I wake to the sound of a large dog barking loudly
just beneath the northeast facing window of the room I am no longer asleep in. She is a German Shepard named Glory, a gift my father received four or five Christmases past. His father worked for one of the first K-9 units in America and as a result grew up with two big German Shepard’s stalking about the house. My father dreamed of having his own Shepard and at 50 his dream came true.
Now Glory has full run of the 8 acres my parents live on. Her best friend Pepper, a black and white Dalmatian, was put to sleep earlier this year after he was diagnosed with stomach cancer. He was my best friend too. A few hours after Glory wakes me she stands outside watching me in the truck as I prepare to drive around the place I once called home. She looks devastated and lonely. I don’t want to leave her but I do anyway.Driving down the thin black strip of asphalt
that is my parents driveway involves passing these three memorials: a tall metal pole that was erected shortly after 9/11, an American flag dangling from the top (because my father is “proud to be an American”), an empty fenced in field that once held an old white horse we named Flick (sometimes I would talk to him late at night, telling him stories about the stars that burned above his muddy little pasture), and a moss covered wooden bench which for a time provided shelter for a family of wasps (wasps which decided I should be stung after I unknowingly took up residence above their residence).
The little red truck leaves the neighborhood and passes a familiar house and the woods behind it where I first learned to love kissing. She was the most beautiful girl with bright green eyes that lit up every time she saw me. Her family would invite me over for dinner and we’d sit at the table and steal glances at each other when we thought her parents weren’t watching. I don’t know if we were in love then because I still don’t know what love is now.Now I glide down roads
I know only from years past. Past fields, past old farmhouses and new subdivisions, past small towns getting bigger and roadways getting wider. I see the “old” life struggling beneath the weight of the “new” life, the “bigger, better, cheaper, longer” life. The life where you work harder, sleep less and see you’re family seldom in an effort to attain more things and less of what really matters.
Trees, barren and grey, line the motorway as 197 continues on into the mountains. A “Highway Adoption” sign from the side of the road boasts that Yvonne and Ted T. are the proud parents of this stretch of tarmac. The T. stands for Turner. The same Turner who owns half of America’s media and the largest bison herd in existence. He slaughters the bison for his chain of restaurants. I’ve heard they serve fine whiskey.Further along four dilapidated buildings huddle together
and all take the name “Jack’s Place”. I pull in and get out of the truck as two men climb into theirs. I walk past the truck and from inside one of the men asks in a thick and comforting southern accent if he can help me with something. This must be Jack. I say I’m just looking for a snack or something to chew on as he leads me to the front door, opens it and turns the light on. Inside, three metal racks hold a sparse assortment of dusty goods. Candy, some shrink-wrapped beef jerky, and probably a few bags of pork rinds somewhere if I had taken the time to look around. But Jack stands at the door waiting for me to find what I want so I make it quick. While watching me choose he tells me about how cold it was last night and how he was just leaving to cut firewood. It was going to be cold again tonight.
I rule out the candy and the shrink-wrapped beef jerky and head straight for the dark cooler. The selection is minimal but I find a glass bottle of IBC root beer and make my way back to the register. He says a dollar will “settle us up”. I pull the wrinkled bill from my pocket and lay it on the counter where he instructs me to. The money stays on the counter as I walk back outside with him thanking me for my business, a hint of hard alcohol escaping from his breath as he locks the door behind me.I hang around after he leaves and sip my soda.
Looking at this ramshackle kingdom Jack has built I observe that one of the buildings has been converted into three separate hotel rooms. Red doors with mailbox style numbers stare back at me as I finish the root beer and take a few pictures. Jack’s Place grows on me and I find myself wondering how much it would cost to stay in one of those rooms for a couple of nights.
But Jack is away cutting firewood and I don’t want to wait around for him to come back so I move on. The sun falls on me in splinters as my fathers little red truck carries me through the cold quiet hills.