Stopping for Breakfast in Slidell

The Vietnamese po’boys shop is closed

on Sundays, so Kent & Lauren and I bottom out

into the gravel lot of an off-road gumbo shack

done up with string lights and once painted

the white of knick-knack angels. Today holds

what’s last of September: the sky a French

blue, grass yellowing as though with chicken

fat, the smells of sugared meat and dripping

links. Inside, plastic Jack-o-lanterns and straw-

poke dolls grin from windowsills, the russet

and ochre that won’t wholly stain a Louisiana

fall. Kids in Tigers shirts draw with Crayon

stubs on paper table covers while the Saints’

pregame buzzes on the radio and the deep-fryers

splutter and hum. Lauren orders herself a little

country gumbo, Kent a croissant sandwich, me

some French toast and pink sausage. Kent pays.

We three sit on the porch with two coffees

and a Barq’s in Styrofoam cups, and it’s the closest

I have been to peaceful in so long. You once told

me, when you wished to rid me from your life:

People fall apart. This happens. I am not a child.

Down the road Kent’s sisters once wrecked

their daddy’s car after getting tanked at the Daiquiris

& Creams. Down the road, Lauren says, Katrina

once battered this town to not much left but nail

salon sprawl and gas stations hoping to get you gone.

She tells me, it’s the water that does some, we know,

but mostly, it’s the wind. It’s what the heart learns to

stop missing: the pushing through, that pressing clean.

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