The smoldering butt dangled from her lips like the dripping tongue of a panting dog. From behind the smoke screen, and a beehive of blue hair, a gravelly voice uttered the words, “What’s your poison?”

Now, I’m not expecting to be able to eat off the floor of this greasy spoon, but, hey, maybe the spoon. So, with a sheepish grin, and small voice, I meekly said, “Just water, thank you.”

In a puff of smoke, the grumbles commenced, “Well, if you’re gonna sit in here, ya gotta order somethin’, Sweetie.” She clicked a pen in slo-mo and snapped her gum.

At this point, I could feel everyone’s eyes boring into the back of my head like red hot pokers. “I think I’ll just go now, thanks.”

In a flash of blue hair and pineapple earrings, the waitress from Hell was gone, leaving her presence behind to linger in a stunning blow of stale perfume that could’ve knocked you out like an uppercut in a heavyweight championship.

After recovering from the fight, I slung my backpack over my shoulder, and calmly sprinted towards the door. As I raced across the parking lot to my car, I swore I could hear laughter and feel pointing fingers coming from the truck stop. But as I flung my bag into the passenger seat, I looked back and flashed them all a smile, for I could feel the ground tremble as every one of their jaws dropped to the floor in awe as they eyed up my mint-condition ‘68 black mustang. I pulled out of the lot and onto the dusty road in a blaze of glory as a wave of triumph washed over me.

The blurry scenery and kitten purr of the engine were hypnotizing. The thoughts raced through my mind almost as fast as the road beneath me. I was counting telephone poles like they were sheep, when the most beautiful sight perched itself right before my eyes.

I shut off the kitten, and hopped to the hood to watch the sun sink into the mountains, leaving a fiery trail of hot pink across the sky. As I screwed a Marlboro into my lips, the stars began to scatter themselves throughout the twilight.

What seemed an eternity later, I slid back into the now icy cold leather pilot seat. But before traveling on, I peered into the velvet sky once more. I said “Good night” to the flickering stars, as if they were long gone friends winking at me, and saying, “I’m ok…don’t worry about me.”

I hadn’t driven much further into the chilly desert night, when a flashing vacancy sign flagged me down. As I pulled in, the dust rose in tiny mushroom clouds from under my tires. I snatched my co-pilot, from the passenger seat, and made my way to the lobby.

I walked in to see a shriveled up, troll-like figure, which I believe may have once resembled a man, hunched over on a stool, leaning on a cane, and squinting diligently at a 19’ black and white. I reluctantly, but kindly, spoke to, and took the rusty room key from the feisty old creature and quickly returned outside to begin my search for door number 5.

On my quest, a smile was brought to my face when a swimming pool caught my eye. Unfortunately, I found my room, and had no choice but to settle in to dust bunnies, and a snowy box with a coat hanger antenna.

I quickly got my fill of the room, so I took a stroll down to the dimly lit pool-side. A cautious look around and I came to the conclusion that no one, besides me, could possibly be crazy enough to stay in this hovel. I stripped bare and took a dive.

I ended the night with a cold shower, and a semi-hot meal, delivered to me at nothing short of tortoise-like speed, by operator-friendly room service. Hoping to slip under the covers of a soft, clean bed and quickly make my way to dreamland, I found myself settling onto a slab, straight from the morgue, complete with headstone, just the way my dinner settled into my stomach. A moment later and I was being graciously lulled to sleep by the oblivious and supposed newlyweds next door.