Welcome to Not bad!, Talk Vomit’s Sunday morning poetry series. Today, we are featuring one prose-poem by Montana poet Ross Peterson.
Until It’s Time To Not Be Nice: Watching Road House After Work Again
I have lost touch with the Road House spirit in the workplace. I have lost touch with the wisdom of Dalton, Patrick Swayze’s knife-wound-as-hangnail sage of the food and beverage industry, by the time he cuts everyone in line. “I’ve had my dog in the car for two hours,” he says, “and someone’s dog is now roaming on the patio when me—my–dog is in the car, because you told me I couldn’t have him on the patio. You. You told me.” His temples grow against the mesh of his backward Patagonia hat. “Fuck you,” he says. He rips the door open, turns, and says with a final finger jab, “Fuck … you,” as he, with a crowning shove, topples the newspaper rack. His wife already sits in the passenger’s seat of the Toyota when he jams the keys in his ignition and drives off toward Glacier National Park. I’d like to throw my arms around the stunned biker waiting for another beer when he says with a shaking of his head, “Some people … I mean … some people.” Dalton says, “I want you to remember, it’s just a job. It’s nothing personal.” I pick up the spilled heaps Flathead Beacons, pack and pat them back in a neat stack. I adjust the air conditioning. I greet Joanne in her tan sunhat the diameter of a unicycle. I pour samples of hazy IPAs for a tourist trio, fresh off the golf course. “Looks like orange juice,” says one. I hear that every day, but I fake a smile.
Dusk now: I drive US35 home. A Northwest Montana summer sunset: wisps of pink and red and purple in the sky hovering above the Swan Mountains, in this light appearing as something extraordinary: a silhouetted tsunami. No RVs. Parked for the night at the Glacier Pines and the Greenwood, the Rocky Mountain Hi and the Alpine Mobile Manor. Despite the romance of the roadside, I think about the yuppie prick. My newspapers. He faces no consequences and there’s no such thing as Dalton to duel him with a pool cue. “Be nice … until it’s time to not be nice.” I thought I could live by the Road House code. You need a code in the customer service industry. But how? This is what I hate, the perfection of Road House. I want to watch a movie every night with no plot. The hero doesn’t change, doesn’t improve, doesn’t learn anything, doesn’t confront the antagonist, which is really just himself–who else?– anyway. It’s almost dark when I pull into my driveway, kill the engine, finish the beer in the longneck. I unlock my front door: no Kelly Lynch, no Sunshine Parker as a cool hillbilly landlord. Cathleen Wilhoitte will not wake me with doughnuts and coffee tomorrow morning nor will she blush when she sees my bare ass as I climb out of bed naked and light a cigarette. I am not allowed to smoke in my rental and my bare ass probably wouldn’t make anyone blush.
Ross Peterson lives in Montana, where he has bartended, waited tables, operated heavy duty floor scrubbing machines, played in garage bands, and spent ample amounts of time wandering in the woods. He is a graduate of Oklahoma City University’s Red Earth MFA Program. His writing can be found on Bright Wall/Dark Room, No Contact, and in Stream Your Head Off: Your Monthly Guide to Movies Streaming Online.