Road Stop – Part 4 (Conclusion)

Inspired by true events. An account of four weary travelers on their journey from Southern to Northern California up the I-5 corridor and their stop at a diner somewhere along the Grapevine. 

All the soda in the world wasn’t enough to wash the french fry grease out of my mouth. Alex evidently felt the same way.

“I’m going to check out that gift shop,” he said, rising from the table.

“Finished?” I asked. He had only eaten half of his hamburger.

“Yeah.” I wanted to join him.

My mother read my mind. “Maybe we should all leave,” she pleaded. “Let’s get the hell out of here. We can pick up food in a drive thru. Get back on the road.”

“You want to?” I said, eyeing my mother.

As soon as we rose to our feet, the wait staff was pushing their way toward us. Jessica, Paul, and the old woman, all carried a plate for our table.

“Here you are, ” Jessica gently set the plate down before my mother, “Chicken, no onions.” A then a nod from Paul. Now to my sister, “Pizza with tomato sauce, no garlic. And for you, ham and cheese, no mayonnaise.” A nod now in unison from our delightful wait staff.

“Enjoy,” Paul said, in groveling, muted voice. He lives, I thought.

Looking down on my sandwich, I see an indentation in the shape of a fingernail. “I can’t do this.” I imagined my sandwich dissected and manhandled, the white cheese swapped out for yellow, still coated with some thick, white glue sauce. “I don’t want this.”

“Excuse me?” Jessica says, tilting her head.

“I don’t want this,” I whispered to myself. “How hard is it, for Christ’s sake?”

“What honey? I can’t hear you.”

Maybe it was her feigned, childlike innocence, but I wanted to blame her. I wanted to break her.

I lashed out at her, “How hard is it to make a sandwich? You have enough time to do your little dance. Can’t you make a simple sandwich? Is it really that hard? How hard is it?”

Anger engulfed me and I seized the plate and dropped it, smashing it into a thousand tiny shards. The sandwich lay on its side, unwanted and speckled with dirt. All eyes in the diner fixed on me in stony silence.

Jessica gasped, cocked her head. She was tugging at her hair, smiling slightly. She couldn’t hide that from me. With calculated force, I swept my arm across the table, sending the I.Q. game and its contents crashing to the floor. Yellow pegs rolled in every direction.

Trying to regain her composure, Jessica spatted, “Was that really necessary?”

Several employees flooded the area, scurrying on their knees trying to undo the damage.

I heard a thin wail from across the diner. Recognizing Alex’s voice, I rushed over to the gift shop with my family trailing behind.

Various trinkets and souvenirs  lay strewn across the concrete floor. Magnets, hats, glass figurines, bumper stickers, snow globes, stuffed animals, picture frames, all touting a different location and theme. A few were labeled with the Road House, but there was also the Cliff House, Lake Forest Cafe, and Rosie’s Steakhouse.

Alex stared wide-eyed out the window, his body tense and shaking. “Where is it?” he yelled. “Look, look, look,” he pointed and stammered.

We stood by his side, transfixed and motionless. Staring out the window, we saw nothing but a barren wasteland. A howling wind erupted, blowing tumbleweeds, rocks, and sand. There were no cars. No fast food restaurants. No freeway. Everything, gone.

Stunned into a speechless stupor, we watched the vision in horror. Choking for breath, I could not form any words. We began to cry, tears streaming down our face.

Jessica and her crew caught up with us, and waited in the gift shop entrance. Slowly, Jessica inched her way closer to our line at the window.

She peeked over our heads and said, “Uh huh. Looks like you’re staying with us for a while.”

“What? No way. We’re out of here,” I said.

“You can leave, but you’ll be back. You won’t get very far. They never do. They always come back,” she reasoned.

“We’re stuck here forever?” Alex asked.

“Not necessarily,” the old woman piped up. “Some of us are here longer than others.”

“Sometimes people, they go back. They’re only missing you see. Your best bet is try to work really hard here. Food can be quite good. Sorry, today some of the food you got was old. Our cook was sleeping today.” Jessica was rambling now. Paul looked to her to stop.

This was just a normal turn of events for them. “Maybe with you guys on board, Jessica can start doing the cooking.”

All I wanted was to be on a freeway, full of cars.

“Here you go,” they supplied us with white and green uniforms. “Let’s show you around.”

The End

photo credit: jef safi \ ‘pictosophizing via photo pin cc

25 thoughts on “Road Stop – Part 4 (Conclusion)

  1. Not only is the story compelling, but the photograph works well. It reminds me of one of those puzzles where you see the duplicate photograph with things removed. An altered reality or sorts.


    1. Thank you. I had to search for a while for this. I hadn’t considered that about the photo. I think you’re right. Things definitely look kind of mismatched and random, like maybe things are missing. 🙂


  2. Ah hah! Found it! Read it! Loved it! (…more than McD’s.) — Strangely enough, I had a dream similar to this some months ago. All of the houses across the street from where I live, along with a couple from the same side were completely gone. There was also talk of tornadoes coming through around the time; understandable, I suppose.


    1. Thank you, thank you. I hope it didn’t let you down. They’re stuck there. Oh, if only they would have wen to the fast food joint. Scary about the tornadoes. I’m glad it was just a dream.


      1. Yep. Just a dream. The tornadoes that came through only did minor damages to houses and cars, though one of them nearly wiped out a nearby park just some blocks away.

        This entry of yours helps to show that our actions and choices ultimately determine our path through life. Nicely written and enjoyed.


    1. Thanks! I’ve seen many Miyazaki movies. I love his films. They’re so beautiful to look at. Tortoro, Nausica, Castles in the Sky….but not THAT one. I’ll have to rent it. I know it’s supposed to be one his best. 🙂


  3. Mesmerized and shocked. I’ve been away from the computer this week, so I read all four parts at one time. I wish I had had a day in between each one to heighten the effect like you meant it to be.


    1. Thanks for taking the time read them all. I appreciate that very much. I, myself, have not sat down to read them all together. I’m sure I will eventually. I hope I gave away a few subtle hints, but they may be too subtle. In any case, I hope it is a surprise at the end. Thanks for your feedback.


  4. DUN DUN DUN!!!!
    Talk about an unexpected twist… I did not see that one coming, B.F! Nicely done!
    AND another great excuse to stick to the drive-thru and my large No. One with Coke!!!


    1. Thank you! I’m sure about the twilight zone ending, but I thought it was worth a shot. Sometimes, I think these kind of endings are kind of a cop out. I went with it. Glad you liked it. Nothing like a good burger from the drive thru. Sometimes, it’s the only thing you want. 🙂


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