Mental Contagion

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Tin Can Mental Contagion
Opening the Can: Publishing in 125,000 Easy Steps
by Gene Dillon

Facing East

I am taking a long lunch to meet the man who is going to make this thing happen!

I step out past the construction of the Super Wal-Mart across the street from work. They've been scraping vast acres of dirt and digging holes and putting up massive amounts of iron and brick. They do this in the snow. It's crazy. These guys look really fuckin' cold out there. There's a lady on the street next to the site, selling tamales out of a blue and white cooler in the back of her pickup truck. There's another guy who sets up a grill, but he only comes out when it's warm and sunny. When they put up the Chili's last summer on the other corner, there was a lady with one of those silver delis on wheels, with a nice little awning. She'd ring a bell and the workers would come running. "The roach coach!" my office-mate would exclaim, and he would run outside as fast as he could run to pick up a couple of empanadas.

So, I just realized that hearing the words, "the roach coach" gives me a great deal of joy. Realizations like this should make a man happy to be alive, being in a place where something so simple can bring such happiness... Others may read this and declare, "How sad!"

I like to think about my deathbed. Those last few breaths, when I look back upon a life and beam up at the nurse, telling her, "You should have tasted those bean burritos!" [tears] "They made the whole trip worthwhile. They gave me... a purpose!"

Now I'm at some shit-hole called Proto's, where they make you a specialty pizza for one and take away your money. I'm allergic to wheat now, and dairy too. The only Asian place within a mile of here is the Colorado Wok, where they don't even bother to remove the wings and antennae off the flies before they mash them up into the black bean sauce.

I wait for my man and order some coffee. Since most places don't carry soy milk, I have to drink it black and it burns like hell. He's late. I let the waitress pour the third cup of the afternoon. My intake is up to about a gallon a day. I'm exhausted from it.

I'm sitting at the bar staring blankly through the big, bright windows facing East. Cars and trucks rumble along on 287, feeding the sprawl. A candy-red Humvee, headed Southbound, turns off the road beyond the shoulder, though the grass, up over the curb, right into the Proto's parking lot. It isn't slowing down. Patrons shriek, knock over chairs and tables and scatter just in the nick of time as the machine smashes through the windows, screeching to a halt directly on the spot where tables 9 through 12 used to be. Engine revving, the driver's tinted window lowers with smooth precision. A man with mirrored sunglasses, a handlebar mustache and a gray tweed fedora speaks to me from way up there... "Gene?"

I... don't have a response.

"Get in!"

What reason would I have to turn and run? Such an effort...

I throw a five on the bar and climb up into the passenger seat.

Mental Contagion
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