We Eat at Hooters, It Takes All Day by Victoria McArtor
Managing editor Tim Johnston: I’ve only been to one Hooters—the one in Traverse City during early November, a few months after the last cabin owners moved back to the South, that little bit of time where TC residents can have a moment alone before the peak months of snowmobilers and skiers (considering the snowfall is plentiful. They’re always in a constant state of worry over another light season. I was an outsider, but a Michigander is a Michigander, so I understood.). That kind of despair survived the Hooters atmosphere, but people tried to lighten up anyway. From what I knew of the place, it was supposed to be warm, full of light, of happiness, of bar food and guilt-free ogling, but I left ashamed and misplaced. It had become a purgatory, an illusion of the obtainable. I never bothered to say anything until now because I never thought anybody would get it. McArtor may be the closest.
I ask my father what it was like to die.
“Angels regularly shed their wings, and that’s what flower petals are,” he says, but I remind him I’m not my baby sister and to shoot me straight.
He says, “Death comes first then the dying begins.”
He says, “You spend more time dead than you spend alive. It feels like your foot falling asleep. A suffocation of wonder.”
I ask and he says, “Heaven is crowded, and seashells are actually sarcophagi of the unmarked graves.”
He says, “They like to be collected and displayed inside glass vases in bathrooms and think it’s ironic when sold to tourists.”
And I tell him it’s time to get real.
He says, “Every Tuesday I get drunk to the gills on gin with my original platoon, and we watch the storms going.”
He says, “Aristotle gives a lecture every so often.”
He says, “At first you’re excited to see everyone, then you talk and eat and drink and slow dance until everyone gets boring again. The future frames the past and vice versa. Refraction of daytime becomes reflection of the night and vice versa.”
I ask him to play catch.
He says, “You won’t need those skills in heaven.”
He says I need to prepare for the long journey, that I should quit school and follow him around his favorite places for the living. We eat at Hooters, it takes all day.
On women he tells me, “Only make love because post coitum omne animal triste.”
I ask for a cocktail napkin and if he could write that down.
I ask how much more of it I have, and he says, “Time is only a clock running through minutes faster than hours. Time extends the torso of youth; time quiets the mind of the elderly, then there’s more time.”
“Dad?” I ask. “Even though we don’t need catching skills in heaven, can we still play because we like to play?”
He says, “Heaven can’t possibly live up to your expectations and neither can I. There is not another side of desire beyond wanting. The wanting is empty and without limit. We call these things unquantifiable. Just enough is never enough.”
I ask again just in case. He says, “Practice catching a star and throwing it to Jupiter, I’ll be a few light-years from there. I’m renting a studio, but I’m saving to buy something soon.”
I ask him if light years are quantifiable.
“If I find your star,” he says, “I’ll put it in a bottle and show you rain just before it rains.”
I tell him this doesn’t make any sense, but it sounds nice.
He looks around at the girls in the restaurant and asks, “Does your mother look older?”
I tell him dying comes first and then the death begins.
He stares at the girls, he says, “Haven’t I done enough here, kid?”
He sucks the hot sauce off his fingers, drop by eternal drop.
Victoria McArtor is currently pursuing an MFA at Oklahoma State University. She was recently named a member of the Sales Leader Round Table with Mutual of Omaha. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in H_NGM_N, PMS poemmemiorstory, PANK, The Boiler, Cease, Cows, Metazen, and Hobart.