Highway 45 Truck Stop

Kerry James Evans

—Hamilton, Mississippi

It’s simple. You scoop ice
into a bag. After you pack it tight,
you spin the bag at the neck,
then clamp the tie. You
carry each bag to the freezer
in front of the store. The monotony
keeps your body moving
in the early morning
before the farmers
sit in the window booths,
hawked over cups of coffee. They
speak loud enough
for you to catch phrases:
The cows are running free,
or, She can’t get pregnant,
but there is no context, except
for the nickels
tolling in your ears,
and for each bag of ice,
one falls into your pocket,
which is already filled with
so many nickels
you don’t know where
you’ll put them. Maybe you’ll buy
some music
or shoes. You won’t.
You never do.
The shoes you are wearing
are good enough for
the job, and later, there is
college, you hope, but
aren’t sure, so you take the scoop
in your hand and thrust it
into ice. You spin the bag.
You clamp the tie.
There are many like you, but
you are still young,
and you tell yourself
you won’t get stuck. You
say it every day, until it happens.

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