The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 4
The Maters and Taters Episode
Providentially, Rich peddled by a farmer’s roadside stand. It was closed, but it sat near a farm house and there was a car in the driveway. Rich peddled up the drive way an leaned his bike against a windmill that was only a few yards from the backdoor of the house. He knocked on the door. A man, perhaps his Dad’s age, in brown suit trousers, white shirt and a loosened tie came to the door holding a Sunday newspaper.
“What can I do for you?” he said looking beyond Rich and to the packed bike leaning against the windmill.
“Sir, I noticed that you are selling apples and you’re closed. I planned badly and have little food,” Rich said. “Can I perhaps buy a few apples from you?”
“Wait a minute,” the man said and walked back into the house.
Rich waited and grew anxious. He attempted to look beyond a wall that blocked his view of the inside of the house. He thought of leaving. Perhaps he was calling the police.
The man reappeared and handed Rich two sandwiches wrapped in wax paper.
“These will keep ya goin’,” the man said. “It's pot roast.”
“Thanks,” Rich said appreciatively. “You didn’t have to do this.”
“I was out on my own during the depression years,” the man said. “I can’t begin to count the times help was given to me. On your way out just lift the latch on the back door of the stand and get what ever ya want. There’s apples and potatoes. They’ll keep. Take what you want and take a jar or two of tomatoes too. Mater and taters go a long way.”
“How much do I owe?” Rich asked.
“Nothing,” the man said.
“Thank you, sir,” Rich said and walked away, but turned back quickly. “By the way, how far to the Pennsylvania line?”
“You can see it from here,” the man thrust his thumb over his shoulder.
“Be careful,” the man said, “There are dangerous people and you have put yourself in a vulnerable situation. If something doesn’t seem right, it’s because it ain’t right. Get out and don’t look back.”
“Thank you, sir,” Rich smiled. “It seems I’ve already done that.”
“Don’t substitute one kind of freedom to be a slave to something else,” the man said with a calm conviction. “You’ll have to think about that one, but someday you’ll know what I mean.”
“I think I get the point,” Rich said.
The man smiled and nodded his head. “The door to the stand is never locked.”
Rich extended his hand and they shook hands.
“That’s a good grip, son,” the man said.
“I had something worth holding onto,” Rich said.
“You’ll do alright,” the man said.
“That means a lot,” Rich said and lifted his hand in a goodbye gesture.
The man did the same.
Rich opened the door to the stand and grabbed six apples, six potatoes, and two jars of tomatoes. He ate one sandwich at the end of the drive and peddled no more than a quarter mile before crossing into Pennsylvania.
Crossing over the state line was like a rebirth. The resplendent hues of fall were now even more alive and engaging as if illuminated by neon. His mind and eyes sparkled with delight and optimism. He had a pack full of food, a spare inner tube, spare tire, a clear sky, and a broad road lay ahead me.
It was a struggle and strain to traverse up hills, but gleefully sped down into valleys. With each hill the past was further away. There were times Rich did not want to stop. He stopped only at closed gas stations and looked for the outside water spigots to refill the canteen. At times he began to think that with all the effort he must be close to Maine, but reasoned that such thinking creates anxiety and disappointment. The trip must be viewed as never ending, thus Maine will come too soon.
Did the truck driver mail the letters from Chicago? Rich hoped he didn’t open it and steal the money meant for Don. He thought also that Don may stand accused of aiding with his plot. On the other hand he's clever enough to concoct something and if not, he will outlive it.
After climbing an exhausting hill and sweating profusely he stopped at the top for drink from the canteen. He sat on a log just off the road.
His smiled at the bike, it stood sturdy and trusty. Dad was shamed by the salesman to buy it. It was much more than what I needed then, but everything needed now. It was a touring bike made by the French. It had a light attached to a generator activated by the front wheel. It had an air pump and repair kit with wrenches and patches to repair leaks in the inner tube. He leaned back to admire how it was all packed neatly and breathed deep. The sudden realization hit him like a strong blast from and open door of a furnace - “I need a shower.” He was to the point of being disgusting to himself. The weather had been unusually warm. Even a cold bath would be better than no bath at all. He peddled until finding a stream and pulled off the side of the road. He unwrapped a fresh change of clothing and a bar of soap. He covered the bike and gear with branches and followed the stream into a woods, out of sight of the highway.
He stripped naked and walked to the middle of the rocky stream bed. The water came only to mid calf. He lathered and splashed myself with childish delight and scrubbed his old clothing and laid it on a rock in the sun. The new clothing was a bit wrinkled, but fresh. He folded the washed clothing. They were still damp. He draped them across the camping gear on the bike and let them dry as he continued his way. In time they dried and he tucked them away.
He peddled until just before sundown near Wattsburg, Pennsylvania. His day was full of curious onlookers and friendly waves. He found a woods and pushed the bike back into it, hidden from the road. Rich scraped away a clearing, set up his tent, and started a small camp fire. He peeled a potato, quartered it, and boiled it. He heated a jar of tomatoes and mixed them with half a jar of tomatoes. He sat down to a meal of the pot roast sandwich and a boiled potato with stewed tomatoes.
“Maters and taters,” Rich smiled broadly. He stared sumptuously at them in his canteen cup.
Rich was pleased with the meal and slept well.