“Open Road,” photograph by Richard Webb, 2006.

by Andrea Witzke Slot

The odor of stale hotdogs coils
around this truck stop of quiet men
who sit with faces bowed, bath kits
in laps, fair-like tickets in hand.

We take turns flipping through pages
of four-year-old Time magazines,
setting one down, picking up another,
sharing the sensation one has when

returning to land after days on a ship,
the road still gravelling under our feet,
the car radio still humming in our ears,
the speed unnoticed, natural, easy.

Beyond my rocking body, outside
the window, my hobbled car is hunched
in front of their monster-sized trucks.
Diesel fumes rise in the August heat.

I am not here to rest or shower.
Only to wait for a tow truck driver
who says he will be here as soon as he can,
as an intercom plays its announcement,

steady, monotonous, in a voice
tired of repeating itself,
Shower # _____ is now available.
Please proceed to shower # ______.

The men look at their tickets
with mild interest. One stands
and disappears behind the rusty door.
We continue to flip magazine pages,

and all afternoon the recording repeats—
Shower # _____ is now available.
Please proceed to shower # ______.
And all afternoon, the men vanish and then

reappear at intervals, with glowing faces
and freshly-combed hair, patches
of wet clothing clinging to moist chests.
Each slowly exits the room, nodding

and then ambling across the parking lot,
a low Texas sun lighting their backs.
Each shuts a door to a transient space,
conceding to a state of temporary rest,

and I envy them as I lie awake in a dank hotel later
that night, with a head on a pillow, wanting to pull
into tomorrow’s sunshine alongside them, in a home
that is temporary, moveable, here, and then, gone.

omega man

Winner of Fiction International and Able Muse’s 2015 Fiction Prizes, Andrea Witzke Slot is the author of To find a new beauty (Gold Wake Press, 2012). Her work has been published in Bellevue Literary Review, The Adirondack Review, Mid-American Review, Poetry East, Measure, and other journals, and in books published by SUNY Press and Palgrave Macmillan.