Muses are supposed to be mountains, or rivers, or political happenstances, or beautiful women, and usually I stick with those traditional sources of inspiration. After all, they’re tried-and-true, they’re an easy fallback. Early this morning though my muse was simply a large bearded man in very small basketball shorts.
I stopped for gas in Ashton, early in the morning. I’d beat the plow along most of my route, wallowing the Scion through fresh snow, face shots flying off the hood into the windshield. I was hungry, and I needed to fuel up before I hit the ridiculously priced fuel stops of West Yellowstone. In the gas station nothing caught my eye. There was a tray of shriveled donuts under a heat lamp, and next to them a foil wrapped parcel that said it was a “Best Loaded Burrito Ever.” But it cost $4, and even in its thick foil swaddling it was still smaller than a microwave burrito.
On the other side of the stand, hot dogs rolled perpetually. Their wrinkled ends reminded me of my great grandma’s fingertips when she used to pinch my cheek. It was just after 6:30 am. I wondered briefly if these sausages had been put out fresh this morning and then dismissed the thought with a dour laugh. These were last night’s hot dogs, no doubt about it. Maybe even last week’s hot dogs, I don’t expect much from an establishment whose main traffic is diesel fuel and wolf shirts. But they looked better than the foil wrapped mystery burrito, and the gas station had one of those little displays with pickles and onions and peppers to drown your mostly-beef-cancer, filled weinner with.
I loaded up two, a Massive Cheddar Brat and a Genuine Jumbo Weiner, with as much ketchup and vegetables as their soggy buns could hold. After all, a balanced diet is key to a balanced life, and I’m pretty good at balancing a stack of pickles on top of the onions on my gas station sausage.
At the counter the lady looked at me skeptically. She was exactly what you’d expect from a gas station in Idaho early in the morning. Her jeans with the sparkly swirls on the back pockets, worn out Sketchers, and beat up hat were at home there. I was not. I guess something about the flowered shorts, the big rubber boots, or maybe the fact that I was buying two hot dogs and a bag of gummy worms at 6:30 in the morning, caught her eye.
“Boy, I woke up this morning, went out to start my car, came back in and put on an extra pair of long underwear!”
“Yeah, I know, it’s a little warmer this week than last though.”
She wasn’t impressed, “What’s your mother think about the way you’re dressed?”
I guess she probably wouldn't be surprised, mud boots and shorts are pretty standard winter wear in my family, and I’ve seen the pictures, she started dating my dad back when he wore shorts even shorter than the ones I’ve got now.
“And what about what you’re eating for breakfast? That’s no way to start your day!”
Before my sleep addled brain could come up with some witty response a cigarette-aged voice from somewhere behind me stepped up.
“You ever heard of a breakfast sausage Lori!?”
Another man had taken my place at the hot dog rack, loading up his sausage with sauerkraut. He was a big man, the kind of man you look at and you know he makes things, and fixes them, and breaks electronic things on accident.
His trucker hat said he was part of the NRA, and the bill was wearing through and fraying. His beard was white except where it was nicotine yellow, Santa with a chew habit. His Carhartt jacket was waterproofed with the grease of a thousand oil changes, and jump starts, and fixed tractors , and his hands wore the story of a lifetime of cuts and bruises and broken nails. But his shorts, his shorts can not have been his own originally, they must have been stolen from a son, a son who outgrew them some time in Junior High.
Where they were clean they were bright purple, and the sides proclaimed in a neon yellow that they were the pro model of Kobe Bryant, the Black Mamba. In case you didn’t understand that last part, there was the outline of a snake striking on them. They tried to cover legs that hadn’t played basketball in decades.
The gas station lady knew him.
“Fair point Dick, I don’t mind breakfast sausage. But look at his shorts!”
She gestured at my Idaho-white legs.
Dick looked down at his own, similarly Idaho-white legs.
“It’s called Loungewear woman.”
She had nothing, I had nothing, and Dick had onions to pile on his hotdogs, so the gas station sat silent as I collected my breakfast.
Outside, Dick climbed into his lifted diesel truck, branded with a seed company’s logo. I ducked into my Scion, covered in ski stickers. We sat silently for a moment in the pre-dawn gas station parking lot, eating our hot dogs, two Idahoans enjoying loungewear, and the ageless pickles that are only found in finer establishments worldwide.