Chapter 12 - "the thread of fatigue and intrigue"

We made our way into Great Falls and it’s amazing how quickly the excessive surplus of food marts and food joints immediately caused our hearts to get picky. We passed by Applebee’s and Damon’s and T.G.I. Fridays looking for a “Ma and Pa Montana Diner”. My buddy said that they were the ones that had the fresh, home-grown beef that melted in your mouth. As he described the difference, my mouth filled with slimy saliva excreting from every gland, squirting out every which way. I was swallowing down big gulps of spit in gleeful anticipation.

But I started getting an odd feeling when we moved through the heart of the city to the outskirts on the other side. I felt like we passed up some pretty solid options in search for the perfect place. Doug was convinced that he could find something on the western fringe, but the further we went, the more bleak that hope looked. I felt my insides starting to twist in knots and my body started to get hot with boiling blood coursing through my veins. The panic that we might have to drive another hour to the next town was about causing my right eye to shudder and twitch. As the lights of the city faded in the review mirror, my soul sank into a mini-manic depression.

Doug felt like there had to be a good greasy spoon off one of the upcoming exits, but the lateness of the evening and the distance between exits didn’t offer my spirit much to cling to. I could tell he was starting to get a little hot himself, beating himself up under his breath with words of disbelief and self-depreciation. The next exit was 6 miles down the road and a green sign said that there was a motel, a casino and a saloon/restaurant off that outlet. We were hoping that all the difficulty up to this point was planned by God because he had something even better for us in mind. Not so.

We pulled off the exit and found the place the signs advertised. After getting out of the truck and making our way to the entrance, it became clear that the bar section of the establishment was open, but that the diner branch had closed an hour earlier. It was almost 10 o’clock by this time and every piece of sand that squeezed through the hour glass made the hope of finding one of these legendary “Montana eateries” more remote. We got back in the truck and saw that there was a little hotel/bar/restaurant hybrid across the road. It looked more run down than the one we just tried if that was even possible.

We walked into the joint and immediately had the feeling we weren’t in the right place to find a steak. The woman behind the wet bar had a low cut shirt that seemed to go down to her navel. She was hardened, a touch over weight, and awfully rude. Especially when we asked if they had a menu. She pointed to a dry erase white board that had the words on it, “Hot dogs - $2.00” That was the menu. Tube Steaks. It was that or nothin’. I wasn’t doing tube steaks…not me, not here, not now! We turned tail and got the heck out of there. By this time, my innards were at a bitter boil. Between the bodily fatigue and the steak intrigue I was hanging by a psychotic thread.

There wasn’t any other option but to turn around and head back to the city which was now about 15 minutes behind us. It was a silent and seething 15 minutes, indeed. Neither one of us talked. There was just a lot of heaving breathing; I guess they call it hyperventilating. Roads signs indicated that a Days Inn was just off the highway, so we took the off ramp to a stop sign where we made a pretty abrupt halt if my memory serves me correctly. Someone was broken down on the side of the road, so we rolled down our window and asked if we could help silently hoping that they would say, “No, we’ve already called someone and they’re on their way.” Thankfully, that’s just what they said. We took a left and started the expedition to find the Day’s Inn. What we didn’t realize was that it wasn’t right off the arterial highway; it was about 6 miles into a sprawling suburb of Great Falls. I was hot. When we finally tracked it down after twists and turns and road signs pointing to smaller road signs, we decided to check in after we looked for a little dive to get a big steak. We stopped off and asked someone where we could locate such a place and, low and behold, we got someone to guide us to what they described as “just what we were looking for”.

Three more miles down the mole hole, we finally came upon the place said to be famous for their succulent steaks. We parked, and crossed the street waltzing toward the primary entrance, but just as we were about to climb the steps and open the door, a couple guys informed us that they had just shut the restaurant down for the night. I shook my head and felt my insides resigning to the fact that we weren’t getting our steak that evening. There was one more possibility, but something inside of me was saying, “Toss in the towel, son. This is your lot tonight.” With clinched teeth and smoke billowing out my ears, we hopped back into the truck and decided to hit a local Arby’s we saw a few miles back near the Inn that we were fixing to stay in that night. It was open, though we were the only patrons in the building with a bunch of rambunctious teenage employees engaging in adolescent fowl-d-rowel behind the counter. Typically I would be watching employees such as this like a hawk making sure they executed the making of my sandwich and the scooping of my fries and the pouring of my coke without incident, but in the shape I was in, I could have cared less whether they hacked a logy in my grilled chicken sandwich and spread it around with the jack knife in their pocket. I was going to eat anything that was put before me at that point, and that was that!

My buddy and I sat there inhaling our deep fried meal in somewhat of a stupor. How did such high hopes turn into something so pedestrian, so hackneyed. I could barely talk I was so spent, so deflated by the rigors of the reality that we were dealt, limp as a balloon leaking its last little wisp of helium.

As we finished our meal, my stomach was full and empty all at the same time. All that I could think about now was sleeping. No one could take that away from me. The hotel was clean and close. Nothing could stand in between me and that pillow. I was going to take a hot shower, shave my last shave, and slip under the sheets like a recovering narcoleptic. But as was the emerging custom, nothing on this trip was panning out as it was planned out.

Ok, almost nothing.


Popular Posts