Chapter 13:
 
 
ROAD err’AGE
 
 
 
     Harold smiled faintly at the silly little ditty from that 1973 commercial, which had always been one of his all-time favorites on his second-hand-me-down black-and-white television set. He grabbed a Kleenex® and tried to blow his nose in time to the jingle playing presently on the radio. Sitting up straight in the car seat and readjusting the rear-view mirror, he concentrated on driving cautiously and conscientiously, though he still gripped the wadded Kleenex® tightly as if it was a great comfort to him through his amorous trials and misunderstandings.
     Traveling west on Highway 6, the discombobulated reflection of the sun through the grimy rear window and rear-view mirror almost blinded Harold as he tried to read the road sign that was approaching, “Now, whatta we have here…Wawaka…ugh, man, I can’t see…three miles…intersection of Highway 9…ummm, HERE! Oh, grippity groin nuggets, I gotta turn left, right here!” Turning in the direction toward his school, Harold eventually would receive a nice, golden sunburn on the left side of his face and forearm from the exposure to the ultra-violet rays being magnified through his driver’s side window. Considering that this might seem imprudent at the other diner and petrol stops he had to make along his journey, he grabbed the emergency underwear tucked beneath the passenger seat, dug out remnants of ‘a-b-c’ gum around the nooks and crevices of the plastic-covered automobile seat cushion and pasted the off-white ‘Fruit of the Gloom’ onto the root beer splattered and stained roof upholstery above the partially-opened window. He was satisfied, knowing that he wouldn’t look so silly to other strangers with only a partial suntan. Now that the sun was in full bloom, Harold had a much more enlightened perception of his immediate surroundings. Many multi-colored butterflies, a few fat green grasshoppers and a nimbus cloud of coupled love bugs were fighting against the cool morning breeze and the violent vehicle-inflicted blusters, trying to avoid the swat of glass or steel that could effortlessly smear them onto that quiet and morose plane. Under the influence of solar radiation, the remaining clouds were slowly beginning to burn away and the sky was donning its flaming blue aura. The morning sun’s translucent rays danced about on the gently swaying maples and elms, and the occasional shaft of light would pass through the leaves, shimmering on the blanket of cool, damp grasslands far below. It almost made Harold start to cry. It felt like a Midwestern troubadour’s wet dream…
 
 
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plane!
America, America
God shed His grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea![1]
 
