November 11, 1960
At Topeka Zack turned the truck onto another highway, this one going southwest. As the sun was coming up Brian was astonished to see how flat the land was. The landscape was broken only by occasional farm houses with barns and silos. Now and then there was a store or business along the road, mainly catering to farmers. There were a few truck stops, but very few. Mainly it was just open fields and crops growing. And flat. Relentlessly flat. Brian thought of Dorothy and Toto being swept up by a tornado and whisked off to Oz.
Daylight was happening as they came into Wichita. Zack drove into a truck stop on the edge of the city and said "Well, Brian, this is where I turn off. Let's have one more breakfast and then you're on your own."
Over breakfast Zack wrote out his address. "Here, write me when you get settled. I might even answer."
"Thanks, and thanks for the ride. It was a good long one, I appreciate it."
"No problem. You still got a long way to go to get to California. You're in the plains now. You'll probably do okay. These folks are friendly."
After breakfast Zack got into his truck and, without another word, drove off. Brian stood looking down the main road into Wichita. Once again on his own.
Brian looked down the long straight road into Wichita. He thought he would probably have to walk through the city but almost immediately a car stopped. When he opened the door he saw an older woman. He calculated she was about 60 yeas old or so. He noticed immediately that she was wearing a long colorful skirt with brown leather boots. She had several scarves and chains of beads around her neck and a large hoop earring. "Hello" she said. Brian got in her car and sat, He could see there were strange looking objects hanging from the rear view mirror.
"Your name begins with a 'B' doesn't it?"
Brian was startled. "Yes. Brian."
"Ah." She smiled and started driving. "And you come from a place starting with 'B.'
"Boston. How do you know?"
"I'm a psychic."
"Oh" said Brian, slightly suspicious, but curious.
"You're going a long way. I see an ocean."
"You're going to make movies."
"I hope so."
"You are. You will have sorrow and danger, great danger, but you will be successful."
"I hope so."
"You will. The girl you are in love with is not for you."
"I'm not in love with anybody."
"No, but you will be. Sadly."
They drove in silence for a long while as she carefully made it through the city. Then she said "You will know many interesting people. You will be loved by some. Beware of false friends."
She pulled the car over to the side of the road and said "This is the edge of the city. The road west is right in front of you. May the Spirit go with you. You will be a big success, Brian. Remember, Mother Linda told you." She smiled.
Brian said "Thank you" got out of the car and closed the door. Mother Linda turned onto a side road. Brian stood watching her car disappear in the distance. He said "Thank you Mother Linda, whoever you are." Then he thought: Linda, Glinda. She sort of looked like Billie Burke. Maybe she's the Good Witch of the North. Maybe I am in the land of Oz, after all.
He smiled and turned west.
It was a bright, warm day and Brian felt good, so he started walking. There wasn't much traffic on the road but when he heard a vehicle approaching he turned and stuck out his hand. No one stopped. Perhaps these Munchkins aren't as friendly as Zack thought they would be.
As he moved along the highway Brian was struck again by how flat and level everything was. He was used to the hills and valleys of the Northeast. Brian had heard about the Great Plains but seeing it was a new experience for him. This wasn't just an easily described geologic formation. It was a different place in the world, with a character all its own: vast, empty, lonely, revealing a breath taking expanse of sky. Brian walked.
On both sides of the road there were fields, Now and then unpaved roads would abruptly turn off the highway and in the distance he could make out the silos and other buildings of a distant farm. And he walked.
Even though no one was stopping for him the area wasn't devoid of life. Some of the fields were grazing ground for cattle. Cows lined up at the fences and watched him. He must be the most interesting thing they've seen in a month, Brian thought. For miles there were cows, silent watchers, guardians of the field, chroniclers of his journey through their kingdom, approving of every step. And so he walked.
For hours Brian walked, through a relentlessly unchanging landscape. No one was stopping for him. As the afternoon wore on and evening approached, the sun fell gracefully into its decline right in front of him. As it set it grew huge and orange. It hovered at the edge of the highway as if it was a benign golden doorway waiting for him to enter. Then it set. The light went out. The darkness of night came in an instant. And he walked.
Although thee was no moon the broad sky was filled with stars. He had never seen so many stars. Each one, large and small, shone with importance, They were bright and brazen. Brian held back his head until all he could see were stars, until he was with them, until he was one of them, shining with them, a part of the universe.
Brian walked on for many hours. The traffic had dwindled down to almost nothing. It was getting cold. The chill November night was setting in and Brian's feet hurt. He reasoned that he had not fully recovered from his rain soaked trek through Ohio. His boots and socks were dry now but the pain in his feet told him they needed to rest. There was no curb or fence between the highway and the grass next to it. So he stepped off the highway and began walking on the smooth ground, which was nicer, until something vibrated very fierce and fast under his foot. He stepped immediately back onto the hard highway and decided not to try doing that again.
After many hours he came upon a small shopping center. The only thing open was a diner. So he went in and had a burger and coffee and, of course, a piece of banana cream pie. After affirming that there were no sleeping arrangements available he went back out to the exit area.
One car was parked near the exit and when a man came out to get into it Brian asked him if he was going west by any chance. The man said "No, I'm sorry. I live here. But good luck."
"Thank you" said Brian. He waited hoping to find another driver to take him along.
After a few moments the man came back, drove into the parking lot, turned and pulled up next to Brian. "Say Fellow, I have some new mattresses in my basement. If you would like you can sleep on one of them."
"I sure would. Thank you." He got into the car. It was the first of two times a driver would turn around and came back for him. The second time was an amazing story.
To be continued.