The Id and The Odyssey; Episode 15
An Old Lady's Warmth
He peddled past an abandoned house with a garage. He turned back and peddled inside the garage and settled in for lunch; a can of corned beef, a small bag of chips, a package of Twinkies, and a bottle of Royal Crown Cola. After eating he was too nauseated to move. He sat on the gravel floor of the garage leaning against the wall and nodded asleep for a while. He awoke, startled at first not knowing where he was. The nausea had passed during the nap.
He collected his wits and pushed out into the soft rain and followed a hand drawn map. It led down roads like Mount Pleasant Road, Irish Settlement Road, and others until locating Route 221.
He peddled into a berg named Marathon. It was there Rich mustered the courage to jump into the back of a delivery truck with his bike. It had boxes of canned goods and was nearly empty.
After a thirty minute ride through curves, stops, up hills, and down hills the truck slowed and pulled off the road onto a paved parking lot. Rich jumped out while it had not yet come to a complete halt. He had little idea where he was. He peddled up to the driver as if he just arrived and ask him where they were.
“McDonough,” the driver said curtly. He got out of the cab and walked to back of the truck to deliver the canned goods to a small grocery where he had stopped.
McDonough was no more than a few houses tucked between the creases of some hills. The beauty of the surrounding hills was not enough to overcome the miserable weather.
Rich had perhaps two hours of daylight remaining and needed desperately to remove his rain soaked clothing and warm myself. He considered a motel room, but it looked as if this town had none.
He walked inside the grocery. An older thin lady with gray hair gathered in a bun on top of her head and wearing glasses sat behind the counter.
She smiled politely and stood. “Can I help you?”
“Do you know of a park with a shelter house?” Rich asked expectantly.
“Sure,” she said.
Rich smiled, “Where?”
She drew a map on the piece of paper and explained it to him. “Once you turn on this road, in about mile you’ll see a big rock on you left. There’s a road there. Take that road until it dead ends, then go to your right. In about a hundred yards there’s a road to the right. That’s where you’ll find a shelter house.”
“Thanks,” Rich said and folded the paper and tucked it inside his field jacket.
Rich picked up a few items and brought them to the counter. “Can I have a half pound of bacon?”
She walked behind the meat counter, tore some wrapping paper from a roll, and laid it on a meat scales. She piled on a half pound of bacon, wrapped it, and tied it with string. “What else for you?” She said.
“Is it too much to ask if I could buy just two eggs?” I said.
“How bout you buy a half a dozen. Fix what you want now and boil the rest. They’ll keep,” she said.
“That’s a good idea!” Rich smiled. “Thank you, Ma’am.”
She gave him six eggs in a sack. “Be careful with these.”
Rich paid the lady.
As he was about to nudge the door open she said, “Just north of the shelter house is a road, keep going east until it dead ends and go north. You’ll come a little town called Preston, Route 10 goes through there.”
“Thanks you, Ma'am,” Rich said. “You've been kind and helpful.”
She smiled shyly and sat on her stool behind the counter.
He steered east out of McDonough, as the old lady told him, peddling desperately. He found the road marked by a rock. It was a gravel road softened by the rain. Peddling was arduous.
He located the shelter house and quickly gathered fallen branches and twigs from the surrounding woods that had not been soaked by the rain. He was shivering almost uncontrollably. A fire was started that was slow at first, but eventually roared. His sleeping bag was damp in a couple of spots and he hung it along with soaked clothing on a rope attached between two support poles. He boiled three eggs and a potato and had them for supper along with two cups of tea.
As darkness was well along he was entertained by the dancing fire and cracks of embers. He listened to the radio for the next day’s weather forecast. He placed nearly all his gear on a picnic bench as a bed and crawled into a warm sleeping bag. Rich slept well, but coaxed himself from the sleeping bag several times during the night to keep the fire going.
At one point during the night he sat with the sleeping bag draped over his shoulders and gazed into the flames. His eyes were heavy but the mind was restless, speeding and bouncing from one thought to another, never staying in one place long enough to explore or absorb.
He wondered to what extent his sisters might be effected. They were eight and ten years old than him; they would know why he chose this path. He was certain it was something they contemplated and in their own way and time they did the same.
“Our home was not one of refuge and comfort,” he thought.” “My younger sister found it by crating a new family and nice home and prospered. My older sister found a husband like her father only worse and sunk into an abyss of despair that she could not possibly climb out. She wanted desperately for me to escape the fate she suffered during her teenage years. Dad never reasoned anything out with us. He pontificated for a while and then lost his temper. Mom also had nothing more to say than, just do it because I say so.”
“When both of my sisters announced they were pregnant before they were married, Mom was angry at first, then cried for a day or two, and then felt shamed. She saw decency as merely hiding what was indecent. It was not the purity of the inner person, but rather the appearance which was of the most value.”
Rich recalled the time he wrote all his impure thoughts on the outside wall of a school. His mother was notified. They spent an hour in the principals office and she lectured him on the way home. Her shame was great. Rich wanted to take it away. Not for myself, because what he was, was scrawled on the wall. He had no problem with that. He got the attention he wanted. What was written on the wall was a dark dirty secret of what went on inside Rich’s home - vulgar and lewd language. Everybody knew it. He now publicized it. By this time in his Dad’s life he had given up and thus displayed little emotion or feelings either for his daughters’ fornication or Rich’s deviant and shocking behavior. And it was certainly leading to a much worse course than Rich’s sisters.
In the morning he was awakened by the sound of loons. He laid on his side and stared into the glowing embers. He thought, “That lady's heart was as warm as the fire that warmed me.”
Rich pulled the atlas from the gear. Using the old lady’s directions he plotted a series of small highway routes for the next day that would lead him to the Schenectady area.