Lunch. Clouds a few white snarls against the blue. Clomping across the parking lot concrete. A water hose martyred by tire tracks curving new alphabet across the yellow lines, the nose of the hose buried in the mulch of the trees on the far side. A leaf scatters ahead of me as I walk to my car. Salter heavy in my bag. The book wants to leap out, to be held. The sentences strain against their page and the page struggles against its cover. Salter throbs in my bag.
A flat. Driver's side, passenger. I stop and reassess. Not quite a flat. Not yet. Deflating is a more accurate word. We must be accurate, right? I lean down. There's no hiss. The sides of the tire bulge in ways they shouldn't. I let a small fuck escape. I'm wearing tan pants, is the thought I have. I imagine the black scuffs of the tire on my hand. Dirt and gravel grinding under my knees. My shirt coming untucked. Sweat in my hair. Where the hell is the jack, I wonder? People staring. Have a flat, they say, secretly delighted. That sucks man. They go off in their air conditioned vehicles, snickering, to eat sandwiches and complain about their boss.
I haul in those thoughts. Tire isn't completely flat. A frantic drive to the tire store. The ass end of the Rodeo wobbly on the highway. I open my door and stick my head out to look at it. Wind rough in my hair. The road protesting the tire's inferior presence. Some asshole honks. The world is too full of opinion.
The store is a red and white beacon. I pull in, imagining that I'm hauling a floe of orange sparks. It's hyperbole, though. Usually is. That's necessary however; without it the sheer weight of the ordinary world would suffocate. I want to rise above the tedium of these ordinary things. Elevate.
The guy behind the register is ten, perhaps twelve. But his legs are brilloed with hair. So, older I guess. I should just go ahead and grab a cane.
"Driver's side rear," I say. "A fast leak."
"Let's go look." he says. A clipboard appears out of nowhere. Clipboards are not a good omen. I look for the sign as we walk back outside: Flats repaired for free.
"Can you see anything in the tire?" he asks.
"I can see a smaller presence of air." I regret that. It's too goofy for the world at large. He just keeps walking. I get that a lot lately.
Sudden thoughts: the car is damn dirty! Dust on the dash. The sunscreen for the front window is old and whenever it's folded, the silver surface flakes off as gray dandruff. That stuff is all over the floor. A petrified french fry in the cup holder.
I work up the sentences beforehand. Not a slob, really. I only drive this thing once or twice a week. Wife's car. Damn kids. A little elbow to his shoulder, though he's too young to understand. Everything jumbles up in my throat like I swallowed too much of a Baby Ruth.
"Ok, we'll take a look." he says. "Got the keys?"
I hand them over. Lego Darth Vader dangles from the key ring.
He looks at me and his face works hard to hide the smirk.
I sit with Salter in a red chair next to towering tires and bright wheels. The book and I both nervous. The cover is the languid back of a naked women. I fold the spine over and read, glancing up too much. Glancing up keeps an erection at bay. I imagine telling my wife, "Can you be Anne-Marie? Just for a moment?" But that's not fair, is it? We had our time in France already, my wife and I. Now we have kids.
The tire guy comes over to explain: "Two nails." He holds his finger a couple of inches apart. For a brief moment, I fear he is making fun of me. "They are too close together for us to fix. It'd destabilize the tire. Whole tire needs to be replaced. We have several in stock."
"Give me the cheapest one." I say, thinking: two penetrations so close together destabilize the tread. $114.
My phone beeps with email. People amble in. People leave. Cars on the highway stream with intent. Concrete rises and camps around me. The walls of the tire store loom. I finish the Salter book there in that red and white place and it cheapens the entire thing. I'll go back and read the final couple of chapters at my house, where I know everything and everything understands me. We have dirt on the ground at my house. I'll let the book spend its last bit in me there, where I am most open and receptive.
They call my name. I feel dirty and ashamed. I close the door and the gray sunscreen dandruff scatters. Again, frantic: the ac isn't on! I push the button, lever the fan over to 4. It's a moment before I realize that the car isn't even on. I am distraught at what I imagine is a poor opinion of me.
Happy to drive away. The ass end of the Rodeo solid again.