Amarillo by Morning

It’s hot in Amarillo in August. Barb and I are heading to Salt Lake City the way we do everything in 1985, the hard way. It may be a little hotter because I seem to be driving the car in a series of circles in interconnecting parking lots as I struggle to reach one of those breakfast drive-throughs that will give us some fuel to start the trip to Salt Lake. I am cussing the traffic, the city, the world, and Barb, who has seen it all many times, is sitting quietly. The better part of a quart of gin the night before has drained me of vitality and left nothing but nerves, which I seem, even under normal conditions, to have more of than most. Finally, I make a dangerous cut in front of another car to land in line. And we sit in a silent anger we have cultivated over the last few years as I have slid down the inevitable pattern of drinking far too much far too often. The only calm voice in the car is George Straight singing “Amarillo by Morning,” the theme of a local radio show. It isn’t God speaking through the clouds, but it feels like a hand on my shoulder. I gather myself, take Barb’s hand (the best apology I have in a world where my words have grown futile), she gives an understanding look, we collect our coffee and head out into another day we are hoping without much evidence won’t be like the one before.

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