A paper cup.  She put my coffee in a goddam paper cup!  And wanted to charge me two dollars for it.  Looking her dead in her late adolescent, pale blue eyes, I explained, “When you put coffee in a paper cup, ma’am, it’s gonna taste like coffee in a paper cup.  And if you don’t respect your coffee any more than to put it in a paper cup, your coffee is probably not worth drinking anyway.  You keep it and I’ll go on down the road.”


In the next small town, about fifteen miles on, I found a main-street restaurant with seats at the counter, a calendar on the wall, and heavy, white china coffee cups ~ and the kind of coffee that drips into a round glass pitcher with a bakelite handle, that a middle-aged waitress periodically carries around checking all the customers.  “A little warm-up, honey?”


A paper breakfast menu rested in a metal stand attached to the counter.  The eggs, potatoes and toast, when she sat them before me, were as near perfect as such food can ever be.  Two seats over sat a skinny kid in road-dirty clothes, hunched over a bowl of oatmeal.  Behind him on the floor lay a huge, olive-drab duffle bag.  Without saying a word, without even looking my way, he talked me into offering a ride.


Back on the road with my new passenger riding shotgun and and his duffle in the back seat, I waited until several miles passed by before speaking. “I’m Joe.  Where ya headed?”



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