Thursday, July 9, 2009

Chapter 12

I walked down the street because the gas station is the only place in town open until midnight. I wasn't really hungry, but I wanted to go somewhere, anywhere. I bought a turkey sandwich for $1.75, but ended up trashing it when I got back to the room. I laid in bed and thought about everything. 38 years of life all at once, in a room with my dogs and a trailer full of novels. Not that I was bitter, I wasn't. I was alright with the tour, with the direction of things, but I was bored to the point of watching re-runs, of walking downstairs and upstairs, of wrestling with my dogs and doing push-ups. I didn't feel like writing or reading or being on the computer.
Too wet outside to find a place to ride my bike. Too fucking awake to sleep. Back on the bed, I closed my eyes and counted backwards from one thousand, or rather I pictured
each number flying at me from outer-space, and each number was red with orange borders, like big, fat 70s letters. When I got to 756 I passed out.

The hotel phone. Gabriel's trumpet, the end of the world, judgment day. I have no cell reception in the room. The garage was going to call me in the morning and let me know about the compression test and whether or not I was able to drive the van any further. If the heads were shot, there was no point in putting the radiator in. The phone is so motherfucking loud it jerks me upward. I grab it and stare at the ceiling.
"Hi, Jeff. This is Deb down at BJ'S."
"Hi, Deb. What's the word?"
"Welp, the compression test was fine, we got the radiator in and you're all set."
"I need to find a way there."
"We'll send Patrick."
I hang up, piss and let the dogs out. It's grey outside. The clouds aren't as bad as they were yesterday, but they're not good, either. I've always been neutral about Iowa. Until now.

I see one bar on my phone. I call and Deb answers.
"Deb, I've been here for half an hour, out front on the bench. What gives?"
"Oh, well he called and said he was out front and you weren't there. He's been waitin' about 20
She hangs up and calls me back.
"Patrick went to the wrong exit, wrong Super 8. Sorry. He'll be picking you up in your vee-hickle."

I sit there and wonder how the fuck he could have gone to the wrong exit. There was his town, then my exit, then almost nothing major until Iowa City. I wondered if he went west and not east. But still...

I saw my van exit the freeway and head toward me. There's something really weird and dream-like about watching somebody else drive your car. It makes you proud and defensive. I made him get in the passenger's seat. I looked down and saw the check engine light was on. I looked at Patrick. He nodded to me with a lip full of chew.
"Why is the fucking engine light on, dude?"
"I don't know. It just came on this mornin' when I was driving it."
I got on the freeway, "Am I running on all six? Feels a bit off fire."
"You should be fine. I'll do a test back at the garage."
I drove down the freeway with him. There's something more desolate and boring about the landscape here, or maybe it's me being in a bad mood over the last few days, or maybe Iowa's just fucking ugly.
Back at the garage, the owner walks out.
"Patrick, what are doing? You need to fix those three tires sitting right there."
He points to the hood of the van,
"His check engine light came on."
"Fix the tires!"
I couldn't say anything. I had to wait it out, again. I walked in the office and took care of the paperwork, sat down and waited. The bathroom opened and I ran cold water over my face and hair and looked in the mirror. I was getting older, my dogs were getting older and the whole world was getting older. There was something good about it. I walked out to the garage and saw Patrick working on the last tire. He was bent over the tire and I read one of the patches on his cap. It said: Know your role. I watched him for a few seconds after that, then walked out of the garage to follow the noise of a low flying jet. A stream of exhaust trailed behind it over the cornfield on the side of the garage. I watched the jet until it became a little white dot then went back in the garage. He rolled the tire over by the other two and grabbed his diagnostic kit and plugged it in under the steering column. Turns out that when they did the compression test, one of the spark plug wires wasn't fully connected. The engine light turned off and I pulled out of the station. My phone rings.
It was a woman or a man with a thick Middle-Eastern accent calling from a Florida number. It had been happening a few times a week since I got the phone.
"Yes sir, may I please speak to Mr. William Harris?"
"I've had calls for him for the last 3 months. This is s new cell number. No Harris here. Please remove me from your list."
"Oh, okay sir. What is your name?"
"The name on this phone account. Your name, please."
"You don't need to know my name. All you need to know is that I'm not your guy. Don't call me anymore."
"Oh, okay sir. Have a nice day."
"Fuck you."

Back at the hotel I reverse to the ball, hitch the trailer, take a test drive around the restaurant next door to make sure it's on tightly. I load up and let the dogs in. It's a smooth drive up until the Illinois border, when there's a detour, the drive across the Mississippi River, which has always felt holy to me for some reason, then past Galesburg straight into a black cloud. In all of my years on the road, I have never driven through rain this hard. Smarter drivers, pussies and the elderly had pulled over on the side of the road to wait it out. The tape flipped and Mexican Radio came on, just in time for lightening across the black fields on both sides of the road, and the surround of thunder. It's exactly like night. I look at the clock on my dashboard. 2:32 in the afternoon. The drive gets good now. Cars pull over one after the other. Semis switch to the right lane. I switch to the left and take it out of cruise control. It's the most intense 20 minutes I've driven since the icy back roads of Wyoming in the winter of 2005. But it's better than that because there are no cliffs, and really not too much danger once I think about it. I'm hauling a fully loaded trailer and a decently weighed down mini-van. The tires are new and the roads are smooth. Any kind of real danger is mental at this point, but it feels good to be anywhere but in that room eating take-out and stressing over money.

The rain let up to a downpour and I took the 474 to Griswold, made a left and drove past Harrison Holmes in the south end of Peoria. The neighborhood is still as brutal as it always was.
I pass the street where I was born, and I head up toward Malone, where my brother has lived for centuries. I don't know how he does it. Two young and lean black murderers eyeball me as I drive toward Malone St. They have long shirts and picks in their hair, and eyes like stones. All of the south end comes back to me at once, and I give them a nod and look away first. I'm only 6 blocks from where I have to be. Out in front of my brother's, the driveway is full of cars and the rain has now become a steady, dull beat upon the gravel.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you'd better hit up a pawn shop and procure yourself a gat, foo'!