“There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb it.” -The Dispossessed, Ursula K. LeGuin
We make assumptions. For example, as a writer, I make assumptions about my audience, about you. One of those assumptions is that you read, most of you widely, and many of you deeply. Since this blog is attached to a literary journal, it is very possible that some of you write. At the same time, I could be completely wrong. That is the nature of assumption after all.
Last week, my wife and I were driving through a small town in the Utah desert. The evening was approaching and I was hungry. The next town was probably an hour off. The problem was that we only passed two restaurants on the highway, China Star and Pizzaria. Take a moment to look at the pictures and you might make some assumptions of your own.
Chinese, American, Mexican Drive-In…
And Italian-American Mexican Food, which happens to include Freezies and Chili Dogs.
I’m a food snob. I made assumptions. I did not stop.
When we got to the next town, there were many familiar eating establishments: Subway, Arby’s, McDonald’s. But after waiting so long to eat, I wasn’t going to eat fast food. I wanted to get out of the car, sit down and enjoy a nice meal. So we did the only thing I could think of, which was to ask a local where to eat. The recommendation we were given was an Italian restaurant called Red Gravy.
When we went inside, I couldn’t help but notice that the vibe of the restaurant wasn’t quite Italian. The décor was eclectic, as though someone’s grandma had taken all of her knickknacks and put them into a barn she decided to convert into a restaurant.
The entire back wall of the dining area was a chalkboard with an excellent drawing that I couldn’t help but photograph. It reminded me of New Orleans where I once lived, or what I imagine Venice might look like.
Then the food came, probably the second- or third-best Italian food I’ve ever had — which is saying something. Our waiter was professional and efficient. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience, perhaps made even more so by being unexpected.
But this post isn’t a travelogue of a trip into the desert. The point of all this rambling is the places.
The places I mentioned allowed you to make judgments. Even with limited details, my wife and I made assumptions. The roadside diners and the Italian eatery are the setting of the story; they allowed immersion in the tale. They don’t just give the story a place to happen. They give it flavor. And, in cases like this one, if it weren’t for the places, there wouldn’t be a story at all.
Reggie Carlisle finished his BA in Creative Writing at Weber State University in 2014. His first published story was in the Fall 2013 Mixitini Matrix. He currently resides in Utah with his wife and five daughters.