The ocean breathes salty over ancient sands turning to
fog in the Arabian night. Mixing with dust, it fills
the the air obscuring a waxing crescent. Staring into
the abyss reminiscent of home and dreams of youth in
endless cornfields where the quest for the horizon
Meanwhile, back at the ranch…
Somewhere on a Texas two lane a cold wind picks up
dust and scatters it in the face of it’s solo witness.
Dark eyes don’t even blink, all too accustomed to the
grit of this open terrain. A small armored mind in a
small armored body sizes up his opponent and slowly
figures the odds of success.
Wishing he hadn’t recently quit smoking, a stubby
clawed leg takes the first of the necessary two dozen
steps across the black stone surface glimmering now in
the headlights of traffic. In the next few seconds
our heroic young armadillo will learn more about
himself than a decade in the savannah heat could teach
him, and his opponent…
Well, Red Johnson, a trucker from Kansas making a routine run across the most northern route in the Lone Star state will forget all about (Johnny Cash, the radio, his mama) and for a few, all-too-breif seconds to contemplate what he would now have to tell someone if they ever asked, “Have you ever seen an armadillo square off with a Peterbuilt?
Who do you think would win?”
This one goes out to all those stuffed armadillos who
never got a chance to see what they’re made of.
...and the landscape flew by, transformed into a small
rectangular image, larger than it appears, in the rear
view mirror. The horizon looms, and the highway
unrolls to meet it at break-neck speed being ridden
hard by our vagabond hero…
...or he would. He would, if the eighty-five horse
inline four from one of the big three via a rental car
agency were not what it is: domestic and sensible and
devoid of inspiration. This car propells our hero
across the vast expanse of world-feeding and utterly
Five days by air, hopping across Medeterainian Europe
and the Atlantic to be followed immediately by a wild
ride across America.
“Lightning,” thinks the hobo as he flicks his
cigarette at the ‘no smoking’ sticker on the dash, “I
should be lightning across amber waves of grain…not
a rental car through stubble.” For a second he sees
his car. The one he dreams about in flashes as it
roars across the desert at high noon, or cruises the
Missouri blacktop by moonlight: sixteen tons,
unlimited horse power, chrome and tail fins for miles.
Immaculate conception of wind and steel…still a
Like going home. He’s headed there, chasing it. It’s
not there, will never be there, but the idea still
carries enough weight to push the pedal to the floor.
And, with a little more speed, some luck, and nights
of whiskey and neon…
”...Nobody was listening. Old North Clark bums lolled
at the bar, whores screeched in anger. Secret
Chinamen went by. Noises of hootchy-kootchy
interfered. They went right on…”
...I roll into Chicago under sheets of rain and great
flashes of light so heavy the truck
my ol’ ‘69 wants
to slide over seventy and I slow to keep from the
guardrail. But it’s a beautiful day, and tonight I
will hunt jazz at the Green Mill. It’s a legend in
jazz, and I will look for the Great American Bop night
where Kerouac lived. On the road? I’m damned sure on
the path at 2.60 a gallon…
...”But the slender leader frowned. ‘Let’s blow
Something would come of it yet. There’s always
more, a little further-it never ends…”
If you can come out, come out. Some dogs just can’t
stand to sit on the porch all night.
...our hero passing down a familiar path. After all,
it should be, he had been down it less than a week
This time, though, he finds himself unhurt. A
curiosity to be sure, he feels somehow vindicated
against the injustice…
Sometime from now, as he sits in a bar, he will retell
the whole thing. It comes out easily and with a kind
of fondness, the way a man will recall the trials of
youth and see them as being good despite the immediate
dislike for them at the moment.
He will recall her: smiling and beautiful, but with
problems. An inability to commit. An irrational
mind, that is both funny and painful to those around
her. He will think back and replay the injustice and
her lies and how, even in the end, she couldn’t make
up her mind- a comical scene where he actually had to
talk to her dad, who, in turn (almost an example of
how she was unable to make her own decisions) had made
her tell our then young hero it was through.
He would think of the other man. The one who had come
between. Instead of the earlier anger he had felt, he
will wonder with a trace of pity how he was. Sure, at
the time all of them were young and foolish (our hero
even given to impulse and sttrong drink), but this one
had been weak enough to fake suicide attempts. Weaker
still, he would embrace the girl he had done it over.
