Paul Vanni

Behind the wheel of the old Ford Taurus
he sits in the Town Center parking lot by
the tracks, lazily watching the glistening
water fountain, watching too early evening’s
sun draw even with the horizon, wearing a

Flannel shirt, residue of this summer day’s
heat notwithstanding, listening to Dylan,

Mid-seventies Dylan, savoring what’s left of
his chocolate milkshake with alternate sips
of lukewarm coffee; his cell phone rings, it’s
Renee, whose hair three days ago was dyed
bright orange when she called to him from a

Passing pick-up truck, as he exited the Taurus
in front of the old feed store; Renee, whose

Voice betrays tears and sobs, asking him to
come pick her up, she’s had another fight
with Carol; another fight, he mutters, hoping
she didn’t hear, hesitates, apprehensive this
rescue will bring renewed pleas to support her

Habit. But he goes. She’s waiting outside the
old biker bar, her hair still orange, hanging over

Her shoulders, obscuring large hoop gold-colored
earrings, wearing a matching orange top which
leaves her shoulders bare; she’s barefoot, her left
hand gripping black very high heels, a very large
black leather purse slung over her right shoulder

She enters the Taurus sobbing; he turns off Dylan
as she hugs him, still weeping, then buries herself

In his right shoulder for a moment; then they drive away,
she telling him rapid fire all the hurtful things Carol said
to all those strangers in the bar growing smaller in his
rear view mirror. Driving with his left hand, he holds her
snugly against him, his right arm around her, knowing he

Should tell her again Carol is no good for her. Her sobs
continue as he makes a right turn past the Presbyterian

Church, three blocks later parks under a Sycamore tree
with a large, thick trunk, notices the early evening sun is
a bit lower; her weeping ceases, she looks at him, takes
his right hand, squeezes it, brushes back her hair, tells
him not for the first time he’s her best friend forever, the

Best friend she’s ever had, maybe the only friend she’s
ever had, then tells him, I keep telling you, Baby, flannel

Shirts are too hot in this weather. Please take me over to
Ashley’s, you know, Ashley by the old Armory, Ashley
owes me, Ashley has what I need; again she rests her head
against him, again he puts his arm around her. Not for the
first time he asks himself why he feels so lonely despite her

Presence; not for the first time, he asks himself if he’s ever
truly done his best for her, then turns Dylan back on as she

Raises her head, begins telling him my dad used to listen to
to Bob Dylan, then sees the now cold, half-finished cup of
coffee in the cup holder, shakes her head, admonishes him:
You and your coffee, I keep telling you, you drink too much
coffee, too much coffee is bad for you, Baby