 
     Harold wiped the moisture from his eyes with his fingers as he noticed a couple of rabbits hopping around by the road, foraging for some food to provide their daily nourishment and sustain them through the upcoming fall and winter storms. Harold began to feel very relaxed on this early morning at the end of August, also. He realized how much he appreciated everything that his uncle Red, uncle Froogle and Marlin Perkins had taught him about the instinctive nature of animals in the wilds and their relationship with their own environment. He pondered the similarities in the ways that humans and wild untamed animals each depended upon their environment for their very existence; although, the animals seemed to live in cohesiveness with nature, while humans tried to live in spite of it. Suddenly, the sky’s marvelous colors caught his attention and he stared, transfixed by the uniquely beautiful horizon spread out before him. It was breathtaking. He relaxed a tad bit further, smiled in appreciation, then cut one of the greasiest farts of this evolutionary era before continuing to thank God for such a blessed morning of happiness and newly discovered tranquility.
     A repeated honking of a car horn came from his driver’s side direction. This horn wasn’t like most of the ‘blow jobs’ that he’d experienced before while on the tarmac; but, more like a bicycle horn with a baritone bellow. He lifted up his faded underwear, squinted his eyes and noticed a Volkswagen full of modern day hippies hacking and coughing as they were slowly passing by. Harold gave the free-spirits the thumbs up, thinking that he would appear to them as being a really ‘cool dude’, instead of some careless idiot clouding the immediate environment with his own poisonous exhaust emissions. One of the scraggly long-haired occupants in the other car made a makeshift sign out of a cardboard poster, hung it out of their passenger side window and thrust it in Harold’s direction as they maneuvered the ‘V-W’ on the passing lane of the highway. The ‘57’s misalignment nearly ran the other vehicle into a culvert as he tried to read the message through his flapping briefs, “YOU’RE…KILLING…OUR…PLANET! Now, that’s funny! One guy killing a whole planet without any opposition! Stupid! I wonder what Dr. Strangelove would say about that?” He veered the asphyxiatingly smokin’ Chevy Bel Air back into its lane and started to play around with the radio knobs again, hoping to catch another one of those rural oldies stations. In the meantime, the Volkswagen sat in a smoldering heap of gaseous fumes created from his uncle’s home-manufactured combustible engine, stuck in a grassy roadside gully from which its fate was sealed after crossing paths with Harold during that point in time. Harold began to daydream about one of his all-time favorite picture shows that he saw seventeen weeks after its opening release: ‘Star Wars’. He mouthed off the orchestrated elements from the movie’s soundtrack, then quipped seriously, “Fluke…it is your destiny.” He then tried to emulate Hans Solo’s sidekick ‘Chewbacca’, guiding the Millennium Falcon, while watching an X-rated version of ‘The Shaggy D.A.’
     Harold straightened back up in the crinkly, clear plastic-covered automobile seat. He glanced back down at the familiar surface on which he sat, and was momentarily fascinated by the quantity and variety of stuff caught between the transparent cover and the upholstery, besides the partially sticky remnants of ‘a-b-c’ gum globules. There were pennies, cigarette butts and burnt black-headed matches , flattened wadded-up tissues, a couple of broken pencils, a straw and a miniature paper umbrella from his junior prom party, and a myriad of unidentifiable bits. He had a sudden memory of a science lesson about prehistoric bugs trapped for millions of years in a matrix of petrified amber. He tried to remember the estimated life span of polyvinyl resin plastic, hoping that in a couple of geologic eras or so, the car seat might be displayed in a museum exhibit somewhere, as an example of life on earth in the primitive twentieth century.
     He gazed at the soiled Kleenexes beneath the plastic and realized that he would have to dig them out of there sooner or later. Harold rubbed his chin and barked, “LATER!” He did decide to throw away the used tissues that had collected on the floor, on the seat, on the dash, in the glove compartment, above the sun visors, stuffed in the ash trays and the one that had blown under the gas pedal. Eventually, Harold had them all, except the one stuck under the accelerator pedal. His lucky ‘8-ball’ had been rolling around the floorboard and tissue wads like a scared and hungry mouse trying to find the cheese at the end of a laboratory maze. He was attempting to steer with his left hand full of old ratty tissues, keep his eyes on the roadway, keep his foot on the gas pedal and try to pry that one stubborn Kleenex® tissue jammed in the accelerator apparatus with the other free hand. At one point, he stepped on his fingers, causing him to jerk against the pedal, gunning the automobile off of the road and over an innocent wooden country mailbox. It was then that he realized two things: one was that he could do a lot of damage to himself, to his only mode of transportation, to someone else, to someone else’s property, or all of the above; the alternative was that he had forced the Kleenex® several inches up under the floor mat, and that seemed like a damn good home for that damn stupid  piece of crap! He felt around, then snatched his lucky ‘8-ball’ from rolling under his car seat, jammed it through a small tear on the passenger side seat cover, and proudly fleamed, “GOTCHA! You ain’t ridin’ outta here now, Tex! Not wid outta fight, hombre! Ya hear?” The billiard ball sat unresponsive, bulging up like a boil on the ‘Jolly Green Giant’s’ butt.
     Assiduously, Harold coaxed the car back onto its course, as he prepared to throw the mass of petrified soiled tissues out of the window. He remembered that “littering” had always seemed to bother him somewhat, but his grandfather had told him not to worry: “Son, that form of paper is biodegradable,” his dad’s dad quoted, “and besides, those pesky mud daubers will use it to panel their homes! Har, har, har…eh, har, har, harrrrrrrrr!”
     “What a peck of horse hockey!” Harold retorted to himself. He tossed the double handful of used frazzled Kleenexes out of the opening at the top of the window and watched in the cracked rear-view mirror as they fluttered and cavorted their way out into the great outdoors. He was just about to look back at the road in front of him when he noticed a tiny red dot that was growing rapidly larger and clearer in the reflection of the mirror. He glanced ahead for a short moment, then as he looked back in the mirror, the dot had expanded into a brand new, custom built, fire engine red Corvette convertible. As the car’s spotless shark nose pulled up even with his own bug-splattered grille, he noticed the bright mag wheels and heard the throaty rumble of the car’s powerful L82 overhead valve 350 cubic-inch pushrod V8 engine through its dual exhaust pipes; but, what really caught his attention were the two silver-haired occupants (complete with a pair of primped hairless Chihuahuas leashed in the cramped rear seat) and their wild garb. The driver was wearing a purple evening gown and a string of white pearls around her neck, wrapped in a silver fox mink stole. The passenger had on a huge brown raccoon coat, a red and black striped scarf that streamed out behind her, and a pair of oversized pink diamond-studded sunglasses. Just as Harold felt his effete tires hit the lane dividers, the Corvette suddenly dropped back to avoid a head-on collision with oncoming traffic. He replaced his car into the proper lane as the red ‘Vette pulled up alongside of him again. His ’57 vibrated softly when the other vehicle gunned its engine (Harold calculated at about 6500 r.p.m.), but he stubbornly refused to look back over at the old spinsters, fearing their ridicule. In a wash of dêjâ-vu, he was back in Battle Creek, riding his father’s turquoise and rust Schwinn bicycle to intermediate school. It had the complete wrap-around fenders, double-wide seat, mirrors, rear reflector and a jingle-bell signal attached to the wide handlebars. Oh, those terrible mornings when his own friends would make him the butt of all their jokes. It seemed so out of place, because he could whip their asses at a pool table, yet they would vindictively harrow him aboard that beautiful bike. They scooted around on their spider bikes, Harley look-alikes or custom-designed pimp peddlers, while Harold would continue to play the scapegoat for all those unforgivable, upper-class
 
