Friday, January 21, 2011

The Miracle Carwash, Dubuque, Iowa

It was so bright I couldn’t sleep. Across the street from the Hotel there was a building with a great big electric sign, neon in fact. They must have imported it from Texas, because everything’s bigger in Texas. Like Texas toast. That stuff is huge. I couldn’t sleep because the Miracle Carwash was so bright.

I turned on the TV and nothing was on: a commercial for Pajama Jeans; the amazing Magic Bullet food chopper, dicer, and slicer; also a pill that could give you a beach body in two weeks or your money back. I had about given up on basic cable when I came across a guy putting his palm on people’s foreheads, shouting some angry, devil-be-gone stuff, and making them faint. He even made cripple people get up and walk, but it was the way you would expect a cripple person to walk—kind of a hunched, air-swim/crawl sort of thing. The studio audience gasped and I did too. I did, I gasped.

If cripples could walk (sort of) I could sleep, right? I needed to sleep. It would take a miracle, I thought. If only there was a slick-haired televangelist to smack me in the temple, that would do the trick. But the Hotel Julien was too cheap to have a miracle performing, televangelist on staff. I didn’t even need to call down the front desk; I already knew this, but I called just in case. No luck.

I stood up and put my palm to forehead as I had seen the man on TV do. I pushed pretty hard and muttered a few commands: drive the Devil from this man and let him sleep in peace once again. I must have been doing something wrong, because I couldn’t make myself faint no matter how hard I pushed. I noticed (it was hard not to notice because of how bright it was) that the Miracle Carwash was able to perform its phenomena in a way that was touchfree (how this was possible I wasn’t sure, but carwashes sometimes work in mysterious ways). This was the answerer, then. It had to be. It was like a sign from a sign. I put on some socks, tall ones with the stripes; a hat and jacket; and walked down to the front desk where I purchased two rolls of quarters from the lady who was drinking coffee out of a mug with a picture of her wiener dog on it, Poochie.

The fifth time through, the sounds of water jetting against metal became soothing like waves on the ocean, but really loud like you are right by the ocean, maybe sleeping on the beach because you are homeless and you drank a lot of Black Velvet while watching the sunset, comparing its beauty to your shitty life, that you passed out there, the water lapping at you like a dog licks its wounds. Each time through I became drowsier. The sounds of water were putting me to sleep like one of those machines people put in their bedrooms to simulate a waterfall, or a rainforest, or the ocean, but in the carwash there weren’t any whale calls or other strange animal sounds.

I ran out of quarters. I got out of my car and began picking up rocks to throw at the sign that was keeping me awake. Miracles, I decided, were impossible, and I decided to decide this forever. If suddenly Jesus walked up to me and asked if I knew what time it was or if I had change for a five so he could wash his rusty Ford, I would tell him to go jump in a lake. I would ask him why don’t you just make your own change? In between stone throws, I'd tell him I’m busy here, can’t you see. Jesus, being the guy he is, would say let me give you a hand with that. He’d take aim at the flickering, blue Miracle, winding up like a Major League pitcher, releasing with perfect force and timing. The sign would explode, showers of colored sparks snowing down on the both of us.

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