99 bottles

At a gas station
That after a brief look over is decidedly not a rest stop
The car breaks down

The dog is shivering like he always does on road trips
And no one knows why
So I go inside
To buy stale chips and weird tea
That I drink on a stone wall in noon’s oven sun

Relief comes
In the form of a glaring skull tattoo
On the scarred arm of a too old man
Mustached
Like the 1940s factory hand
I imagine his father to have been

He speaks in broken engine
More rasp and growl than I can comprehend
I don’t speak this kind of poetry
And cannot gesture calluses as eternal as his fingertips
His sandpaper handshake with tooth enough
For the few missing from his easy smile

He puts one arm up on his open car door so casually
I know he’s told this story before
He met his wife a lifetime ago
Towing her broken down car
“Now, men always going after women is bullshit,”
He tells us
“She
invited me in for the drink

And it’s been 24 years
And she won’t let me get a third dog
And you know what?
I think I’d rather trade her for the third dog

You know”
His smile suggests that he wants for less sincerity
“I’ve put two kids through college
Step kids

And I still never got my drink”

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