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Just a blip in his trip

Matt Zalaznick
Special to the Daily These passers-by are People Who Had Said They Were Going ... And Went.
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Dapple, at the moment, appears to have no sense of humor because she is not listening to Handsome Vegas. She is brooding over him and trying to figure out what his story is. As soon as guests are at the counter and asking questions, she is always trying to figure out the life behind each drowsy person, each self-obsessed couple, each harried family she checks into the Cozy Cowboy. And these lives are lives that, once the souls have disappeared into the rooms, become the truth for Dapple. At the end of her shift, when she’s having a beer next door at the Trollbridge or getting stoned on her father’s porch, she can remember the faces by thinking of the Army Officer On Vacation With His Undisciplined Family or the Frigid Elementary School Teacher With Her Husband The Secretly Gay Florist or The Greasy Car Salesman With His Plastic-Surgery’d Mistress and His Suitcase Full of Porno Magazines.She can easily ask him she can always ask any of them but she prefers to try and divine the history of Handsome Vegas up to the very moment he appeared on the other side of the counter. The clothes he is wearing look expensive. He is in terrific shape. His expression is refined and self-assured. He speaks gently but directly, energetically and with some kind of accent. English, Dapple supposes not that she’s all that familiar with accents.

He just may be a movie star. But whatever he is movie star, adventurer, artist, playboy Dapple Del Toboso can tell he is nothing like the waddling bozos who typically confront her from across the counter most nights at the Cozy Cowboy: the oddballs, the oafs and the ogres who straggle out of their RVs and into her lobby with all sorts of idiotic, childish questions and demands. The baffled husbands with their shabby linoleum jackets and cheap T-shirts that say “HOOVER DAM” on them; cheeks that manage to be sallow and chubby at the same time; and the pot bellies hanging over slacks the color of canned tuna that make these men look they’ve got reeking garbage bags strapped around their waists. And swarming behind them, to drive Dapple Del Toboso even crazier, are the neutered wives with their depressing welts of makeup, huge-rimmed glasses and hairstyles like blighted crops. And no matter what time of year it is, these women are always wearing cheaply knit sweaters that have reindeer or candy canes or Santa Clauses on them. Petty and annoying is all they are to Dapple Del Toboso, and this conviction has forever poisoned any respect she could have for these tourists who, in their defense, are just a little confused about being so free and far away from home. Does the young woman perhaps suspect that her rancor is resentment? Decaying, festering envy? These people may be unfashionable and unsophisticated, but they are traveling. They are away from home. They are un-tethered. They can to drive to South Dakota, Colorado or Montana on a whim when they arrive at that junction of interstates that hovers over Burrow Junction. These passers-by are People Who Had Said They Were Going … And Went. “Spotted your lovely little town on the road map and then I almost drove right past it!” Handsome Vegas says, laughing again. Handsome Vegas places a leather briefcase on the counter and as far as Dapple can see, he doesn’t have any other luggage.

Apparently, the briefcase is all he’s bringing to his room for the night. Probably contains some notebooks, a laptop computer, a clean shirt and his toothbrush, Dapple thinks. The evidence says he’s traveling light, says his presence in the room he winds up in will be tenuous. He’ll be here all night long, but he’ll be half on the freeway the entire time still half speeding across the country. For Handsome Vegas, motion clearly is no big deal; it is, in fact, the fluid partner of his stationary life, Dapple decides. Handsome Vegas opens a wallet that surprises Dapple Del Toboso by its emptiness. He also appears to have only one credit card. This hitch in her fantasy makes Handsome Vegas not so obvious. A tingling troubles her guts as she runs his lone credit card. But only one credit card is no big deal, she reassures herself, he is on the road apparently tranquilly so and this makes her shiver. And Handsome Vegas’ confident face negates any doubts the meager wallet could’ve raised. She is sure he is the kind of guest that darts off the highway and darts back on in eight, nine, ten hours: as soon as the sun comes up, as soon as he finds the right radio station, as soon as he’s got a full tank of gas, as soon as he’s got his travel-mug full of hot coffee; and by the first sip, any wispy memory of Burrow Junction the place that weighs so substantially on poor old Dapple will be ebbing from his mind as lightly as the ice defrosting and dripping and steaming off his back window; all of it an inconsequential wake of mist.

“We’re just a blip in his trip,” Dapple says to herself. – Matt ZalaznickVail, Colorado

This is the fifth part of the serialization of Matt Zalaznick’s short story ‘Junktown.’ The Vail Daily is serializing short stories and novels written by locals. To submit a piece, contact the Vail Daily Editor Matt Zalaznick at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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