Fine Foods and Beer
The sign said “Fine Foods and Beer”, but the iron bars over the door of the wooden framed building with its layered decades of peeling white paint spoke otherwise. My car had broken down on a two lane stretch of road between my home and office during rush hour on a Monday morning. It was, apparently, going to be a hell of a week. I was only fifteen minutes from my house, but as I surveyed my surroundings, I was beginning to sense that one didn’t have to be stranded in the middle of nowhere to feel like an unlucky extra in a Rob Zombie film. You know the ones, you always see them at the beginning of the movie and somehow know they won’t make it five minutes past the opening credits. The Sunset Motel & Restaurant had, hopefully, seen better days. I doubted if “fine foods” had ever been associated with the place. Nearby a hand painted sign in bright blue read “Karaoke and Beer”, and that sounded more like it.
The battery on my cell phone was dying, the car was already dead. I had just enough juice for one call – better make it a good one. Thankfully, Triple A came quickly to the line. A tow truck would be there in half an hour. The phone gave up its last as I wondered if any of the traffic speeding by on what seemed to me to be a less busy road than normal were giving any thought to the stranger in a coat and tie parked in so unlikely a spot. Pocketing the now useless lifeline to the civilized world, I set about taking better stock of my situation.
Being in this part of Kentucky one gets used to the scent of animals and earth wafting on the breeze, but what I was smelling wasn’t the horses grazing contentedly across the road from where I stood. This was more barnyard than pasture I thought as I turned around, and it was then I saw the goat. Actually two goats in little patch of grass behind a waist-high chain link fence between the Sunset Motel’s fine dining establishment and what I took to be the office. The goats presence – though they took no notice of me – only served to heighten the growing disquiet I felt. The office lent nothing to enhance the rest of the surroundings. Had this been a movie (and I was becoming increasingly afraid that one day it might be) I would have hardly been surprised if a character played by Sid Haig came wandering out the screen door, yelling at the goats as he came to tell me that, yes, he did have a phone I could use but “…it’ll take a little while for anyone to get out here so you might as well make yourself comfortable. You hungry? The meat’s fresh…”. Was I really only 15 minutes from home?
The Sunset Motel & Restaurant had one unique feature I had never experienced in a lodging establishment before – I mean besides the goats. Next to the door to each room was a brightly painted red roll-up garage door. Apparently at the Sunset one had the option of sleeping in your room, your car, or both at the same time. Well I thought, that’s one way to keep strangers from nosing around whatever – or whomever – you might be hiding in the trunk.“You can check out any time you like But you can never leave!”
I wasn’t sure if I was actually hearing the lyrics from The Eagles’ “Hotel California” drifting in on the breeze with the barnyard odors, or if my mind had simply started to give in to the surreal nature of my surroundings. The tow truck arrived saving me from further contemplation of the red garage doors, the proper place for goat on the menu of culinary locavores, and whether the aforementioned locavores might prefer – well, another white meat.
The driver of the tow truck stepped out and I found myself face to face with a late twenty something iteration of Elwood Blues. The shades were there. So were the sideburns. The name tag on his blue uniform said “Mike”. A pack of cigarettes were tucked into his shirt pocket. Elwood make quick work of hitching my car to his truck. As I climbed into the cab, Elwood glanced up from his paperwork, looked my direction, and said “Pygmies.” Instinctively I turned and ducked, being unsure whether his exclamation was some new method of greeting or a shout of warning. “Probably keeps the grass cut down”, he added, making me feel somewhat foolish at my reaction. As Elwood the goat expert and I pulled out of the parking lot – maybe it was just my imagination – but out of the corner of my eye I thought I saw a curtain pull back, briefly, in one of the windows next to a red garage door.
Recently, I found myself back on the same road passing by the Sunset Motel & Restaurant again. I knew it wasn’t a good idea to tempt fate, like those kids in the movies who go back and camp at a place called Crystal Lake. Or anyone, and I mean anyone, who lives in a house on Elm Street. Yet like those same kids I was feeling brave and slowed down enough to take a good look. The white paint was still peeling, the garage doors were still painted red. Not a soul stirred about. The Karaoke and Beer sign on the restaurant was gone, replaced instead by one scrawled in the same blue tint that read “Taqueria”. The grass was a little higher, and I noticed the goats were gone too. Guess I know what’s for lunch today.