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Austin Nights


Bridget sees the billboard and parks the Silverado in a mostly vacant parking lot.
I take a picture of the Florida Orange Center Seminoles. Bridget wanders off to
what turns out to be a fifteen- foot, mummified Florida gator behind thick glass.
“It’s rotting,” says Bridget.
She’s right. There are cobwebs festooned along its teeth, and from the tip of its
nose to a plastic tree stump.
I take a couple photos with her iPhone. In the first, she’s acting a bit sexy. In the
second, she’s terrified of the gator. Her mouth is open and her fingers are fanned
out next to hollowed cheeks.
Inside the Orange Center, we get a noseful of honey and citrus. There’s a shelf of
one-quart orange juice bottles for $2.99. They look like miniature plastic gallon
jugs of water, except they’re orange.
We go to the back of the store for free samples. A lady with her arm stabilized in
a cast and sling asks if I can push the lever while she holds plastic cups under the
spout. I oblige. The generous samples she pours are fresh enough that we buy a
quart of goodness for the road.
As the cashier rings up our purchase, I grab a hexagonal mesh of honeycomb for
sale on the counter and shake my head. Bridget knows what I’m thinking. O ne
sting from a bee (or wasp) and I go straight into anaphylactic shock.
This honeycomb is my frailty. This honeycomb is my Darwinian soft spot.
1
I don’t know exactly how to start. Michael is the writer. I’m the graduate student.
He gave me his computer and asked me to start writing about Austin. He told me
to just go ahead and write. He’ll find a way to use whatever I write.
I’ve only read bits and pieces of what he has written, and I only vaguely have an
idea of what he wants this memory to achieve. I assume writers want to give
readers an experience. Writers want to affect readers. But Michael never talks
about this.
I feel like I have to help him out. I have to give this memory some effect. Readers
are all about the effect. But the snippets I’ve scanned are like a journal. At least
that’s the impression I get. I don’t think people want to read some stranger’s
journal.
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