Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Road Tale #1


I got in from the road last night. It was 39 years, yesterday, since Jack Kerouac died in St. Petersburg, FL. I always forget it was St. Pete. I recently read On The Road, the Original Scroll put out last year on the 50th Anniversary of the book's publication. Everbody reads On The Road in their teens, but I read Dharma Bums. It was in a used book store in East Lansing. I hadn't found On The Road and hadn't read it yet. Last night I was too tired, but in Jack's honor I have 'sketched' three tales variously related to the road. Here is the first:

He was a bit small in stature with big glasses. A nice enough kid, but a little nerdy. More like me than I cared to pretend. No protruding drooly lower lip but prone to pushing his glasses up with a quick gesture of his hand; an index finger over his forehead like he was about to make an important point.

I was working as a cashier and handling the Dairy Order. He was a bagger. We worked at a small grocery store 10 miles south of campus and happened to have lunch at the same time. "I'm running to McDonald's. You want to go?"

The bagger joined me for lunch. I had a 1973 Cutlass S; baby puke green metal flake with fake louvers on the hood. We went up the road and through the drive through. "I know just the place to enjoy our lunch," I proclaimed. I had seen the local cheerleaders were doing a car wash. On the way back to the store, I whipped into the abandoned parking lot where the cheerleaders were set up under a great big oak tree near the road.

I didn't think about it at the time. If I could remember the kid's name, I might even apologize. While attending college, I had transferred to another store of the same grocery chain nearer to campus. I was a neutral out-of-towner. The bagger was local and likely went to the same school.

As the Cheer Squad Advisor took my $4.00, she said we could sit in the grass while the girls washed the car "or whatever." Seizing on "whatever" I replied "We're good. We just grabbed some lunch." We stayed in the car.

We rolled up the windows and ate watching the most beautiful girls in Mason, Mi wash the hood and the windows. It wasn't quite as good as the scene in Cool Hand Luke, but George Kennedy would have wanted to be there with us. It was wonderful; for me.

The kid kind of shrunk down in the seat when I said "we're good." School had just started and the sun was still warm. Even if I ran the car, it had no air conditioning. With the windows up, and shorts short and tshirts damp, it got a little warm. And there was some heat coming off the bagger's beet red face.

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