The car still smelled like french fries from the last time.

She cracked the window and looked at her phone shining like a camping flashlight on her lap. She scrolled through Facebook and her email, looking up every few seconds to check the mirrors, see if he was coming down the street. She hated it when he just appeared, his face in the window laughing. Scared her, ruined her calm, her purpose.

He tapped. She jumped and then unlocked the passenger door. He bustled in, first one shoulder then the other, thick like a linebacker in his green Army fatigue coat, so many layers, a t-shirt, a sweater, then the hoodie. Always the hoodie.

“Can you put your hoodie down? You look like a criminal,” she said. He complied, settling in, taking over the air. He smelled like man. Not bad but heavy, present. His self took over the car. She was tiny in her seat, her legs suddenly feeling like a small girl’s, little sticks bound together by kite string.

“I can’t keep coming here. I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s crazy.” She tucked the edges of her coat under her legs, held her phone face down where its light illuminated the grey wool. It felt warm in her hand and made her feel safe. She loved that about her phone. Wherever she went, she held it in her hand like a talisman, one that only she was lucky enough to own.

“Don’t blame me. You the one that keeps showin’ up. I just do what I do. And there you are. Like clockwork. It’s Tuesday, you’re here. It’s Thursday, you’re here. 6:11. Like clockwork.’ He pulled the seat belt around his big waist and buckled. “We going to McDonald’s or what?” He looked ahead, waiting.

“It’s not even healthy. You eating McDonald’s. I shouldn’t take you there.” She started up the car and pulled into traffic. The McDonald’s they went to was just a few blocks away. “Why I pick you up and drive you six blocks to a McDonald’s is beyond me.”

“Yeah, that’s a riddle. But not my riddle. I think you just like watchin’ me eat those nuggets. That’s it, ain’t it? It’s all about the nuggets.” He laughed loud, a big laugh that showed his teeth, all white and beautiful. How could he live on the street and have such perfect teeth, she thought.

She pulled up to the speaker box at the drive-thru. She looked at him, politely, like they had never been to a drive-thru together, like she expected a new order. But the order was the same. They said it together. “Chicken nuggets, 20, with honey barbecue, super size fries and a Coke.” It felt like karaoke night.

“Three sauces. Tell her three sauces.” He looked past her at the box where the order lady lived. “Tell her!”

“Three sauces, please.”

She pulled through to the pick-up window. The girl inside looked tired, worn out, while she put a giant-sized paper cup under the Coke dispenser. They all watched the pour.

“Where do you want me to let you out?” She’d gotten back on the boulevard heading back in the direction they’d come.

“You pick. No matter to me. But sit with me while I finish up. Talk to me.” He was on the twelfth nugget and the last plastic packet of sauce.

“I’m not coming back on Tuesday. That’s it. I meant to be nice but it’s just too much now.” She unlocked the door on his side.

He sat. “Yeah, yeah, you’re right. It’s too much. Nobody needs that many nuggets.”

15 Comments on “6:11

  1. Yes – I just read it. And really appreciate your analysis. I so don’t know what I’m doing – just a totally seat of the pants writer. Just trying to create a scene like I was in it rather than watching it. Very flattered that you would see something useful in that piece. Thank you!

  2. Hi again. I’d like to talk about your story over in the Coffeehouse. I’d like to write about how you give these two characters a history outside the window of this story. Is it ok if I do?

  3. The dialogue is great. Your details are perfect. Just wish I knew who he was, but I decided that the guy is her brother.

  4. I really like the relationship you give us, without telling us why it exists. That’s the mystery and the fun and frustration. I especially like your comparison of their ordering to karaoke. Gets across perfectly the repetitiveness of their interactions.

  5. I’m so interested in their relationship. Shailaja is right: you’ve set this up very well to continue with why and how the driver found themselves in this position to pick up the homeless guy.

  6. An entire back story needs to be written now! That’s how compelling I found this piece. Or maybe she was just doing it out of the goodness of her heart? Something tells me there is more!

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