As night encroaches and your vehicle slows, the lume from the man-made oasis ahead gradually brightens the dusk sky. The road, which had been unrelentingly flat for so long, seems now to give way to a moderate down-hill grade and the source of the lights grows before you as your Prius coasts into the parking lot. The large neon sign crackles in the still night air and blinks “_adioactive Bodega”. The chill has turned to cold and you hustle toward the door. As you reach for the handle the sound of suicidal moths bouncing off the neon gives way to a dull rhythmic thumping from within.
Stepping through the door and into the blinding white fluorescence and past the racks of day-glo colored pan-dulces, the man behind the counter gives you a nod as he fumbles for something under the counter. A gun, you think, perhaps or maybe a buzzer to a room full of desperadoes waiting to exact their will on you. He pulls out a book. It’s a very big book and it is over-stuffed with extra pages that its bindings were never meant to accommodate. The man slowly opens it and starts thumbing the pages scanning what appear to be lists of names. Somewhere near the middle he stops and taps the page three times. “Smith?” he says with an accent of unknown origin. Startled, you look back at him as you reach for a forty from the cooler.
“Ah, Yeah?!” you reply.
“Long trip?” he asks through what could be mistaken for a smile.
“Uh, yeah” your reply barely audible.
“Well, we’ve got you down here as paid so whenever you’re ready you can go on in” and as he moves toward the register and bangs a few keys a door in back throws open and the source of the thumping is revealed.