CHAPTER 6:
 
 
ROAD WORRIER
 
 
 
     Harold reached the Michigan/Indiana state line (with two-and-a-half cases of the swilled oil still seeping in the trunk), in about the time unexpected. Scrunching down in his car seat, he leaned forward towards the windshield (which was coated with a paste of dead bug carcasses, motor oil smoke residue and Midwestern dirt and dust…not to mention the booger that Harold tried to fling out of his drivers’ side vent window, but was relocated when a dragonfly tried to mate with it in mid-launch, then suddenly realized what a cheap date it had just encountered and dropped it at the first sign of its deliverance), placed a tattered small weave-basket that Aunt Penny had left on the floorboard onto the top of his head, then excitedly yelled into an invisible microphone that seemed to project out of the steering wheel hub, “HOME of theeeeeeeee Eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeendy FIVE Hundert!!!” At the point that the ’57 crossed the imaginary state line, Harold stomped both of his feet on the dusty floor mat. This subsequent action caused the muffler bracket that was attached to the tailpipe to dislodge itself underneath the driver’s compartment, ensued by a sonical backfire that echoed concentrically for a couple of miles out in ‘Farmer Land’. Harold giggled with glee, “Mario J. Foyt…I am he…and I am hell on wheels and…HEEEEEEEEERE I COME…Zzzzzing-p’doodle-fawengo-d’phoooosh-flung-pooh!” Throwing the tattered basket off of his head like a victory crown, which bounced around, then landed in the confines of the backseat floor. The determined driver suddenly sat erect in the automobile seat, leaned back prominently and began to orchestrate (with an imaginary baton) a bevy of corn gnats that had entered through the partially opened window while holding the vibrating steering wheel between his knees. After a couple of silent stanzas, Harold popped his right hand holding a ghost-pistol down towards a make-believe target that had been painted on the radio face grill and soon shot it with his drawn index finger, blurting forth, “KWAAAAA-BOOM, Sicko!”
     Snickering, Harold grabbed his high school football jersey from a pile of clothes resting on the back seat and started to breathe heavily on the driver’s window. He carefully wadded up the polyester athletic uniform and tried to wipe off the smudgy fog from the inside of the glass. His attempt was somewhat successful, compared to the outside of the windshield, along with the front grill, headlights, dimmer lights, hood, antenna, side mirror and front bumper, was a messy graveyard of grasshoppers, butterflies, moths, corn gnats, stink beetles, couple bugs, mosquitos, dragonflies, fireflies, wasps and tumblebugs (plus the discarded solitary booger) which had met their maker.
     Once in a while, a dim light could be seen shining through the window of a farmhouse off to the right or to the left. Usually enveloped in a small clump of trees with leaves fluttering in the streams of wind, the light would throw long beams and shadows across the expanse of fields that separated it from the road. On the longer road trips, Harold would try to count how many of those farm lights he could find during the different hours of early morning driving and subsequently record them in a diary that he had kept inside of the rusted-out glove compartment. He liked to compare how many of those little old ladies were getting up at various times from season to season, while his family drove on Highway 94. He thought about those brave little old housewives awaking so early on those frosty winter mornings just to fix their lazy old husbands some pots of fresh ground coffee, a pound of saturated bacon, scrambled natural brown eggs and a couple of pieces of toast; or, those stout little old hags rising a couple of hours before the hint of sunshine on those sweltering summer mornings to fix their shiftless old fartbags a caffeine brew, a bowl of natural-grain cereal, with freshly chopped walnuts and dehydrated fruit, complete with a pound of freshly lard-fried pork sausages and buttered grits. He thought of how the only thanks that those old ladies were ever likely to get was the quiet peace of a husband who sat around in a stained undershirt holding his crank in front of the television drinking Harley’s beer and watching round-the-clock farm reports mixed with reruns of Monday Night Football highlights. He realized also that he was nothing more to them than just another pair of headlights passing by without a muffler attached.
     The car radio sputtered and started picking up some extraneous static, probably from some distant pirate station out in Bovineburg township, in which Harold struck the speaker again with the hammer. A small chunk of inflamed steel shot across his face, bounced off of the driver’s side window and fell with an audible sizzle into his Whiz-O Ice Freeze glass filled with three-day-old Happy Time Root Beer.
     “DAMN, damn, damn,” Harold shouted before he finally grabbed the window lever and rolled down the glass pane to toss the dead liquid out.
     “Darn, DAMN, darn-diddly-SHITHOLE!!!” he yelled again when the sticky spray was blown back through the opened window, soaking his head and upper body quadrant; forming a gooey-brown, resilient film on the cars’ cracked rear-view mirror. His face flushed with anger as he swiped the football letter jacket from the passenger side seat and frenetically tried to dry his hair, face and shoulders with it. He tossed the soppy flannel-acrylic lined athletic memorabilia onto the floorboard and reached over to roll the window back up into its proper position. When the window was about three-quarters shut, something snapped and he was left holding the plastic knob that had just stripped loose. Fuming in pubescent frustration, he grabbed the top of the window with both hands, while trying to steer the weaving ’57 with his knees, grunting and straining to lift the broken apparatus further. Upon hearing one of the springs dislocating inside of the driver-side door compartment, he quickly let go of the semi-transparent shield, which resulted in the window falling further down and eventually fixing itself in a cockeyed position half-way down the door frame. Harold steered the automobile back into its proper lane and commenced to stare into the imaginary heavens. Barely distinguishable from the creeping light of mildewy dawn was a narrow band of cirrostratus clouds that had just developed in the atmosphere; however, the twinkling stars were soon filtered from view. (?!?)
     Over the next hill a dim golden brown light was shining by the side of the road. It was an actual billboard sign…a rarity of sorts along this long, lonesome stretch of road. Harold squinted his eyes nearly shut, attempting to read the faint advertisement. He craned his head up to the windshield until his forehead was flattened against the filmy glass.
     “Let’s see…ugh…’Zak’s Motel and Cafetorium – Open: 1 p.m. to 12 Noon – 23 Hours! Straight ahead at the curve, by the windmill with one propeller painted grapette-red…only 47 miles! Turn right before the Peabody exit…pea’body…pee’body…pee’booty…HOOT’n TOOT!” Harold shook his head back and forth, then laughed out loud when he noticed that somebody had spray-painted ‘IGMO, THE WONDER PIG’ in large candy-pink letters across the bottom half of the sign. A couple of miles further, another billboard appeared on the right side of the farm road, blazed with two floodlights:
 
