Jocelyn Pihlaja Posts


I push through the door — it’s late, but the massive cowboy hat on the roof glows red — and step into something more like a nightclub than an Arby’s. Steady, throbbing beats pulse across the rafters of the dim dining room, threading through stacks of waxed cups, snapping plastic straws with reverb.

This roast beef hashery is my kind of joint.

Eyes float to the menu board; simultaneously, my chin begins to bob. Anticipating the imminent rush of potato cake puissance, my body ticks with the vocals.

Suckin’ on my titties like you wanted me,
Callin’ me, all the time like Blondie

“OH MY GOD!” the blondie behind the counter shrieks as she looks up from tying a trash bag. My presence has startled her.

Her first reaction is to hunch low, bending torso toward linoleum, hiding her body behind the cash register. Her second reaction is to screech, barely audible over the racy lyrics shaking the dining room, “JOE. TURN IT DOWN. TURN IT OFF. TURN IT DOWN. OH MY GOD. TURN IT OFF NOW!”


The light changes. A cover has opened, slit of sun beaming into the darkness, a ha-ha neiner-neiner taunt transmitted from the world of wind and spit. In the quick second between dandelion shaft blinking back to onyx, a gentle violence occurs, crinkling followed by thump.

A book has been returned.


With that thump, the movable floor inside the Returns bin lowers almost imperceptibly; a single book isn’t that heavy, after all. But then the flap clinks, signaling another, another, another, dark to light, light to dark, typeset words in freefall. Absorbing the weight of pages and ideas, springs stretch, and the catching floor gradually sinks.

It’s designed to protect the books, this bin is. When it’s empty, the floor rests near the top, quick purchase for incoming books slithering through the slot. As Returns accumulate, the floor gradually descends, earlier Returns nesting and bolstering newcomers so no volume sustains damage from a traumatic plummet.

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