Sometimes a Waffle House is a home. I found salvation in a pool of sodium light twenty-three miles east of Rapid City. She had a perpetually pissed-off supervisor who told her to quit digging for her rock bottom. I stood in line at the Gas ‘n Go behind a furious man with a pistol tucked into the elastic waistband of his sweatpants, yelling that the cashier only gave him three Powerball tickets when he should’ve gotten four.

“What time is checkout?” I asked. The clerk shrugged. An old noir flickered on the old black-and-white in the corner, Out of the Past from ’47 with Robert Mitchum’s hungover eyes and Jane Greer’s Mona Lisa smile. They watched the roulette wheel spin. She asked if there was a way to win and Mitchum told her there’s only a way to lose more slowly.

Christmas Eve in Kentucky
Rapid City, South Dakota
Highway 51, Missouri