Sunday, May 20, 2012


artwork: ralph murre

by Ray Foreman

driving through North Dakota to Seattle,
Baker left the interstate around 7:30,
drove into a town and found a motel.
night driving burned his eyes.
this was farm and ranch country,
little traffic after dinner
except for eighteen wheelers.

a small one counter diner one rarely saw
on highways saturated with Burger King's,
McDonald's and Wendy's.

"can I still get something to eat?"

she looked at him, Eloise occasionally
had problems with late night truckers.

"anything I can make on the grill.
the beef stew's been around all day."

"choose something you think I'd like."
no one ordered like that,
she could have served leftover
10 day old ground beef, old eggs,
questionable chili.

Baker, who gave New Age workshops,
told participants that living in fear
or uncertainty, even if they were right at times,
was a shrunken way to live.
he taught that trusting people and
enjoying the surprises it offered made
living an adventure rather than a retreat.

"Eloise, Ellie," she said. "let me make you
a cheese omelet, I know the eggs are fresh."


Ellie placed the plate decorated with
a sprig of  fresh parsley, a slice of tomato,
and a fresh cup of coffee in front of Jacob.
"do you mind if I sit here with my coffee?"

"I'd like that very much."

Ellie turned out the lights and locked
the door at eight thirty.
"it's pretty much a farm and ranch hand
bar, I don't think you'd like it.
I have some Gordon's and a bottle
of orange juice I bought yesterday."

Ellie was more surprised than Jacob.
they had a few drinks and talked until two.
just talk.
Jacob knew when pressure and expectations
are minimized or removed,
people often reveal themselves.

"I'll see you in the morning for breakfast,"
Jacob said, and drove back to his motel.

 at breakfast, Ellie's facial expression was
fresh, even vibrant.
"cooked cereal if you have some," Jacob said.
"you look rested although we did stay up late."

"I haven't talked so much to anyone,
at one time, not even to myself,
not for twenty years.
heck, who's there to talk to here,
truckers, cowboys and farm hands.
you're a smart man, tell me why I stay
here and die by the day?"

"the reason anyone stays put is because
it's safe. they know what they have and
afraid of what they can't see in front of them.
you have one life, either it's an adventure
and an experience, or it's a cage
and you're looking out between the bars.
you're settling and not saying the words.
figure out what you're doing here
and why.
face it, it may be right for you which
is something only you know."

Jacob left after breakfast.
occasionally he receives a letter from Ellie
who still lives in North Dakota and
still runs the diner.

~ first published in Clark Street Review