ZAK’S AUTO SHOPPE
 
“Everything Your Car SHOULD Have…But, DOESN’T!”
 
41 miles ahead…after the Windmill
 
Well, it’s Saturday night and I just got paid,
Fool about my money, don’t try to save,
My heart says go go, have a time,
Saturday night and I’m feelin’ fine,
 
I’m gonna rock it up, I’m gonna rip it up,
I’m gonna shake it up, gonna ball it up,
I’m gonna rock it up, and ball tonight…[1]
 
 
 
 
     Harold hummed and bobbed his head to the Little Richard tune, tapping the hammer’s peen against the steering wheel in a rhythm completely unsyncopated with that of the old 1956 song. ‘What an outstanding station,’ Harold thought as he was inordinately pleased with the selections he had been hearing on the acoustically distorted radio. Some of these songs he hadn’t heard in ages. Let’s see…he was six years old when his brother, Shaven, was stillborn…some of them he hadn’t heard in a dozen years! Continuing his mental colloquy, he surmised that he hadn’t heard any chatter out of the ‘talk box’, either. The potato farmer that subbed as a disc jockey must’ve eaten a load of cheese the night before he moonlighted on the radio station due to the extended play of the musical numbers, or possibly ran out of corn husks he used as toilet paper. No news. No sports. No talkie shows with a couple of idiots calling in to blather about their horse and bull trying to mate with each other, weeds growing out of their commodes, why the coach for the Spankville girls volleyball team should be fired for lathering up his players before the start of each game, or another impromptu sighting of Elvis at some trailer park in which he appeared to them inside of their bathrooms’ porcelain heater grill. For God’s sake, it was bad enough to have to lick the paste on the back of his head every time you wanted to send a letter in the mail. Sometimes Harold just wished that people would just let the dude stay dead…OURP!
 
 
 
 
[1] Little Richard, “Rip It Up” (Robert Blackwell, John Marascalco)
Song: Chap. 6