The automated town is purchasing
a compass of afternoons. Look, I’m bored
and empty too. What do you want? This room is nothing
but racks of clothes. See how easy it is? That one,
sides of beef. This one is people
for the hanging. That one is religions. See, you
didn’t call. I thought you were going to call. That one
is rows of vegetables. This one is popular music. That room
is racks of car parts. And you (not your real name)
go out and back. You needed something
or something to do. It’s your automated corner
in the automated town. That one is sex toys
and lubricants. Because it always comes out
happy. Because it was the first idea
that came to me. Or these are the people in my
neighborhood. One works on cars. One works
at the town transfer station. One runs a distributorship.
One builds cabinets. One used to be
a sheriff, until he had to quit. It was
a movie once. The whole town killed someone. The clock
read 10:10 and we realized we were in an advertisement.
I could drive there. It’s about two hours
away. I could have lunch there and ask the waitress.
She could show me the rooms. And this one
is rows of foreign students. That one
is musical instruments. It’s about finding the next thing.
It’s a room of hibachis. You got off work
and you went home. It was almost midnight. It was
mid-afternoon. You should ride a bicycle more. You
should drink more water and less
of everything else. It’s a room of people dressed
in bright clothes. It’s a room of hanging doors.
Of cell phones and one is ringing. Of people having sex.
Rows of bottles of vodka. Rows of
sparklers. We could go on like this for some time,
so we do. Bugs are flying in and out of the open
windows. All the TVs are on.
"Automated Town," excerpted from Your Father on the Train of Ghosts by G. C. Waldrep and John Gallaher. Copyright © 2011 by G. C. Waldrep and John Gallaher. Reprinted with permission of the publisher, BOA Editions.