We stop at a gas station at the western-most end of west Texas. Everything is in Spanish. It is hot, dry–the kind of heat that never moves except to breathe with you. I stand outside the convenience store looking up at these great towering cylinders and have a cigarette.
“Can I?” Someone asks.
I turn. A short man with half-broken teeth has his fingers to his lips. I pass him a cigarette.
“Where are you from?” the man asks, he is tan, his eyes are tan, his teeth are tan–all dry and pruned. His face looks like something that might soon blow away in the wind, if there were any wind.
“Massachusetts,” I tell him.
He smiles, it breaks apart his lips. It looks painful. He looks thoughtful.
“Who is the president of Massachusetts?” he asks.
“Uh,” I manage, embarrassed, trying to remember the governor of Massachusetts. “Dunno,” I add, turning away and pretending to admire the great towering cylinders. My brother steps out of the convenience store.
“Shit, it’s hot,” he says, coming up beside me. The tan man smiles, flakes of tan skin crack off beneath his eyes.
“Who is the president of Massachusetts?” he asks my brother.
“Uh,” I think, it’s “Frank–No, George…no idea,” he turns to me, “do you remember the governor of Massachusetts?”
I shake my head. “Nope, I tried.”
We all shrug. “Wasn’t George Washington buried in Massachusetts?” he asks.
I look at my brother, my brother looks up at the great towering cylinders, he squints.
“Honestly, we don’t know,” I tell the man, confused and embarrassed.
“Huh,” he says.
I nod. “Huh,” I add, for the sake of agreeing on something.
“Bet you haven’t seen those before,” he says, pointing up at the towering cylinders.
“Nope,” both my brother and I say, grateful to no longer have to wonder about the President of Massachusetts.
“They are elevators,” he tells us.
We stand, staring up at them, backs turned to the man.
“For corn,” he adds.
There is movement behind us. I turn, slowly. The tanned man is in the front seat of his car. It is an old car.
He lights his cigarette, drives away.
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