[I keep hoping that posting what I’ve already done will get me past the writers’ block that has me held up at chapter 17… Just warning all y’all.]
Chapter Five: Crazy
I drove hard for about ten minutes until I saw a country store. I pulled off to the side and grabbed a rag and ran inside. I pulled the old coughing fit routine again. Cough, cough, as I covered my face. Cough, cough as I walked quickly back to the cooler, pulled out a bottle of wine and a six-pack of beer. Cough, cough as I walked up to the cashier. Cough, cough, as I grabbed a bag of beef jerky and some chips. Cough, cough, COUGH as I carefully covered my face with the rag up at the cashier, and as I apologized for my coughing. I pulled my cap down over my face further as I dug out a twenty from my (by now disgustingly dirty) pants. “Thanks” I mumbled as I walked outside towards the car.
Just then a state trooper vehicle raced by with his siren screaming and lights flashing. I suddenly realized that I had underestimated how long it would take a few fifteen year old boys, hopped up on adrenaline, to race three-quarters of a mile from where the tractor was disabled to where I had left the phones. I drove in the opposite direction that the trooper had come from, and took the first turn to the right off that road, onto just another Virginia back road. After twenty minutes of driving without incident I cracked open a beer.
I avoided the main roads. I had no idea where I was, or where I was going, except now I was headed generally south, intending to head west after the sun went down. Damn that beer was good. So I had another. And another. Don’t try this at home kids. Don’t drink and drive.
Next thing I knew it was after dark, so I headed west again. Don’t ask me how I got there, but the next thing I knew I was at a truck stop off of I-81. I needed gas, and this place looked anonymous. There was a large restaurant, a place for truckers to shower, and rows upon rows of trucks stopped, many of them idling. I pulled off to most remote gasoline pump and got out. The smell of diesel hit me as I got out. I took my rag and what little money I had left, but I left my gun and ammo in the car, locked.
I was standing in line to purchase gas when I noticed some tourist in the next line looking at me. “I love Vermont” on his T-shirt. Plaid (ugly ass pink and blue and purple) shorts. God-awful fishing cap with a see-through visor. I gripped my rag closer to my face and coughed. “Hey Mister, do you” —cough, cough–“know how far it is to the South Carolina border?”
He took a step back, inspected both upper arms to ensure that I had not coughed sputum on him, and shook his head. But he kept peering at me.
“Yeah, I know, I’m thinking what you are thinking. It might be the swine flu. I’m supposed to get back to my family doctor tomorrow to find out for sure.” Cough, hack, cough, cough.
He smiled weakly, and suddenly seemed to have forgotten something that he meant to purchase. In the back of the store.
With him out-of-the-way, I noticed the Sunday newspapers on display nearby. My smiling face was prominently displayed on front page of The Richmond Times-Dispatch. I couldn’t help but think of the lyrics of the old song, “We take all kinds of pills that give us all kinds of thrills but the thrill we’ll never know, is the thrill that’ll hit you when you get your picture on the cover of the Rollin’ Stone…” For some reason I wasn’t thrilled to have my picture on the cover of the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I started snuffling, and covered up much of my face with my rag, and didn’t stop until I had paid and gotten back to the car.
For those of you unfamiliar with Virginia, it has a couple of areas that are citified, and a couple of interstates, and then a lot of small country roads and deserted areas. I went to the west of I-81 and stayed on the back roads. And I drank beer. When the six-pack was gone, I started on the wine. No, it had no cork, it was twist off, it was some slight improvement over Mad Dog 20/20.
Sometime after 3 a.m., many winding miles on westbound country roads later, I stopped to pee. I got out and saw millions of stars. I heard nothing, nothing that was remotely connected to man. There were trees, and mountains, and cicadas, and/or crickets, and/or tree frogs, and the sound of a race horse pissing. At least I had the sense to not drive far from there, and to find the nearest little turn off and park.
I sat on the hood of the old farmer’s Buick, my back on the windshield, and looked at the stars as I tugged on the wine. I finally, in my drunken stupor, took stock of where I was. I had almost no money. I had a .357 Magnum Taurus six-shooter, with probably a couple dozen bullets in my belt. I couldn’t use my bank card or any of my credit cards, unless I wanted to send a message exactly where I was. According to the headline of the Times-Dispatch I was wanted for murder. And I was driving a stolen vehicle. Not bad wine, though. And damn, the stars sure were visible when now that I was so far away from the city lights. I finished the wine and fell asleep.
Next thing that I know I was waving my hand next to my face, trying to chase away the sweat bee that was trying to bite the hell out of my forehead. The sun was high in the sky. And I had to piss again. While I was draining the weasel I saw her. There was a creek nearby. (Where the hell did it come from?) She was walking along it. I hid “my stream” behind a tall oak and let out a sigh when it finally came to an end. Once zipped up, I came out from behind my tree and sized her up.
I guessed thirty to thirty-five, shoulder length mousey hair, pleasant face, decent body. What the hell was she doing here? She still had not seen me. She was either fascinated by the little mountain stream, or doing some really strong drugs. I would have ignored her, and went on my way, but she kept coming directly towards me until she got so close I couldn’t ignore her.
“What’s up?” I didn’t want to startle her, but I did.
“Oh!” She stepped back. And looked around. Then she looked scared, even putting one hand in her pocket.
“Would you believe I’m lost?”
She looked at my face, all cut up. She looked at my arms, all cut up. She looked at my clothes, dirty and worn. At my two day old beard. At my bleery eyes. She didn’t believe me.
I rambled. “I was headed for Lake Moomaw. I know it is out here somewhere, but I had a little too much to drink last night. Can you help?”
She looked a little relieved. She crinkled up her forehead.
“I’m on my vacation. Got the rest of the week to fish, drink beer and do nothing. Then I have to get back to school.”
That lit up her face. “You teach?”
“Oh, sure. I’m a middle school teacher and a football coach.” [Not! Where the hell did that come from? In my dreams?]
“I teach 7th grade English at Godwin High in Richmond! I used to teach at Goochland, but then I moved to Richmond.” Ooops. Too late I remembered that Godwin is a high school. Luckily she was not from Richmond.
She smiled at me, as though we had something in common. She did have nice boobs.
“I’m just out here scouting around, me and my son come here deer hunting. Lot’s of deer in this neck of the woods.”
She looked at me with a slightly disapproving look, so I tried another tack.
“I don’t enjoy shooting deer. I just like being out in the country with my son…” That seemed to work. “I like the country. I like the fresh air. I like getting away.”
She smiled. Something I said must have been working.
“My six year old daughter and I come out here. I don’t have her this week, but every other week, we come out here and explore. She loves it!”
I looked at her boobs and shook my head in agreement. Whatever.
There was an awkward pause. Make an effort. Keep this conversation going. She was semi-hot.
She saw the wine bottle and a couple of beer bottles. “Sorry, I got a little tooted last night. But it was great.”
She smiled. “Well, that has never happened to me…” [big smile.]
I was getting good vibes by then. I was at my worst. No shower. No shave. Cuts and bruises, wild hair and red eyes. And she was still smiling. Either she was wanted by the law for stealing the baby Jesus, or she was a saint. Either way, I was interested.