Thursday, January 28, 2016

Safe Passage

You're somewhere in Tennessee, or maybe Kentucky, and you've ventured off the freeway. You hear water running, maybe a banjo or three. Or is that in your head?

You recall a conversation from less than an hour ago, back at the last town that wasn't really a town.

“You any relation to Joe?” asked the man.

“Can't say as I am.”

No, that was a different place. That was Baker, California, several years earlier. The man looked like Cooter from Dukes of Hazzard. Maybe not, but that's how you remember him.

What's it been now, two decades? You still remember a guy at a gas station who may or may not have looked like Cooter. You met him once, and he was gone from your life in the time it takes to sign a credit card slip.

And yet there is much you forget. What is your neighbor's last name? When is your cousin's birthday (doesn't matter which one, the answer is always “I dunno”)? What is your purpose in life?

So you're in Tennessee, or maybe Kentucky, and you need gas. Your purpose in life right now is to reach North Carolina, which won't happen tonight but had better happen tomorrow.

You have eight dollars in your pocket and 300 miles to go. You blow it all on gas at this town that isn't really a town. But they only give you seven bucks worth.

“I bought eight bucks,” you say.

“No, you bought seven,” she says.

Your eyes wander around the store. Nobody here is any relation to you. You're a complete stranger in this town that isn't really a town, out of place. In the big picture, is a dollar that steep a price to pay for safe passage out of here now?

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