I’m finished with the second box of matzo and we still have a hundred or so miles to go. One piece of matzah every ten to twenty miles. It keeps me awake and I like the way it crunches, changes texture, leaves a slight film in my mouth. I always take a five to ten-mile break between each piece.
“Hey,” I wake my wife, “I need a bathroom and I’m out of food. We’re coming on to Dwight. I’m going to get some food for us there.”
She murmurs something I don’t understand so I take it for a yes and pull off. There are four fast food restaurants in a square, two on each side all of them facing each other. Cars are parked in all the lots. Business must be good, I think as I pull into Taco Dell. We’re not big on chicken so I didn’t go for KFC and we’re trying to stay away from beef so that took care of Burger King and Arby’s. I can already taste the bean tortillas I’m going to be eating for the remainder of the trip. I quietly exit the car—don’t want to wake the family—and enter. No one is there. All the lights are on, the registers face outward—strange—and the stoves and fryers are humming.
“Anyone home?” I ask. I say it again louder. Then again.
I use the bathroom that appears to have been just now totally cleaned. The floor shines. The fixtures are immaculate.
“Anyone here?” I ask again quite loud. My voice actually echoes.
I go outside. I cross the street. I go into the other fastfood places. Same thing. No one anywhere, but there are cars parked in front. One has four, another three, the last two six. I reenter Taco Dell. I walk to the register. Then I see it. “We’re on the honor system here,” the sign states. “Cook what you need, pay for it by putting your card or money into the correct slot, take your receipt and have a nice day.”
Okay with me. I cook up eight bean tortillas—five for me cause I’m driving—and one each for the wife and kids. I add tomatoes and a piece of lettuce to each one (no cheese because I’m watching my fat intake), roll them up, wrap them, pay with cash, take my receipt and we’re on our way a minute later.
My wife stirs beside me. “Did you get a newspaper. You know I like to collect papers from every town we visit.”
We need gas anyway. I pull into the next gas station I see, off an exit five miles from the fastfood places, fill up, use the bathroom again (just in case) and buy a newspaper. It’s nice to see a real human working behind the counter. Don’t know why, but I forget to ask him about the honor system down the road. I’m still wondering if it works out for the owners.
“Interesting headline,” I say as I hand the paper to my wife, start the car up and slide onto the ramp back to the highway.
“Huh?” she mumbles, takes the paper and reads aloud: “MORE DISAPPEARANCES REPORTED AT FOUR CORNERS,” and she shows me the headline. “More missing people reported to the authorities,” she continues reading. “The count has reached over fifty now. Police are investigating. ‘We do not have any leads at this time,’ according to lead investigator John Worth of the Dwight Police Department. ‘It’s a mystery. The cars are parked in the lot untouched, keys still in the ignition, but the passengers are missing. We are searching for answers.’” She takes a bean tortilla from the bag. “Smells good.” She takes a bite. “Interesting flavor. What do you think they add to make it so good?”
I’m thinking the same thing.