Glenn Chamberlain, "Country Road" (ca 1934)
Glenn Chamberlain, Country Road (ca 1934)
Can a Game Be Literature?

Mark's Pages

Dusty desert backroad. Wind and heat; the tires of your bike steam when you stop for gas. The people are very brown, and they breathe through bandanas tied over their faces like those of the legendary bandits.

"Bebidas," "Comida." A small room with four tables. Men drinking at the bar. "Cerveza, señor?" "Sí, gracias," you reply. "Negro Modelo. Soy listo ordenar." I'm ready to order: a cocky statement from the skinny young Yanqui biker. The men raise their eyebrows.

A pudgy waiter with slicked-back hair and a gold cap on one front tooth awaits your choice. Like the other men he seems friendly, but curious, and you've piqued their interest with your helmet and leather boots, and your false front of confidence in your ability with their language. Ordering without a menu is a macho challenge you've thrown to the room: you're going to prove your huevos. Everyone awaits.

Your confident choice: "Por favor, Arroz con arañas."

The room explodes into howling laughter that echoes and grows and becomes helpless, hands slapping kneecaps, eyes watering, bellies jiggling, gold-teethed men laughing till they cry, laughing so hard that even you join in, at once sheepish and good-natured. Apparently that hadn't come out exactly right.

Wiping his eyes, the waiter helps you select something more comestible from the printed menu. Red-faced, you point to the pictures and leave it at that. When you're through you tip double, sputtering out of town without a flourish and with as little noise as possible.

In the motel that night you look up your mistake. "Rice with spiders" was not what you'd meant.

Tour dates and percentages and endless miles of asphalt from inside a rented bus, and people on all sides who all want things and want them from you. Outside the tinted window you see yourself as you were, alone with your bike and the dusty desert backroads. The moment this ends, that'll be your world again.