We drove the bus to our regular early morning wait station, a rundown old service station out by the highway. The pumps were removed ages ago, but the overhead platform remains to keep us out of the early morning drizzle. We sit in silence and will the radio to ignore us. I sip the fifth coffee of the night and think about strange things, letting my head run away from reality. Sometimes you feel the dead lingering in the back. They breathe on your neck when you try to nap.

I got to thinking about food, as the sun started fuzzing the early morning sky pink. I have a craving for street meat. I've heard three definitions of that term during my life, and each one tells you a lot about me at the time heard it.

Noun, phonetically 'strEt 'mEt, from the Middle English words strete and mete.

Definition A:
a highly seasoned minced meat usually stuffed in casings of prepared animal intestine, served by a street vendor operating a barbecue.

There are four noisy old Arabic men selling those big greasy Italian sausages and foot long hot dogs to the drunks that are spilling from the trendy bars downtown. They are the happiest men in the world. They yell up the street to each other, cursing each other's mothers and flipping each other off colorfully, like some kind of modern black-face show. Come on down and watch the camel jockeys fight! The trick to it all is that they are giving both dinner and a show to the crowds between the bars. A little razzle dazzle with your greasy meat on a bun. They are shrewd business men and they rake in the cash.

I was there to pick up a guy who got his face messed up in a stupid fight when I saw the kid. He was about fourteen or so, and dusky skinned. He could have passed for the son of any of the grill men. I was sitting on a curb taking five and I was hungry, but I had to stay by the ambulance while Debby, the born again bull dyke I was riding with, finished sewing up the fratboy's face. It was a catch and release. We patch him and the cops take him down to the drunk tank to sleep it off. I caught the kid's attention and called him over.

"Do me a favor kid?"

"Sure, sure" he agreed, watching my twenty dollar bill.

"Get me a sausage, no onions" I said, and I began to hand him the bill. Then I stopped.

"Which one of these guys makes the best ones?" I asked.

The kid smiled and leaned in close, taking me into his confidence.

"They all come out of the same pot. They are brothers, all of them. My father and his 3 brothers." he said with a smile. "They do it for a show, a distraction. It is all the same on the bun."

I let the kid keep the change.

Definition B:
a derogatory term for a woman who engages in promiscuous sexual intercourse especially for money.

We drove through the slums for what seemed like the hundredth time that winter night, picking up bleeding gang-bangers. It was like the city was going mad with the cold. Each and every time we passed this one corner, I saw this little girl trying to sell herself. Every time. She was either standing with her girls, or smoking her long cigarettes, or leaning on a john's car. Logic told me that she would freeze to death in that outfit, but each time I saw her, she looked more alive, like a light on a dimmer switch being turned up. I was going to wave at her on the next trip past, but she was gone.

Definition C:
Slang for the victim of a motor vehicle accident that is ejected from a wreck during said accident.

George, the Sadist, can take the silence no longer.

"You OK, Twitch?" he asks.

"Remember that motorbike kid George?" I ask him, evading the question.

"Yah man, that was right here." he answers.

We always sit here in the morning. It was gray and raining that day, and we had been sitting on our asses with nothing to do all night, getting cranky. A fine mist was falling on the road, helping the spring thaw. Just a wet miserable boring night. Then we heard the siren. Police.

The service station sits on a hill, looking down on a long straight stretch of blacktop. The red cherries blinked in the thin fog, a few miles off. The yellow headlight in front of it was traveling at an impossible speed. A street bike hauling ass down the strip.

We always get to the mess after the fact, so we never see the how and the when of the things we clean up, until then. Just as bike got to the little patch of road right in front of us, it all came apart. They just lay the screaming engine down on the road in front of us in a smooth graceful motion, a brushstroke in water. The riders, dressed in leather, skipped away like flat stones on a still pond. The rooster tail of bright yellow sparks was a giant sparkler, the disintegrating bike a roman candle of flame and noise.

"Fuck me." I said, back in the here and now, despite myself.

"Yah." said George.

"You remember the girl?" he asks.


"What was she singing?"

"Jingle Bells." When we sat and waited for the Medivac chopper to land, I sat with the two riders. She was fine, road rash and a broken finger. He has a broken skull that was being held together by his helmet. She was singing to him to keep him conscious. The prop wash was stealing her harmony, but he was smiling.

"Yah. Jingle Bells." said George.

My watch alarm goes off. Quitting time. We drive away in silence. I try to remember if the guy made it.

concluded in Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar

In which the mountains are old and I am the ghost on the battlements - Kid Eternity - Do svidanya, Rodina! - Standin' in a pool of cop blood with a shotgun you can't stop - Street Meat - Johnny Cash with His Hot and Blue Guitar

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