Parking Lot

by Nate Logan

It is Thanksgiving time again. A time for bread and mirth. A to-go container of rolls lay
in the parking lot. A turned-over ramekin oozes butter like a wound, elicits crying and
angry words. There are no employees outside telling us to “avert our eyes” or that
“there’s nothing to see here.” A retired detective retreats to his car for evidence markers.
A feeble attempt is made to alert the authorities. Most people enter the Longhorn
Steakhouse without blinking.
When I return to the car, there’s a flyer on my windshield: another pet rock has run away
from home. That makes four in the last week. I examine the picture. I say with
confidence, “I have never seen this pet rock.”
To avoid fees, many concertgoers park in the restaurant’s lot and enjoy the performance
from the comfort of their cars. When the band plays the single, most emerge from front
seats, climb on their hoods, and dance. A contingent of headbangers occupies the back
quarter of the lot. Couples are near the front, slow dancing to machine gun riffs. It’s only
now, thirty minutes into the show, that I hear the maître d’. “Aren’t you going to do
something?!” I would never get in the way of someone else’s happiness. Would not even
stick my foot in the door of someone else’s happiness. But the maître d’ doesn’t know
this. Because my name is on the door, I need to project a sense of fairness and sternness.
My face is a warning sign, the one with the hatchback on two wheels.
At the end of a tough week, I treat myself to some curbside steak, broccoli, and brick of
bread. I wait for the bill and see right into the restaurant. A hostess rolls her eyes so far in
her head, I feel a little sick. Some child uses a red crayon with disturbing flourish. A slice
of cheesecake is put in front of an elderly couple. I’m the only person in the designated
to-go parking area. The wind nudges the car with a socked foot.
“When do you think this will blow over?” my wife asked. “I don’t know, honey,” I said.
Driving had become impossible, so we pulled into the first parking lot we could. One row
over, a plume of tailgating smoke crept upward. A family of five donning local sports
team paraphernalia were shouting and eating barbeque. “Looks like some people have
already given up…” my wife said. “Honey, let’s not judge,” I said. Though secretly I
agreed. More cars pulled in. In a minivan beside us, a prayer circle formed on folded-
down backseats. Some fireworks exploded in the sky near the restaurant entrance. “Must
be for kids,” my wife said. “Kids will believe anything.” Circumstances had revealed
another side of my wife, a side I didn’t know existed. “Parents have to do something,
honey. Kids get scared.” My wife waved her hand. “Compromise never did me any
favors,” she said. I turned on the radio to lighten the mood, but there was no music. Just
people talking without end, until they weren’t.