We started off a lot calmer today. Perhaps people were still thinking about the old couple. Rick and Kaitlin seemed to have made peace with each other, so that was a good sign. It was Kaitlin’s turn to drive and ya know what, she’s not a bad driver. At first I was kinda nervous because she’s the only driver that I’d not ridden with. I pretty much know how Rick and Megan drive. And I’m a very fussy passenger, I like being behind the wheel or having someone I trust behind it.
With my iPod gone, there wasn’t much to do for me, so I picked up a trash novel from a shop at the gas station. We decided to head to St. Louis for lunch. So far Kaitlin’s driving was going rather well. Rick was riding shotgun and navigating. He made sure we were on the right route. When we approached St. Louis, I kept staring at the Arch. I thought about the writers before me who lived in St. Louis like Tennessee Williams, William Burroughs, and T.S. Eliot. I thought about Lewis and Clark and how they explored the west. I mean, that was their idea of a “road trip” even though it wasn’t as convenient or as easy as we’re doing now.
We talked mostly about the elections at lunch, we spoke about the primary in Indiana and North Carolina. Rick still thinks that McCain is going to win. He said, “The Democrats are busy with their in-fighting. Obama is an elitist, so even if he wins the nomination, he’ll probably lose the general election.” Megan smiled and said, “Rick, a month ago, you didn’t even know what ‘elitist’ meant. You just want to jump on the election band wagon because you know people who are supporting other candidates.” “Well, it’s better than being on the side lines doing nothin’. We need a man with experience in war and all that to see this Iraqi thing through.” retorted Rick. I didn’t want the the discussion to go all haywire so I tried changing the subject, I said, “So what do you guys want to do after lunch? I think we’re a bit ahead of schedule, and I’m bored sitting in the car all day.”
Kaitlin’s eyes sparkled and she jumped right on cue, “Ya, I saw the bulletin board by the door there, there was a flyer about some flea market we can go to. Why don’t we head there?” She was looking at Rick like a kid was asking for permission. Rick looked her in the eyes and said, “Ya, I guess we can do that. I reckon maybe we can pick up some gifts for your mom.” We paid the check and left for the flea market right outside St. Louis.
When we got there we parked the car in any spot we wanted to–there were plenty of open spots. (I like that about other cities–they have ample parking space. In New York, it’s a big dog fight.) When we were going around the stalls, no one asked us if we were from around there–they didn’t have to. I think we had “New York” written all over us–we walked fast, talked fast and Kaitlin was wearing the unofficial New York uniform–all black–plus, we all wore shades.
The people we met were interesting and friendly, some were farmers from nearby towns. They told us to drive carefully and to pay attention to weather reports. They told us about tornadoes. We talked about everyday things like gas prices, the economy, and of course the Yankees and Cardinals. I loved the fact that strangers can connect instantly by talking about simple things like baseball. Megan spoke to a middle aged couple about how she lost her job, they explained that things have been tough for people in St. Louis, too. Kaitlin and Rick went off to buy some souvenirs and jewelry.
We all came back refreshed–Megan and I met new people, which always makes us happy, Kaitlin had her shopping therapy, and Rick, well, Rick got to follow Kaitlin around. It was my turn to drive and we headed towards Springfield, MO for our next stop. It was a pleasant drive, I love long drives and I haven’t really been on the road for a while. It was almost like a mini vacation. When we got to Springfield, I decided to stop before we head over to Joplin, MO. Rick and Kaitlin were napping in the back seat, Kaitlin had her head on Rick’s shoulder and Rick had his on her head. They really looked cute together… maybe Rick finally found his match. Maybe this guy can settle down. Maybe we’ll have little Kaitlins and Ricks running around… oh, no. That’s gonna kill Uncle Bob! Imagine little Ricks and Kaitlins!
Our Springfield pit stop was a short one. We wanted to head to Joplin right away and have proper dinner. If we only knew what was waiting in Joplin! We went to the most bizarre diner I’ve ever been to. On the outside, the diner looked like any normal classic diner. Inside the decor looked a bit like that diner from Pulp Fiction. It even had those juke boxes you can play from your seat. I love them! Once we were inside everyone was so hungry we didn’t talk at all. We were looking over the menu, and overheard a conversation.
There was some sort of a trucker sitting on the counter who was recounting his tales of travel. He was a heavy set man, probably in his early 40s. At first I thought he was just a regular customer who was catching up with the people at the diner. Then I heard him say, “…and then there was my cousin Jimmy who was abducted when he was cow tippin’…” I looked up and Rick stared at me, I guessed he heard it too. “He disappeared for two days in the ranch,” the trucker continued, “ain’t nobody could find him. Then, he finally showed up at his house, just like that.”
I signaled for the waitress so we could order. “Well, at least he returned,” reassured the lady behind the counter. She was pouring coffee for the trucker. An elderly man left his seat and sat next to the trucker and said, “I was abducted by aliens, too. It was right after the war,” he didn’t have many teeth left. “They did all sorts of experiments on me and I can’t remember much. All I remembered was them bright lights and their BIG alien eyes…” the elderly man trailed off. By this point the whole diner was listening to the conversation. I had an uncanny feeling that we were the only outsiders there. The conversation went on and the four of us concentrated on finishing dinner.
Rick gulped down his steak and mashed potatoes as fast as he could. I saw that Kaitlin and Megan were doing the same. It’s a good thing that we were all hungry. A lady came by the cashier to pay her check and she joined in, “Oh ya, I was abducted too. And right after that, a month later, I found out that I was pregnant. I mean, what are the odds of that? My baby boy Billy is ’bout to go to school. He’s real smart, like ’em Einstein types, ya know?” Everyone in the diner leaned in, wanting to hear more of her story.
“Check please!” Rick yelled out. It startled us, but hey, we didn’t argue with him because we were ready to leave, too. I didn’t even finish my root beer! We got to the motel as fast as we could and locked the door. We decided to share a common room, just in case. Isn’t it funny how strange things bond us all together?
I miss Steve, he would’ve joined in on the conversation. But then again, it’s a good thing that he wasn’t with us–who knows how long we’d have been stuck in Joplin if he came. Anyway, I have to head to bed, tonight’s Zen quote also comes from Louis L’Amour he said, “To disbelieve is easy; to scoff is simple; to have faith is harder.” Maybe those people were really abducted by aliens, maybe the truth is out there, who knows. What’s your take on this?
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