Curtis Hayes

Gas Station Hot Dog

I’d just spent three days
working a grinder
of a commercial shoot
for a famous Santa Monica
menswear boutique.
work had been slow and
when the producer gave
the usual no-budget
low day rate song and dance,
I hesitated.
shitty pay
always equaled amateur-hour productions.
I looked hard at my empty calendar
and confirmed the dates.

the small crew were
all strangers to me
and it seemed that
from the first hour
there was already a social hierarchy
at work.
the director was from wealth.
the boutique owners
were from wealth
and they were speaking
a secret language
that was phrased with references
to weekends in Saint-Tropez
and shopping sprees
on the Champs-Élysées.
in their store, jackets and blazers sold
for three grand a pop.
falsely torn and weathered denim for
four hundred.
to be hip,
there was a stack of plain white
Black Flag logo tee shirts
for one hundred sixty dollars each,
in sizes small to large.
there must have been an assumption
that anyone requiring an XL
or XXL
would be shopping elsewhere.
I assumed they were pre-shrunk.

as expected
the daily shot list was ridiculous
and unachievable.
everything was to be captured in-store
and should a customer appear
we were told to quiet down
and become inconspicuous.

as the days unwound
and the tiny production
fell behind schedule
the director
and the producer
and later the clients
argued and pushed blame around.
having seen it all before,
only myself and the camera assistant
remained calm.

when the wrap was finally called
the director shook my hand
and said only “Good work.”
the producer said “Send me your invoice.”
they were out the door
and into the bistro across the street.
I knew they would never call me again.
the camera assistant and I
wrapped the equipment
in silence.
the clients watched and argued quietly
from a corner of the store.

it was dark when
I stopped for fuel
halfway home with another
45 minutes of traffic to go.
I waited in line under
sick fluorescent lights.
a rotating snack cooker crowded
the small counter up ahead,
sweating hot dogs and churros.
I was hungry
but I avoided hot dogs.
as a kid, my mother would boil them
in a pot of water over the stove
and I could never understand
why she wouldn’t cook them properly.
the line moved
and I called a pump number
to a zombie clerk,
dropped a twenty
and moved out the door, thinking
Fluorescents are wrong.
Boiling hot dogs is wrong.

later, I would fall asleep on the couch
in front of a movie
I’d already seen twice.
I dreamed of hot dogs behind glass
rolling around and around
in an endless loop
as a line of dark figures
stood motionless
beneath a weak and dying Sun.


There are no Rich Beverly Hill Women

it was quitting time at the boat dealership.
I’d been installing outdrives all afternoon
and I was ready for the week to end
and was mentally preparing for a weekend of
liquor and languor.
as I gathered my sweatshirt and toolbag,
I was planning the smoothest way
to punch the timeclock and ghost my way out
to avoid the usual calls for after-work beer
with the other riggers.
my excuses were wearing thin.
they were starting to get the message.
I had almost made it to my car, when
Jeremy, a boat washer just out of high school,
blocked me before I could get the door open.
“Hey man, did you see that guy in the BMW?”
we were right on the Coast Highway
there were lots of BMW’s.
“He pulled over and started talking to me.”
Jeremy was a handsome kid.
he usually worked shirtless in the coastal sun.
“He told me he was an agent-“
“And he’s gonna make you a star.”
“No, not that kind. He knows a bunch of
rich Beverly Hills women who pay young guys for sex.”
“He told you that.”
“Yeah. Dude, he wants me to meet him at
The Sand Dollar motel. Tonight. Like, now.
He has notebooks with photos of the women.
The only thing is,
he has to take some naked photos of me.
To show the women.
He says that I could make a lot of money.”

I stared at him. He held a scraped-up skateboard
covered in decals even though he
drove an old Datsun wagon to work.
he could tell I wasn’t convinced.
“He said some of them are widows, because, you know,
they marry dudes that are way older than them
and some of them,
their husbands just won’t fuck ‘em anymore.”
I shook my head, rolled my keys over in my hand.
“Sounds legit.”
“Yeah, man. And he said that if I had any
good-looking friends
that they could get in on it too!”

there was traffic waiting for me
and I just wanted to get on my couch
with the TV on
and a take-out meatball sandwich
in my lap.
I looked at the kid.
he was now wearing a Billabong tee shirt
and had a trucker hat
skewed nearly sideways.
“Listen Jeremy.
There are no rich Beverly Hills women.
That dude just wants to see you naked.”
“No, man.”
“This is how it will go. You’re gonna show up- where?”
“The Sand Dollar…”
“Yeah. He’s gonna snap his naked photos
and then he’s gonna peel off a hundred dollar bill
wave it in front of you
and say he wants to blow you. Got it?”
“I don’t think so, man. He seemed for real.”
“Look, I don’t really care what you do.
Go to the motel. But there won’t be any
notebooks full of rich women wanting
to pay for you to fuck them.
There’s just gonna be a perv who
spotted you washing boats on PCH.”
I could tell that he was mentally
fighting my logic.
“I’m not an idiot, you know.
This could be a chance to make some real money.”
he moved slightly.
I pushed my key in the doorlock.
“Let me ask you this.
If you had to, could you kick his ass?”
“Yeah. I guess.”
I got into my car
and left him there standing in the gravel.

Monday, I made it in early.
I was already installing a bait tank
when the kid showed up.
a couple of hours later
he pushed his cleaning cart
past a flybridge fisherman
I was working on.
his skateboard
hung by its trucks
off of the side of the cart.
even behind sunglasses
he was avoiding eye contact.
I couldn’t let him pass.
“Did you go?’
the cart wheels were squeaking
the way everything near saltwater squeaks.
finally he answered,
“No, man. I didn’t go.”
he couldn’t look at me,
just pushed his cart
straight toward the next dirty boat.
it was a hot September
and he kept his shirt on
for whatever was left of our Summer.


Curtis Hayes has worked in sawmills, greasy spoons, and as a grip, gaffer, set builder and camera assistant in film productions. He’s been a truck driver, a boat rigger, a print journalist and a screenwriter in both television and cinema. His poetry has been featured in Chiron Review, and other small presses.