The only thing I knew about Effingham, Illinois, is that my friend got laid there years ago. He would never give details, other than to say he put the “F” in Effingham, then he’d smile slightly and change the subject. He was a hell of a pool shark, curly hair and mild manners. I imagine he hustled someone good that night and stole the girl at the same time, but I’ll never know for sure.
We pull into Effingham at the end of a long trip to Texas and back. It’s so completely Midwestern: the motel snuggled between Wal-Mart and the freeway, the sign shouts “BEST RATES HERE”. The motel is very burgundy, from the industrial carpeting to the polyester-blend comforter. The room is big, the window frames a terrific vista of the parking lot, Wal-Mart and the strip mall beyond.
There’s one good restaurant in Effingham, where food is described as “organic” and “local”. The waiters and waitresses, young fresh faced Midwestern kids, grew up on McDonald’s, but they’re learning the language of food that costs more than pocket change. They’re earnest, they squint and flip little pages of notes to find out if the cheese comes from a goat or if the beef is grass fed. It’s good, and we stop there every chance we get.
Back in the motel, well fed and road tired, we sprawl on the giant bed. We’d procured a bottle of wine at the last town we’d stopped at, and we open it now. Clothes peel off in the usual fashion. We’re long past the coy stage, we just get down to business so we can fuck each other’s brains out. He splays his legs wide open, I lean in and suck his cock until it’s hard. I’m sitting cross legged between his legs, I notice my big toe is next to his ass. I wiggle it around a little bit and he smiles. I wiggle it around a little more and press against his asshole.
Our fetishes intersect nicely. He likes things in his ass and I like putting things there. He asks if I think I could get my whole foot in there. I tell him to pass me the lube, and I grease up my toes. I start with my big toe, it slides in easy. I never manage to get my entire foot in there, but I did get more than one would think possible. When we’re through, he helps me to the shower. I have to hop on one foot to the bathroom, lest I leave a lubey trail of footprints.
We sleep that restless sleep of the traveler. Odd clicks and hallway noises pepper our dreams. He’s a dedicated sleeper-inner who rushes around the last ten minutes before we have to check out. I wake early. After I coffee up, I grab my camera and go for a walk. There’s an old closed restaurant near the Wal-Mart. I thought I caught a glimpse of a discarded neon sign behind it when we pulled in the night before.
Propped up next to a dumpster are pieces of a sign: A giant man’s face, an arm, partial words. Rest. Hot. No one makes signs like this anymore, all light bulbs and neon tubing. So many of the bulbs are freshly shattered, the pavement crunches as I circle the sign taking photos. Some kids ride by on bikes, see me, and keep going.
I wonder how long the restaurant was there. I picture smiling families in 50’s garb eating “Pot Roast Special!” and “Oh Boy! Pie!” on thick china plates. I wonder about the day Mom and Pop decided they’d had just about e-fucking-nough of the restaurant business and these goddamned Midwestern winters and retired to Florida, leaving their neon guardian to decay by a dumpster here in Effingham.
We’ll pass through a year or so later, the sign will be gone and we won’t quite remember which motel we’d stayed in. I’ll remember how to get to the good restaurant without a map though, because that’s how my brain works. We always joke how we really put the “F” in Effingham.