Feral kids darting through traffic lanes for lost change beneath the McDonald's window. He dreamed this, or saw it; the distinction was difficult at the moment.

How many hours, accumulated, in drive-through lanes. No listening to radio, no productive thinking because of inherent mild anxiety over the order, legacy of his mother's nervous character while waiting in lines.

A white Lexus clogged the space just ahead of him, stalled at the delivery window after a long and apparently very complicated order. Four bowling-ball shiny heads sat within. They were almost identical, as if some clan-signification. The car shook with body movements resulting from inexplicable bursts of energy.

There was some problem with the order. A bag kept getting handed back and forth between the car and the window.

He realized his impatience bordered on the irrational, abetted by suspicions of irregularity in his blood sugar levels. Thumb tapping the wheel, near the horn; Come on, COME ON. Was it understandable anger, or self-centeredness that their insistence the food be precisely correct seemed so infernally ridiculous? Shootings on freeways seemed totally within the plausibile universe here.

Or. The whole thing a ruse, just to antagonize minimum-wage earners and whitefolks. Martin didn't know which possibility unseated his composure more.

A brief fantasy of cooperative action, making a polite request, their understanding, friendly waves, the Lexus moving, not even the spectre of white liberal camaraderie with the downtrodden, just humans getting along.

But no. The willed oblivion to others in line dragged on. Nausea filled his nervous cough.

The likelihood of the heads being gangstas edged upon him incrementally and had effects in other ways. Namely, fear. And anger at being afraid, and fear of not being afraid.

The cashier made a motion for the car to pull up so that others could get through while the order was being corrected. After much gesticulation and head slapping the Lexus groaned forward, but came to rest at an angle between the curbs, blocking the drive even more effectively.

Martin pulled to the window and recieved his food. And he waited. And waited.

He saw eyes in the rear view mirror of the thumping Lexus, watching him. The act of not moving was suffused with terrific blatency.

Hoo, hoo. . . . He could hear it almost, the sounds they were making. Heat rose in his arms like a viscous liquid. He was getting beside himself.

The question was, did he refrain from blasting the horn because they were black, ie, because of history? or was he more angry than rationally acceptable because they were black? or would he have been just as inclined to blast the horn at some pickup full of keening hellbuds? or was he he just physically afraid of anything stronger than he was? or did a civilized person just refuse to succumb to the provocations by passive-aggressive idiocy of all tribes?

He placed his hand in the center of the wheel and watched it very measuredly produce a honk, neither too polite nor overbearing. Not aggressive, but definitely a strong request.

The Lexus stopped bouncing; the frenetic activity within was stilled.

Oh shit, oh shit.

The driver's door opened. A gigantic black man rolled out, wearing an immaculate white tanktop and surfeit of gold chains. With calm deliberateness he came to Martin's door and knocked lightly on the window.

Martin rolled it down.

The shaved head descended and thrust itself into the car. Martin pulled his face back out of the way.

"Aint it a bitch, man. I very clearly asked for home fries, and you know what they gave me?" The head waited. "Do you know?"


"They gave me CURLY fries!!" The man's breath was not horribly bad, but grossly evident in Martin's nostrils; he felt fine droplets of spittle on his face.

Howls of mirth erupted from the Lexus; it began shaking even stronger.

The black man smiled, grossly, insincerely. And then he was gone.

Martin was startled to hear a honk behind him. A guy in a Honda backed up to let him out. With shaky hands Martin shifted into reverse and maneuvered out of line. Coming abreast momentarily with the Honda, Martin glimpsed the sympathetic look of a prematurely balding white guy. Martin shot him the bird and gunned it around the Lexus and onto Louisville.

What he wanted more than anything was to be very very alone with the way he felt.