My father went to Dairy Queen.
He drank coffee with the men he coached with, and the old men who'd watched every season since they'd come home from the war.
Everday before work, and often in the evenings, and sometimes for lunch.
Everyone dressed the same. Polyster shorts for the coaches, denim and Dickies for the old farmers and the working men, slacks and pressed jeans for the business owners.
They drank coffee flavored coffee, and talked about the weather, and whatever sports the local team was playing. Hunting season and politics. Fishing and guns. Who was going to college, and who to the military. Hay and cattle prices, taxes and women. The oil field, the cotten field, and the vegetable garden.
They talked about things that were Right, and things that were Wrong. And how a man had to be first and foremost
The things in life that mattered.
I go to Starbucks, before and after work.
I drink coffee that's both harsh and bland, which I have to pour chocolate syrup and cancer from a pink pack in just to make it digestable.
I say nothing to anyone around me. I don't know them, and don't want to.
I catch snippets of their conversations. And when I listen closely, or not at all, I swear the language in which they speak is of a foreign tongue.
The smart ones think their professors are brilliant and can do no wrong, the dumb ones form their opinions based on what their favorite celebrities tell them.
None of them think for themselves.
When they speak of politics, it is in sound bites and slogans. When they doubt the sincerity of those in office, it is stylishly. They speak solipistically about community and social justice.
There is no Right or Wrong, except in terms relative to the pleasure centers of their brain.
Sustainability is their current favorite buzzword, but they've never worked a hoe.
Masculinity is an obscure, outdated concept, and the root of all evil.
Outside the Dairy Queen, half the trucks carried guns, during deer season, a third more.
Everyone carried a pocket knife.
They talked of the difference between Police Actions and Wars, and how government should never send young men off to die without the same will to win as those in uniform. How we dropped the Big One on Japan, and those goddamn little nips were doing pretty ok now.
In this Starbucks, I have a Glock 9mm on my hip, and a Smith .380 in my pocket, along with a spare mag for the real gun. I have a big Benchmade Skirmish in my rear pocket. In the corner there's another veteran. We noticed each other while each doing our own periodic perimeter scan. We saw the same things in each others eyes, the bracelets on our wrists inscribed with our buddies names. Constant reminders of the price other men paid.
We exchange only a nod.
And twenty-five sheep sat around us, oblivious to all but the gentle limbic synapses kept on a constant drip.
I look at them, and wonder how I got here.
I did not plan to come here.
Is this what they wanted?
But this is not about them.
Or even myself.
Each of us, is in a sense,
We become who we train ourselves to be.
The difference between us and the mutts,
Choose what bells we answer to.
I look at the people around me
And I miss the