“Hope is the thing with feathers,” she opined, without attribution to Dickinson, as this customer wouldn’t know who Emily Dickinson was. “Hold your hope close to you,” she continued in stark deviation from the original, “never let the bastards know you have it, let alone where you might be hiding it.” She seethed. “They will strip hope’s feathers away one-by-one if you let them, fletch their arrows with them and then by-and-by shoot you to death on the wings of hope. If you must hope at all, at least stand guard over foolish treasure like gold.”
“I…” the man didn’t quite know how to respond to that through that little tinny speaker by the side of his car, “I just said I hoped you still had those jamocha chip shakes.” “Hoping will not make your ice cream dreams so, sir, hope is not nearly enough. You must work and must want and demand if you ever hope to have hunger sated, thirst quenched, your dreams yet fulfilled.”
“I…” he had always wondered why his friends told him to not go to That Other Arby’s on the south side of town but he had errands out that way, the only K-Mart left in the tri-county area, possibly the last in the world was out there, he’d heard a rumor of great blue light specials and saw it fulfilled, “I want a jamocha chip shake,” he decided, “I demand a medium jamocha chip.”
The board itself, lit from behind to tout fishwich specials and meat-mountain delights, flickered along with the rage of the woman’s voice from the other end somewhere, presumably inside of the Arby’s, hopefully from inside of that Arby’s, not some distant corporate office or hell itself.
“You do not demand because you’re told to! That’s the deepest weakness of them all! Reactive thinking!” The flicker emboldened, pulsing its light with anger, practically throbbing. “Do you even understand why you want it? Do you know yourself, know anything?”
“I…” he paused to examine his basest feelings honestly, “I only know that I am thirsty.” “What size would you like?” she suddenly shifted to a customer service chirp. “Large,” he replied firm, confident, “I’d like a large jamocha chip shake.” “Please pull around.”
At the pick-up window behind the counter, he saw a woman done up just like Annie Oakley, no one else in the store at all, no customers, no co-workers. “I’ve heard it in the chillest land and on the strangest sea, yet never in extremity, it asked a crumb of me.” She smiled then handed him a large jamocha chip shake. “No charge,” she whispered, “I know you were thirsty.”
He thanked her and, knowing not what to do next, drove away. A damned fine shake, though he swore he’d never return, finally understanding the strange power of That Other Arby’s. It ended well enough for him once and hope is a fine thing, maybe the finest thing, but that doesn’t mean you should ever push your luck.
Last updated May 22, 2021