written for the Soul Food Cafe
Halloween of 2006
Have you ever been on a road trip, and ended up driving down those dirt roads that lead into the dead empty towns with boarded up fast food places with names like “ Chicken Basket “ or “ Hank’s Hamburger Haven “ and have you noticed there’s always a gas station with those funny tin signs advertising a brand of cigarettes or beer that no one’s seen on a shelf in over 50 years?
No doubt on these trips you’ve seen the houses too, the odd gray houses sitting up off the road.
You’ve probably even seen curtains hanging in the windows and you weren’t sure but you think you may have seen someone looking back out at you as you drove by. Maybe you’ve even seen one of those old time drug stores with the Soda Fountain in the back but you know, you wouldn’t stop there on a bet to check it out because you’ll tell yourself you don’t have the time…you’ve got somewhere to get to.
There, you’ll reassure yourself that sounds good. But that little voice, it’s the real reason you don’t stop because it’s screaming at you, “ don’t you dare stop! Hey are you listening to me? I don’t care if you run out of gas! You will not stop in this town because if you do you’re going to have to get out and push. Don’t you even think about stopping here, is that clear?”
Then when you hit the other end of “ Main Street” (which will only take about three minutes) and you’re back on that long empty dirt road that some joker of a map maker called “ interstate 101 or Highway 19” you’ll have forgotten you were afraid.
After a few more minutes that empty little town that scared you half to death will be long behind you and it’ll be like you were never there at all.
That’s what the town of Bocksbohne is like; once you leave it you’ll never be sure you were really there.
One summer Audley Frame was driving to Seattle and somewhere along Amorita Pass high in the Olympic Mountains she passed through a town called Turnsole (clearly marked on her map) and after a few miles she was on a dirt highway that lead straight into Bocksbohne.
That’s what the white sign with the peeling black letters read. Welcome to Bocksbohne
It wasn’t suppose to be there according to the map, it had no reason to be there out in the middle of nowhere but it was there all the same and before she knew it Audley Frame was speeding passed a drive in theatre with a rusted swing set and a fallen over carousel under a weather-beaten movie screen. Across the street from the drive in was Chieko’s Drugstore and further up from that was little brick building with a sign in its window.
She slammed on her brakes and was snapped back in her seat by her seatbelt and she hardly noticed the pain because all she saw was the sign. It was a simple sign, the background was flat black and the letters were neon orange and the sign simply said:
The window was caked with dust and grime and right there in the center of the window screaming in brand new orange neon letters was the word:
Not HELP WANTED
Now it just said HELP.
Audley’ s foot came off the brake and she let her car roll forward and she turned to watch the window as her car tried to pull itself away from building.
Now the sign read “ HELP WANTED INQUIRE WITHIN “.
The letters were blood red and the ink was so fresh it had smudged a little on the filthy glass window.
“ Red Ink” she heard herself say, “ it’s red ink.”
Then her foot found the gas pedal and Audley’ s car roared passed buildings and houses with broken windows and doors that were falling off of their hinges. She ignored the rusty children’s toys abandoned on the sidewalks and she hit a few curbs and before she knew it she was out the other end of Bocksbohne and when she looked into her rearview mirror she saw her dark brown hair had turned white.
She put her hand to the mirror and turned it down, she had no intentions of using it until Bocksbohne was behind her.
Far behind her.