Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Brian On The Road 13

November 14, 1960

Brian woke to the sound of a car door slamming and a car starting. He looked up and saw Allen in the driver's seat about to pull out of the parking lot. "Good morning" he said. "Sleep good?"

"Yes, thank you."

"Let's go get some breakfast and hit the road."

Brian felt a little sheepish sitting in the back seat while Allen drove him like a chauffeur. But in a moment they pulled into a diner. It was very early. The sun was just coming up. A quick scrambled eggs, bacon, toast and coffee and the trip continued and so did Allen's lecture on human life. He knew right from wrong, good from evil, nice from nasty and truth from falsehood.

Finally Brian said "As a state trooper you must have seen a lot of things most of us never see."

"Yeah. I sure did" he said. "But I'll tell you something. There's a lot of good people in the world, but it's hard to find them. You have to look for them. The bad I take for granted. The good I look for. Look for the good, Brian, you'll find it. Or else it will just come along when you least expect it, but then you have to recognize it."

Allen went on talking as Brian thought about that and his other statements. He was thinking to himself that Allen stopping to pick him up was one of those good things that came along when he was least expecting it.

The highway was straight with almost no traffic on it. They soon crossed into Arizona. Allen was driving as fast as he wanted to. Brian thought if a cop pulled him over he would just show his badge and professional courtesy, or something like that, would let him go on.

The Arizona landscape was somewhat different from New Mexico but just as spectacular. There was a bit more greenery and some majestic mountains in the distance. They whizzed through the towns and cities.

Brian wondered about the people who lived in them, about people who spent their whole lives living in the innards of America, about the owner of the gas station in Worcester, the Massachusetts state trooper, the woman who owned the bike shop in Buffalo, the owner of the Liberty Diner in Ohio, the man driving two cars, the couple in the fancy car trying to find their son, Larry and his wife in Englewood, Zack, Sabrina, the waitress at the Country Cousin in Missouri. the man in Pratt who let him sleep on the mattress in the basement, Mother Linda the Good Witch of the North, Teena the waitress in Guymon, the cop who put him up in the jail, the cowboy from Texas with the blaring radio and now Allen. Brian wondered about them, the real Americans. He wanted to know them and tell their stories on film. But he knew it would take several lifetimes to do it and besides this city boy, this New Yorker/New Englander was not stopping. "California here I come" he sang silently to himself.

They sped quickly through Arizona and by the afternoon they reached Kingman where Allen turned to go north to Las Vegas. When they parted, Allen wished Brian good luck on the rest of his trip. Brian noted that of all those who took him any distance Allen was the only one who didn't ask him what he was going to do in California.

Brian looked around him and saw the road turning south. He wondered about that but it was the right road so he began walking along it and soon reached the edge of the town. To his right he saw a freight train slowly pulling out. It was near and moving so slowly that Brian thought of jumping on it. If he saw an open box car he could easily get into it. The train was probably going across the desert. He approached it cautiously but just then it picked up speed and was soon traveling so fast that trying to get on was impossible.

He walked back to the road and in a minute a pickup truck pulled over and stopped. Brian got in. The man driving was obviously a Native American. He had a long braid of dark hair down his back with a few feathers on a string tied to it. "Where you going?" he asked.

"Trying to get to California."

"Ah. I go a few miles." As they traveled, the man took a pack of Pall Malls out of his pocket and handed it to Brian. "Open that. Take one and give me one."

Brian carefully opened the pack. took out two cigarettes and handed one to the man. The man pushed in the cigarette lighter on the dash board. When it popped out he handed it to Brian to light his cigarette. Then Brian handed it back. The man pushed into the dash board again and then lit his own.

Brian was curious. "Are you a Navajo?"

"No. Cherokee. Where you from?"

"I started out in Boston, Massachusetts."


Brian could see some buildings up ahead. The Cherokee pulled over and stopped. "That's Yucca" he said. "Wait for a ride. Don't walk out on the desert. There's bad things out there that'll get you." Good advice that Brian was eventually to ignore.

"Okay. Thank you" he said. The Cherokee did a Uturn and drove back a few score feet and turned up a side road. Brian stomped his cigarette out on the highway and started walking. In about five minutes he came upon a small village with a dingy 6 unit motel and across the road a truck stop, a gas station and an area of abandoned cars. He was in Yucca, Arizona.

He stared down at the village near a road that went there. Ahead of him was sand, shrubbery, cactus and small twisted trees. After those came some simple dwellings. In the far distance he heard a single dog barking. He thought it might be the only dog in the village.

As he was looking, a freight train slowly approached and stopped. Brian wondered if it was the same train he almost jumped onto in Kingman. If so, and they saw him, they might throw him off and he would be in the same place he was now. But then he wouldn't have met the Cherokee, had a free cigarette and been warned about the desert. After a few moments the freight train moved on to places unkown.

As Brian turned to cross the highway he was startled to see a semi perched on a pole many feet in the air. He was puzzled about how they managed to get the truck up there but he figured it was good advertising to tell truckers coming in from a distance that here was a place they could stop and refresh themselves before they hit the desert road.

He went into the diner to have some lunch then back out to the road to hitch. He was taking the Cherokee's advice and not trying to walk, but no one was stopping to pick him up. The day wore on and he got no rides. He would occasionally go back into the diner to rest and then back out to the road. He was still dressed for the northern November weather and here it was hot in the afternoon sun. But the night was coming and Brian was going to be glad he was warmly dressed.

Back in the diner he overheard a conversation between the owner and one of the truckers about a hitchhiker who had come across a frozen lizard on the side of the road. They guy thought the lizard was dead so he picked it up and put it in his pocket. As the day worn on the lizard woke up and bit him in the chest. The guy died. Brian remembered the Cherokee's warning "There's bad things out there that'll get you."

As night was coming on Brian went out to see if he could still get a ride. A lumber truck was just pulling out carrying what looked to Brian like telephone poles. Even though the road was clear the driver stopped at the exit. Brian thought maybe the driver was expecting him to jump on and lie down with the lumber. He wasn't sure. It might be a ride across the desert. On the other hand he might end up in some remote place, impossible to get out of. He let the truck go.

Night came cold and dark. The diner owner had no place for Brian to sleep so he went around to the back, found a car with no doors on it. stretched out his aching legs on the back seat, propped up his head with his back pack and fell asleep.


To be continued.


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