I can’t afford a vacation, so I’m simply gonna drink until I don’t know where I am.
The difference between law and justice is simple: the family dog bites a human and gets euthanized, but a police dog does the same and gets rewarded.
After days of walking, creating nighttime shelter out of my now-worn out plastic tarp, I was happy to see an old abandoned car in the raven to my right. The rain seemed to be never-ending, with lightning clawing across the sky and thunder booming both day and night.
Once I realize that the windows were all intact and that the seats were still filled with foam and for the most part upholstered I was even more thrilled. Finally, a little comfort for my bones as I’d either sat up right or curled in a fetal position while sleeping to keep my body fully covered and out of the rain.
A 1949 Ford, a dull and peeling black paint job, red rims but no tires, engine and hood missing, the back-end crumpled and the trunk without a lid, but the split screen windshield still unbroken; it looked like a treasure and I endeavored to make it into my temporary home until the storms passed.
Beating on the seats helped drive out any vermin hiding in the cushions and loosen dirt and rocks lodged where I intended to sleep that night. As darkness fell, I built a small campfire next to the coupe.
It would be the first time in three days that I would have a warm meal; canned beans and instant coffee. I couldn’t help but feel like a newly crowned king, even if it was only in my mind.
Finally, I crawled inside and pulled the back door closed behind me. It took little time for me to fall asleep and stay asleep as the rain began to thumped hollow against the roof of the car, and the lightning flashed in the distance and the thunder echoed through the multiple canyons surrounding me.
Before turning in for the night, I had loaded my rucksack into the front seat, taking only my sleeping bag so I could cover myself as if I were in a real bed. The dry dust and the humidity mixed to create a wet, dusty odor – but I didn’t mind as I was comfortably dry.
What time it was, I am not certain. I had been sound asleep, dreaming that I was back on the Klamath River, a kid, fishing from a drift boat, when I felt the sensation of actually being adrift.
As I dragged my brain up from the deep sleep it had been in, I heard the unmistakable sound of water lapping at the exterior of the car. I blinked as hard as I could against the inky darkness, but I couldn’t see a damned thing – yet I knew I was adrift and that the old abandoned wreck was floating.
“Oh, shit!” I screamed as I scrambled to stuff my sleeping bag in my ruck and find a way to escape what I was certain would be my coffin if I didn’t get out quickly. My mind raced ahead and I pictured the old wreck tumbling down the a drop off I’d explored earlier along the ravine.
Mud, rock and other debris held all four doors fast, so I tried to kick out the rear window. All that did was cause it to bow outward and turn milky.
The only other exit available to me, as I began to feel a knot of panic well up in me, were the split-screen windshields. Sitting on the top of the front seat, I put a foot to the glass and much too my surprise the thing popped out and disappeared into the darkness.
As fast as I could I pushed my body through the opening, nearly falling into the cavity where the motor should have been. I reached back and hauled my rucksack through the window frame and waited for an opportunity to jump to safety.
It was going to be a guess when it came to leaping from the car, but I was going to have to do so strictly out of faith. The vehicle bumped into something, slowing to a stop before it began to turn clockwise in the stream of water.
That’s when I jumped, landing in a field of rocks, scraping my arms and knees as I scrambled up and away from the water. I couldn’t see where I was or what had become of the car, save for the momentary flashes of lightning that came, then left me night-blind after they went.
Somewhere, as I jumped, I lost my grip on my rucksack and felt certain it was racing somewhere down stream, buried and lost forever. So I simply squatted down on the slope of that hillside, making myself as small as possible a target from the electrical storm overhead and did my best to ignore the cold sting of the driving rain drops slamming into my body.
The rain let up shortly before the sky brightened, announcing the coming of a new day. I remained huddled in my squatting position, shivering against the cold of the morning and trying to doze before the sun made it’s full appearance.
Finally, there was enough light to see by. I looked for the car, my one time refuge – turned death trap – and could see it nowhere to be found.
Then I recalled my rucksack. Happily, I found it in the rocky field I had first landed in.
By the time the sun was above the ridge to my east, the gully washer had turned into a mud flow. That soon dried as did I and I was able to walk across it and up the embankment to the roadway.
Once on the side of the asphalt I pulled my sleeping bag from my rucksack and rolled it up properly and replaced it. I buckled the opening shut and though exhausted, I hoisted it onto my shoulders and began walking down the road.
It was maybe 15 minutes or so, when I came to a dead stop – I’d found the car buried in a thick silted mud, only a couple of inches of the roof visible from the road. I had escaped what would have been a frightening death by suffocation as I am sure that sticky gooey mud would have filled my lungs long before any water would have drown me.
It made me sad to contemplated the idea that the old junker had possibly survived decades in the desert, but a single nights encounter with a man, left it completely destroyed. But I didn’t have long to think more on it, as while standing there, gobsmacked, I heard a vehicle come to a stop behind me, so I turned to see a sheriff deputy waving me over to the passenger side of her vehicle.
“You okay?” she asked.
I smiled, “Yes, ma’am.”
“Well, you don’t really look it,” she replied.
“Had a rough night, with the rain and all,” I said, then explaining what had unfolded.
“Hop in,” she said as she tried to stifle her laughter at my tale, “I’ll give you a lift and even throw in a cup of coffee if you’d like?”
“I would,” I answered, “Thank you, ma’am.”
“Names Ellen,” she offered.
“I’m Tom,” I responded as I shook her hand.
After a cup of coffee and a little conversation, Ellen hired me for three days of interior painting and to sand down and roll out a couple of coats of polyurethane on her wood floors. Thinking back, she probably ran a background check on me and found I wasn’t a criminal.
She also allowed me to stay in the house, out of the rain, which was an added benefit. Unfortunately, it only took two days to finish both projects, after all it was a very small house.
Ellen was happy with my work and tried to pay me $300, but I only accepted $50. I spent the money on a blue rain slicker and a new plastic tarp and soon I was on my way.
Eye drops are technically ‘blinker fluid.’
If I had a dollar for every time I’ve been distracted — I want a taco.
It’s the night-time that’s the worst. His mind refusing to take a rest as it works to develop stories worth telling.
Even when he sleeps those few hours, his mind machinates, imagining, thinking what word should come next, how the story should flow and end. Then he wonders why he’s always so damned fatigued, mind and body.
Once the morning has come to pass, he’s then stuck with another dilemma. The one where he must recall what his brain had pressed so hard against sleep for.
“What was that story-line, again?” he’ll ask while sitting before his blinking computer’s screen.
Sadly a friend with whom I went to high school, lost her child to murder. My heartache left me thinking how there’s not a word for such a loss.
After all, a wife becomes a widow, a husband a widower and children are known as orphans. But what of parents left behind?
So I began to study, using the dead language of Latin. I tried to conflate ‘praeteritus,’ which means ‘to pass over,’ and ‘puer,’ meaning ‘child’ into a single word.
But it fails to reflect the parent’s profound suffering and now it has become simply too painful to continue.