to a “T” luck slapped us on the ass, there was a restaurant directly in our path and attached to it was a fenced-in compound. Painted on the wall was a sign that read “Bedrock City”, in black letters on a white background. We were so hungry we didn’t even bother with the tourist attraction. It was breakfast we wanted without a doubt. The last thing we had eaten was a bag of “Sun” chips and a jumbo “Crunch” chocolate bar between the three of us. As far as we were concerned the chips were healthy in a country where if it ain’t meat it ain’t food.
When we entered the restaurant I could feel the little daggers of hunger pound the top of my ribs and the ones from the owner’s eyes stick straight into my chest. You would think a restaurant situated in the middle of fucking nowhere would regard any business as good business. Not ours. Granted we hadn’t bathed for a couple of days, but you don’t really work up a sweat driving so it couldn’t have been the smell. It must have been the way we looked. We looked like hooligans but we were nice hooligans.
We sat for at least five minutes before the cook/waiter came out and gave us menus, and another 10 before he took our order. Other than the family that couldn’t stop staring at us, there was no one else in the restaurant. By the way they looked at us I thought they were in cahoots with the owner. After another 20 minutes of waiting, it came: two poached eggs on white toast with a side of hash browns. When he brought it I was apprehensive. By the way he looked at us I thought for sure he would launch a big greener into my potatoes. Jay assured me that there was no way he would do such a thing. What’s to stop him I said. There was little evidence that a health inspector had been there since 1966. The other question I posed was “who the fuck would we tell anyway”? I ate my eggs and hash browns and it didn’t taste like any green oysters I had ever slugged back so I thought myself safe, but what about his hands?
When we finished I refused to leave a tip on principle even thought the food was good. I think Jay and Ralf made up for my lack of social grace once again and left a tip worthy of three. It was just what I wanted after spending the night in the back of the station wagon.
Outside the sun was bright and getting brighter by the second. With the rate at which the temperature was increasing by noon we would be three turkeys self-basted in our own sweat. To the left of the restaurant was our salvation, a store where we could get water to last us the day. Inside was a young guy about 14 or 15. He didn’t seem like he was cut from the same jib as his old man but there could be no other reason for him to be stuck in a store connected to a restaurant built on the corner of a monument dedicated to a 1960’s TV cartoon based on a 1950’s sitcom.
I asked the simplest of questions, “Do you have any water?” The answer was as clear as any I had ever heard. “No.” Then he said, “There’s water in the coke.” He was right. There was water in the coke, but what kind? I’m sure it wasn’t the pure mountain spring water I was looking for but it would have to do. When I was paying I told him that there was a Bedrock City by where I lived and he got very excited. It was like he had finally made contact with a lost civilization, the quest to find one of his own finally realized. He started asking me questions about the place like it was a mystical temple located in another world and me one of its wandering tribesmen. His face lit up like a little boy who had just gotten a pellet gun for Christmas. When I told him I’d never actually been there but it looked real cool in the commercials, his look of interest dropped from his face and he handed me my change as plainly as when he answered no to my water question.
Outside Ralf and Jay were standing on the hood of the car trying to look over the wall. When I got to them we decided that two could boost one in a round robin tournament of sneaking a peek over the wall. On the other side it was very plain, a few forty foot plaster dinosaurs among the pathetic reconstruction of Fred’s and Barney’s houses. It was a disappointment, nothing like the one in Chiliwack.