 
HONK – HONK – HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONK !!!
 
 
     Harold jumped violently in his seat, whacking his head on the headliner, then slowly directed his gaze over at the old women and yapping mutts in the Corvette. He glanced back at the road, shook his head in disbelief, then turned his head slowly and deliberately to stare back at the red car and the feminine waste laughing inside. He felt very strange driving alongside those two old nonconformists, and had an urge to say something to them for making him feel so perplexed.
     “HELLO THERE…Ummmmm, GRANNIES,” he yelled, “HEY…ugh…WHAT’S HAPPENIN’?”
     In reply, the driver stuck her ancient arthritic claw up through the open convertible top and gave Harold the universal thumbs-up signal for a drag race.
     Harold looked back at them with a disdainful ‘you gotta be kidding, cause I’d whip your ass’ kind of expression.
     The passenger with the pink glasses turned, petted one of the spoiled little yippity-yappers and whispered something into its ear which made its tail wag rousingly, grabbed her window and stuck her wrinkled nose over it like some demented Kilroy. “C’mon, you wimp of a squirt,” she shrilled, “you stinky litterbuggin’ hoodlum, you ungrateful know-it-all, you young whipper-“
     “C’MON, YOU MOTHER-HUMPIN’ COCK-SPUNKIN’ PEACH FUZZ-ASSED BLUE-BALLED BASTARD!” screamed the driver. She glared back at Harold and abruptly slammed the accelerator to the Corvette floorboard, making the new car diminish once again into a small red dot on the horizon.
     “Jeeeeez…” Harold mumbled, while imagining his grandmother Ga Ga Poon, doing the two-step on top of her grave. Unaware of his own car riveting on top of the lane dividers, as was this common practice on his newfangled well-worn Fisk brand tires that were about a tenth of a millimeter from completely exploding into a disorganized concoction of steel, resin and blistered rubber, he stared open-mouthed down the highway as the red dot disappeared into the distance.
     As he slumped back down into the seat, Harold started thinking again of his father’s bicycle and his friend Goodie that was slouched over the handlebars. No matter how valiantly he peddled, Harold was never able to get his intoxicated friend home before he puked all over Harold’s lap, creating some rills of vomit that would trickle down his pant legs and cover his socks and tennis shoes. He quickly grabbed the half-empty Kleenex® box, because of some stressful nausea developing in his stomach, then rested his chin against his plaid shirt collar and breathed out a deadly sigh, staring blankly at the broken radio face. His jaws started to tingle and the drool started to dribble out of the corner of his mouth. Passing under some radio tower lines, a distant country and western station interrupted the golden oldies selection that had been lost during the preceding episode…
 
 
Shotgun Willie
Sits around in his underwear
Biting on a bullet
And pulling out all of his hair
Shotgun Willie
Got all of his family there…[2]
 
 
     All of a sudden, all of those forlorn memories bombarded his physical and mental vacuum at the same time, creating an acute case of encephaloplexia. Harold lost it…
 
 
 
 
WAA-A-A-A-RFFF!!!
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
[1] “America The Beautiful” (Katharine Lee Bates)
[2] Willie Nelson, “Shotgun Willie” (Willie Nelson)
Song: Ch.13-1
Song: Ch.13-2
End: Chap. 13