I’ve owned the McDonald’s up on Interstate 35 for going on nine years. We do all right, busy as hell during football season, Baylor fans swooping in from San Antonio or Austin. Steady the rest of the year. We do all right and Amber, my new wife, is running the show while I’m in here. Just three years or so. That’s what insurance fraud carries.

We got the PlayPlace in ’93 because corporate made us. You know, I told Dale, the West Texas regional rep, I fuckin’ hate kids. I only have one with Becky, my first wife. Andy, this surly boy who hates me and only calls if his mom says they need money. Fuckin’ a. Anyhow, Dale says in my market I gotta do this, that Big Mac, what we call corporate, will pay for it and do the work at night. Three weeks later, we had ourselves a PlayPlace made in China. I hated the thing, its stink of piss and disinfectant.

I hated it. I hated it mostly because it brought in more kids during the afternoon, when we could normally scour the store with bleach and window spray before the dinner rush started at five. I hated it, too, because Big Mac mandated it. Reason I quit the football team at Baylor freshman year: Ain’t nobody gonna tell this guy what to do. No way, no how. But whatcha going to do, ya know? Some real wild shit was going on that spring. Those fuckin’ crazies holed up on a compound east of town off 84. Branch Davidians. The Feds tricklin’ in every day. DEA, CIA, FBI. You can imagine how welcome those folks are in West Texas. Anyhow, shit was tense, and especially those first weeks of April, right before the siege. Limbaugh called them terrorist zealots, and that got me thinking.

The bomb was easy enough. PVC stuffed with shotgun shells, nitrate, and fry grease. At close I sent Rickie, my night manager, home, and stuffed the pipe in the ball pit. A kid had shit in there, Grade A diarrhea, so I was pissed because it got all over my slacks. I remember hoping Becky wouldn’t notice, wouldn’t think I’d got drunk at the strip club and dribbled shit down my pants on the way home. Fuck. A man’s got his pride. I twisted one end of the pipe like Ollie North had described in those Senate hearings; the chemical reaction would be slow, almost an hour to get the store closed up regular so shit didn’t seem out of order.

Around three, I was awake, pretending not to be, and picked up the phone before the second ring. Ronnie, the sheriff said, there’s been an explosion. You should get down here. I put on my slacks, remembered the shit, and changed into a pair of golf shorts. Driving the same road I drive to work every day, I went over my story. There’s some crazy shit going on in this town. Why would a terrorist do this here? The officers would like that question, the assumption that this town was important enough for two shit storms at once. And in a PlayPlace? Thank God we were closed and no one was hurt.

Thank God, indeed. That shit woulda got me life. Fuckin’ PlayPlace. Fuckin’ Big Mac. Amber tries not to complain, though she hates that even holed up in the office, she still goes home smelling like fry grease. Which is how they got me. Fry grease residue on the interior bomb casing. Can you fuckin’ believe that?

~ fin ~

D. Gilson is the author of I Will Say This Exactly One Time: Essays (Sibling Rivalry, 2015); Crush with Will Stockton (Punctum Books, 2014); Brit Lit (Sibling Rivalry, 2013); and Catch & Release (2012), winner of the Robin Becker Prize. He is Assistant Professor of English at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and his work has appeared in PANK, The Indiana Review, The Rumpus, and as a notable essay in Best American Essays.