The McDonald’s

My mom pulled into the empty parking lot of the unfamiliar McDonald’s at midnight. The artificial gleam from McDonald’s was the only light for miles. The sun was gone. The stars covered by clouds. The clouds draped in black. The black even blacker than the concrete of the parking lot.

The McDonald’s was still open.

Mom told me to get her a coffee. Said I could get a burger. Handed me a 10.

The McDonald’s was unfamiliar. The glaring light was too bright. The cashier’s glowing yellow shirt had an unsettling deep red stain under her illegible name tag. Her smile dragged like an enormous slit across her white skin as I walked in. “Howdy! What can I get y’all?” My mom was still at the car. I was alone.

My order took longer than it would have at the McDonald’s by my house. I waited in a dark booth, in a corner, away from the cashier. The harsh light still glared, but unable to reach me, leaving me sitting in darkness. I tried to make out the words of the man’s voice coming from the radio. It sounded like another language. It sounded like a warning.

I left the McDonald’s with food and coffee. My mom was still at the car. Had it gotten darker? Where are the clouds? Where are the stars? Where are we? I did not ask as I climbed back into the car with the woman who claimed to be my mother. I did not ask why we kept driving. I did not ask where we were going. The McDonald’s glaring light followed us as we drove on.

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