In the spring of 2005, I took a trip to the deep south for a wedding. We flew into Pensacola where the bride-to-be met us and drove us to Fairhope, Alabama where the wedding was to take place.
It was my first trip to the SOUTH south. I mean, I’d been to the Miami and Orlando area for a trip to EPCOT a year or so earlier, but those were cities. This was rural, Gulf Coast south. The real deal. Hot. Muggy. Boiled peanut stands on the side of the road. And at every exit, another Waffle House.
This profusion of the iconic eatery was made even more obvious when, after the wedding, a bunch of us drove to New Orleans for a few days. I loved everything about that trip, and it ended up inspiring three short stories which I call my New Orleans Cycle.
This one, “Another Exit, Another Waffle House” has never been published before, and after a few near-misses (including one editor who called the story “relentlessly depressing”), I ended up retiring it to the trunk.
A sci-fi story of first contact without ever seeing the aliens, it was always intended to be fairly apocalyptic: a story about how climate change and terraforming are different sides of the same coin. And while I will always have a particular love of this story, I tucked it away and, quite frankly, forgot about it.
Then a good friend expressed a desire to read it again, which led me to dust it off. Yes, I still love it. Yes, it’s relentlessly depressing. But it’s also sadly more relevant than it was when I wrote it fifteen years ago in the wake of Hurricane Katrina devestating the city I had come to love in my brief time there.
So I’ve dusted it off, smoothed off a few corners, and done a reading of it for you. Because if there’s one thing I miss in this slow-rolling apocalypse we’re going through it’s live readings.
Maybe it will stir something. Maybe it will contribute to the discussion about how we need to take climate change seriously. Maybe it will just be a way to unplug for 25 minutes.
Either way, we never got a chance to stop at Waffle House that trip. The people I was with were “too good for Waffle House.” And I haven’t been back to that part of the country since. In the story, I am most likely represented by Terry. And David, the Englishman with the toy giraffes? He was a very real dude who was on that road trip with us. I hope he’s doing well 15 years later, though his name has been changed.
In the meantime, enjoy “Another Exit, Another Waffle House.”