Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Another Roadside Tragedy

Sad Meal
My ride home from work today was uneventful for the most part – just miles and miles of highway, followed by a trek down some blink-and-you’ll-miss-it back roads. I was nearly home, having just turned down the backest of all the back roads when something caught my eye: On the street before me, next to a white McDonald’s bag, was a spent Happy Meal box lying on its side. The golden arches that were its handles, at that angle, looked almost like a frowning cat. I slowed down a bit to drink in the full effect.

As I rolled past this all-to-familiar scene, the wind from my car jarring the box ever so slightly, I wondered, “How did this happen?” What led up to the cheeriest food container known to man lying face down in the street, its innards greedily consumed and its owner, who, impatient, couldn’t wait to dispose of it properly, opting instead for an unceremonious asphalt burial?

A scenario began to form in my mind.

The pitter-patter of a light rain echoes on the small, out of the way road, but in the distance the din of a motor far past its prime approaches. A moment later, a tiny hand reaches into a Happy Meal box for the last time. Two blackened french-fries remain and slide to one side, quietly tapping the edge.

“Daddy, I’m done with my Happy Meal. What should I do?” asks high-pitched voice. Small hands hold the box up towards the driver like an offering to some stone-faced god.

Smoke bellows from the tip of the cigar, floats past the brim of a beige fedora and is sucked outside through the barely open window.

Lewis Black
The driver turns around sharply and stares, bleary-eyed, at his young passenger. It’s Lewis Black, a comedian from the Daily Show. His teeth clutch the cigar like a baby does her mother’s teat. He continues to drive, staring at the child, paying no attention to the road.

“Then throw… the box… on the side… of the road,” he commands, slowly and firmly. Ashes tumble through the air and lightly come to rest inside the open box.

The rusty door swings open, the hinges screaming from years of abuse. Bits of paint flake off and flutter to the ground. The Happy Meal box sails through the air and slams into the pavement, scattering hundreds of french-fries and half-eaten cheese burgers. A Chicken McNugget comes to rest in the adjacent field, its golden-brown coating hardly able to hang on anymore, like the shredded skin of a trauma patient.

Smoke pours off the squealing tires and soon all is quiet once more. The only evidence of the incident is the Happy Meal box, sitting atop six foot tall mountain of greasy beef, all white meat and charred potato cuts.

"...on the side... of the road."
With a crack of thunder, the heavens open up, as if trying to cleanse tragedy with tears of the Almighty. Grease swirls in the puddles, dancing, and soaks into the soil. Unfettered, the rain continues for the next three days.

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