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Michael is Hungry and Stuck in Traffic
by Matthew Dorrell

Lately Michael has been eating almost nothing except peanut butter and fried banana sandwiches. Sometimes he paints thin stripes of strawberry jam back and forth, crisscrossing the peanut butter. Both his frying pans, many utensils and a few scattered patches of clothing are caked in a gluey banana resin which fixes to nearby objects with a ferocity that suggests it too might have been unlucky in love.

Once, when he was eight years old, Michaelís family went camping in the foothills. On the second day of the trip Michael was fighting with his brother and losing, so he let his family get ahead of him. Somehow he wandered off the path and became lost immediately. His father found him half an hour later, sitting against a tree crying. A blue cap on the passenger in the Camry in the next lane reminds Michael of this for the first time in years.

The bananas hanging from the supermarket shelves were an unspotted uniform yellow. They might have been cartoon bananas they were so perfect, hanging cleverly between the endless excitement of row upon row of cereal boxes. Seeing bananas displayed in this new context was so profound that Michael, then and there, embarked on a enthusiastic healthy eating plan which lasted well into the next aisle.

Lately he has been extremely concerned about the onset of baldness, and habitually inspects his hairline when stuck in traffic, like he is doing now. Michael has been trying to avoid doing this so often because itís not as if traffic jams really need to be any more stressful do they, for Christís sake?

He is listening intently to the radio, trying not to think about the cashier at the grocery store and the way she accidentally slid her fingers across the palm of his hand, the one holding exact change. Michael is listening to a country song and not thinking about the girlís eyes, or the way she thanked him for shopping, or that she canít be more than a year older than his daughter.

He is thinking about the groceries in the trunk. If he timed it right, he might be able to flip the latch for the trunk, jump out of the car, run to the trunk, grab the bag with the bagels and the cream cheese, and be back in the car before the traffic ever noticed he was gone. Instead he sits tapping the steering wheel in time to Paul Simon, moving his Golf forward in tiny erratic fits. Michael pops his only cinnamon breath mint into his mouth and tries to make it last.


Matthew Dorrell is wondering. About the west.

 





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