Breakfast in America: Buehler's Grocery Store, Ashland, Ohio
1055 Sugarbush Dr.
Ashland, Ohio 44805
+1 (419) 282-9800
by T. N. Toost
Ahead, on the side of the road, something rose up out of the pavement. It swayed, serpentine, and at first I thought it was a palm tree, then realized it was an unusually thick cobra coming out of a furry body, with a deer head at the end, a cobra with a deer head and a deer nose straight up in the air, the tongue protruding even further up, the mouth opened, gasping. The neck whipped back and forth, the head shooting left, then right. Then, with a final, graceful curve, it collapsed onto the road, vertebra by vertebra, until, in slow, peaceful motion, the head settled on the ground, not even bouncing. This happened in two, maybe three seconds, and I muttered, "Holy shit that's a fucking deer," as I passed by its newly lifeless form.
I realized that it must have been screaming, as a deer screams, and in pain, and scared. It may have been warning another deer of danger, or lamenting its own demise. Two hundred yards down the road, a black Volkswagen with temporary license plates was pulled over to the side. A woman in the driver's seat was rigid, with her mouth open, just like the doe's, and, from the bubble of my passing car, just as silent. If I hadn't have pulled into a rest stop to search for a breakfast spot nearby, we could easily have been in different positions.
Five minutes later, I pulled into the parking lot of Buehler's. It was nearly deserted, save for a man sorting large racks of plants for sale. The restaurant, however, was moderately busy - several full tables, and a guy who looked like he was getting off of the night shift was sitting at the counter. I joined him. The waitress seemed artificially pleasant in the American manner, but was nice enough, and brought my egg, bacon and cheese sandwich out in short order. It was delicious - the bacon was crispy, the egg puffed up well, and the cheese was American and oily and clung to everything. The fruit salad, while fairly standard, was at least an attempt at health, and the coffee was weak but pleasant. Five minutes later I was out the door, and the night shift man was chatting to the waitress. I wished them both well. She was pretty in the way a small town waitress might be pretty, making an effort to marry before even that is taken away from her.
And then it hit me. After our few words exchanged - the "have a nice day" crap - she went back to talking to the man at the counter. They had some business together. I looked back, and they looked conspiratorial, but not in a lover sense - in the sense that they had deep understandings that others would not understand just yet. They had secrets. What if American superficiality was actually a form of courtliness, a cover for deeper thoughts and ambitions? What if it was a way for them to be pleasant to each others' faces as they planned to put daggers in each others' backs? What if their greatest feat was getting everyone in the world to think they were simple when, in reality, they were actually quite complex?
I looked back. The waitress guffawed unconvincingly at something her customer had said. Maybe she actually did have designs on him in which case he would be the fool and I realized I shouldn't project such grand abilities on such simple people.