Wednesday, July 15, 2015
I am 15. It is the summer
        of 1982. I’m working illegally
at the Sonic Drive-In.
        Weatherford, Oklahoma.


I am a car hop and as such,
        I am required to wear
a Sonic baseball hat, the front
        two quadrants of which are


made of some sort of soft
        foam. The rest of the hat is mesh.
The hat’s bill feels squishy
        like the Tater Tots I carry


to the car in bay 3, a tow truck
        to be precise. I see as I
reach out to hook the
        tray onto the driver’s


window that the woman
        in the passenger seat is
crying into a knot of Kleenex.
        She is also wearing


a hat, the one mandated of
        all employees at our local
McDonald's franchise. She works
        the drive-thru. I am thinking


many things as the driver,
        a man I do not know, mines
his pockets, the glove compartment,
        the space between the vinyl seats,


for the amount needed to pay
        for the Tater Tots, the cherry
limeade, and the vanilla Coke.
        My memory is $1.72. I think


of a boy my age in someplace
        I can only think of, a place
like India or Colombia, and what
        he would have to do


in his country to earn $1.72 in 1982.
        The man does not have
enough money to pay for the food
        and drinks, and he asks if I


can take the coke back, we’ll share
        the limeade, he says to the boy
holding the tray and to the girl
        still weeping, the hat still in her lap.


In 1982, if a person were to
        start his car, back out of the bay
at the Sonic, make a left onto
        Main street and head west


to the nearby on-ramp of Interstate 40,
        he might get on the highway
and drive west toward Elk City, Sayre, Erick,
        and look out his window and in


any direction, he might see as many
        as thirty oil rigs at one time.
He might wonder about the men,
        where they are on their fourteen-hour


shift, the hard paste on their skin,
        the enormous greased chain
whipping around the dark shaft of the drill.
        That man might wonder about


drilling, about the future of oil, about
        the cost of the gas in his tank,
about how oil become petroleum and so
        he will not consider the young man


from Watonga whose left foot was crushed
        in the early dawn when the drill bit slipped
off the coupler as it emerged from
        the hole in the ground nearly 100 times


the length of his truck. He will not think
        of the crew chief, the ambulance driver,
the ER doctor, the scrambling screaming
        roughnecks, the truckers charging past,


the highway patrolmen arriving at the scene,
        or their fathers who poured the asphalt
for the highway thirty years before, or
        the men who will haul the heavy barrels


of sludge, the farmer who sold his land
        to the oil company, the backhoe driver who dug
the first hole, the paramedic in the back of
        the ambulance unsure of what she’ll see.


The driver will not think of the
        man at the wheel of the tow
truck who was called to the scene
        of an accident at an oil rig to haul


the victim’s car back to town. He will not
        think of the girl who took an extra job mopping
the floors of the Weatherford General Hospital
        one morning a week to make extra


money for her college fund or what
        she said when she saw her brother
who should be at work hurried
        into the emergency room his


Wranglers sliced up the side and his
        entire leg wrapped in red rags
or what her father said to her in bay 3
        of the Sonic Drive-In as he described what


it was like to arrive at an oil rig accident
        to do his job. And the driver will certainly
not think of the boy at the Sonic violating
        the Fair Labor Standards Act in the summer


of 1982 or what this boy will remember
        at his desk 32 years later, lost
in an impossible task that almost
        no person would consider work. 
Wednesday, July 15, 2015