This was a contest entry that required less than a thousand words and required the following words exactly as seen here, in bold letters:
The contest author’s instruction said, “, exactly as seen here”. I knew they didn’t mean ‘exactly’! They meant each word was not to be altered, not the inline vertical design. But, because this contest author had had difficulty with contest instructions before, I decided to have some fun and get creative.
I had ideas! I wanted to amount to something, so I tried. I needed money to dress well, I needed to keep moving, otherwise the summer would go, and I would have nothing saved for the school year.
The sacrifice I made was not realized until later. Each year I would leave my little town to workand save so I could keep up. Most others had full sets of parents, dependable meals, an extra buck or two when needed. I had nothing extra, ever! I saved myself with careful planning, graceful excuses, and this ability to move along.
Moving along is what you do when you sort of had girlfriends, but didn’t have the time or knowledge, or money to keep them for long. It’s natural that they move on to others that are there, have more to offer, know more, had futures, and didn’t have to make excuses.
It was the same with friends that had also re-grouped, paired up, or had changed direction while I was trying keep up with so many directions. I always had to be prepared to ‘move along’.
It seems that each time I left my home to work, in the summers of my high school years, I would arrive home expecting someone to know I had been gone. I would be thrilled to call on my old friends, or my most recent ‘girlfriend’. It didn’t take a ‘whiz bang’ to realize they all had kindly moved on, made new bonds, and had plans for their future, or not.
Each year I’d take stock, re-measure, re-connect, but the pairing up, the plans and destinations for my friends and classmates could not be denied. I, or they, had drifted away, and I was on my own!
I knew that I wanted to go to college. I, of course, did not have enough money, and had not settled on what I wanted to do, so I joined the Navy. They pretty much killed any chance of loyalty, so I did my time and headed for the comforts of home. Within a week, I knew it was time to stop holding on to heartfelt hopes and begin my ‘great adventure’.
I bought a used pickup truck and headed west like the book said. Go west young man, go west.
With both windows cranked all of the way down on my turquoise 1958
Apache pickup, I scratched the three day old stubble and took a swig from the beat-up jug.
The hot highway ahead looked wet and the rising heat treated the asphalt like a runaway
spool of ribbon unrolling past the table-top hills, appearing and disappearing toward infinity,
into the opal sunset. The engine drone, the heat and hot wind through the cab slow time,
passing fence and telephone poles the only measure of anything.
I did meet a few travelers going in the opposite direction, brave with their canvas water bag hanging in front of the radiator. Some had that new, water filled cooling thing suspended on the outside of the shady side rear window, a towel hanging on the inside rear window on the sunny side. Most were vacationers, some adventurers like me caught crossing the desert river in broad daylight.
The professionals knew better.
I did not!
The sound of those Route 66 professionals, ricochet through the wing windows I had opened for the fresh air and cooling. I was leaning on my old Navy pea coat, a cushion against the open cardboard boxes that contained my life. I had to lie at a forty-five degree angle, sideways against the shoulder crush fitted boxes, my legs bent under the steering wheel, and my feet against the driver’s door, my hands flat together between my legs in reaction to the desert chill.
The truck was facing east. I could feel the warmth of the rising sun on my forehead, exhaled as if I had been holding my breath, and groggily sat up. Everything in my mouth was stuck together. I took a mouthful from the plastic jug, rolled down the window and spit it out, then took another mouthful. The swallow was like a drink from a mountain spring and was absorbed before it ever hit my stomach, the heat of the previous day had left me parched.
With my eyes still closed, I felt down inside the nearest cardboard box and found the open five cent Mr. Peanut bag. The half bag of peanuts and the salt were the second item on my bodies please list, followed by the next gulp of water.
By this time, I was getting a face full of Sun, and the truck cab was heating up. I turned the key, hit the starter, turned right on to the asphalt and read the sign backwards in my rearview mirror.
The Oasis Motel and Gas
Turn back for a good night’s rest
A mile down the road the next sign said:
California State Line
Swallowing hard, I thought about turning for home as I’d done so many times.
Not this time!
Everything there will have changed the same as always has. I held back moisture and tightened my lips.
With dry eye and that determined set, I loudly said to the sun projected silhouette on the dirty windshield,
“I guess I’m moving along,…………………………………………………… again!”