At the time it had been different. It had all been
very sinister, but in the future (perhaps as this is
written) he is able to think about the tragedy of
And, as a last step in the re-telling, he will think
Not with fondness, oddly enough (that is something
reserved for much more important things), but instead
with a sort of awe. While the others will object to
the telling (indeed they are a part of you, dear
reader), he knows it is all going fine. All of it
will come back to the drive home that night:
His old beat up truck howling down the interstate with
it’s subtle vibration pulsing through his body. He
had not cried that night. He had felt relieved. His
body relaxed into the bench as his foot lightly rode
the accelerator. A beer in his hand, a smoke on his
lips, and good music playing on the radio.
For now though, before all of this, he will sit and
smoke and drink. He will relish the end of his
suffering, able to smile of a man who can honestly
look back and say to himself before he sleeps, “Still
...the diner was cheap plastic and immitation wood
grain scored by years of customers and employees. The
counter, tables, chairs, and bathroom stalls all bore
witness to the passing of years. How many people on
the lam from something, or wanderers chasing the
elusive dreams of a well spent youth which always
manage to keep slightly ahead and just out of sight
had passed through leaving their mark? How many times
had it been a refuge, a haven, a shelter in the storm?
It was impossible to guess, and a question only asked
by those who made their livesa part of such anonymous
immortality- a frail and shifting history which could
not be read but instead felt. No one could see the
end comming, but they could feel it.
The hobo at the counter felt it. An antihero waiting
for coffee between two truckers smoking a cigarette
and letting the weight of the situation settle on his
dusty worn shoulders.
“This is the end…” J. Morrison said from some
distant past over a cook’s radio said from somewhere
in the back before he was drown out by the hiss of
“Amen,” the hobo said quietly as the waitress -a
pretty thing of twenty five who had come north from
Florida with two kids and an ex-husband in her wake
only to run out of gas in this place on the banks of a
forgotten river- poured the renants of what had begun
as coffee into his cup. She smiled at his remark and
years fell from her face like shadows before the sun.
The fluid in his cup was familiar (a thick black
liquid which had once been coffee and was now some
sort of evil primal soup). It was not even close to
the fantastic brew he could produce in the wasteland
of America on any given morning with a percolator and
wood fire, but it would do. It had to.
Today was no ordinary day in the life of a
not-so-young hobo on the road. No, this was the end.
Thoughts unchecked slip through the gates of memory to
bring recollection of a missing hero. Our hero. He
left one day, disappeared without ado and no
good-byes. A nomad by nature, it is the way he was
supposed to go: a shadow in the sun, slipping ove the
horizon and into the secret places of America. From
here on out, it’s only fond memories and the
occasional glimpse on some long stretch of highway
when the mind is left to ramble and the radio is
Not exactly legend, he will be seen as an old man in
the high desert of Nevada. Ragged and tired, he will
lean against a joshua tree at five thousand feet
amidst the dust and dicarded stones of the Rockies.
His hair long, we will glimpse him for less than a
second but take in his worn but durable clothes with
wonder. He will remind us of our place. Of our
fortunate lives and the trivial nature of our
problems, setting our feet back on terra firma that we
might dream. And when we dream, we will dream of open
spaces and intimate moments. Of the true love which
we pretend to forget about and are too afraid to face
in the light of day. Of love like we learned about in
rock and roll some summer night in our parents’ car.
We will be instanly immortal but young, and the moment
will stretch out in our minds to make everything else
seem small. But it will only be a moment.
The rush of the modern world and manufactured lives
will come back in a wave and wash these things away
leaving an after-image faded. Our shoulders will go
to the wheel and our thinking will be that of the
practicle. But, for that moment, we will see our hero
and remember that life is more than the space after
work and on weekends. We will remember that we live
every minute of every day and our hearts will know
that life is not short. It is long and beautiful and
filled with adventures. We can remember that our hero
wasn’t a wanderer who became legend. He is greater
than that, he is a story we can tell.
And every story is great if you can tell it right.
...somewhere in the lonely streets, someone remembers.