I'm currently writing my first novel (a rather odd undertaking, but turning out to be wildy enlightening), a fictional assortment of ten years travelling the world under bizarre influences. This is an excerpt from Capter one in its first draft. I'm on chapter three at the moment and just getting through the first year. The story is told from a random mixture of experiences and encounters. Writing a book is just a matter of writing, not much else behind it...where it leads is anybody's guess. For the time being my only objective is to be able to say that I have written it. Enjoy!
Part 1 - Chapter 1 (excerpt):
My name is Ray Jaye, I’m a hopeless wanderer in search of a Lost America and this is my story of a liquid filled dream twenty five years running. It was 1986, I think, and it must have been fall time because I was freezing that morning when I woke up cramped in the backseat of my Oldsmobile. These were the waning days of of a soon to be lost American freedom. By now most had sold out to the new ideal of skintight foreign synthetics, bubbly French water, and high interest rate mortgages made possible by the Savings & Loans banks. Freedom had faded into the past like an old pair of desert shoes forgotten in the back of the closet by this point. But, it was still held onto by the bold few who dared speak of such archaic ideas. George HW Bush was about to be officially elected for the first time and his war on drugs was kicking into high gear. I was a lone fighter behind enemy lines, serving as an anonymous fifth column in the struggle for the mere right to choose my own method of inebriation. It was a vain struggle, but a necessary illusion to make it worthwhile for a twenty year old in search of something real.
The day before, I remember, was warm like summer but with longer shadows and an earthy nuance that reminded me I didn’t have a coat. Whenever I remember I don’t have a coat it means winter is near and I must run south, but I was heading north this time in quite a disoriented fashion. I had just woken up from a year long trip that I only faintly remembered by the stale whiff that lingered from my duffle bag whenever I unzipped it to look in vain for a left-over sandwhich or maybe some change that had fallen out of my pants. I knew I was waking up by the sudden rush of senses that had not been present since leaving my hometown behind me fourteen months earlier. I was remembering, feeling temperature and hunger, smelling, and after what happened next, I was seeing also. Taste had yet to manifest itself because I was out of smokes, nearly broke, and only had a bottle of milky tap water that I filled up two days before somewhere around Atlanta.
No sooner did I awake then another trip was about to begin in a rusty 1971 two-door Pontiac Ventura. It was sky blue with patches of body filler and a caved in passenger door. It had Ohio tags, but I have never been to Ohio. I was sitting outside a truckstop on Interstate 77 somewhere around Rock Hill, South Carolina when I received this gift. My other car had shit the bed sometime just before this and I didn’t have the money to fix it. I was on my second day at this miserable watering hole when out of nowhere appeared a stange petite man with brill creamed black hair parted painfully to one side and a flaking thick mustache that was unkept with straggler hairs hanging over his lip. He was in his fourties and talked like a televangelist who was going through hard times.
He put out his hand, calling himself Rick Johnson. His accent wasn’t southern, more midwestern with a hint of dry gin lingering in the background like a coverup of something far darker than I cared to consider that morning. I remember the name ringing on and on in my head like an unconvincing insurance salesman’s pitch repeated from door to door. “I see you haven’t been able to get your car started this morning. Today is your lucky day son, I want to give you a hand”, he said ever so politely. I was in no position to tell him to fuck off, after all that pastorly part in his hair was surely one of integrity and this man could be my ticket out of here. So, I heard him out. He made me an offer I couldn’t refuse under the circumstances, and he did so in such an openhearted manner that I quickly jumped on the proposal regardless that his shoes were scuffed and torn as though he had leaped over a fence and snagged them while running from a bank robbery. He offered me his car as an even exchange for mine. His was running, mine wasn’t. “Who was I to refuse, after all, that brill cream is so shiny and well thought out?”, I thought to myself. I was mesmerized by his dandruffy appearance but knowing full well this was a stinky can of worms just waiting to be opened. “Okay, fine”, I said, “but I’ll have you know that the timing chain is gone and it’ll cost a couple hundred bucks to fix it”. “No problem, I know a good mechanic near here who owes me a favor and I’ll get it up and running in no time”, was his confident response.
We signed over the paperwork with some frightening legal jargon that made no sense while bent over the hood of a car in a South Carolina truckstop. Sure, whatever, at least I had the keys to a running vehicle regardless of it being highly suspicious or not. We shoke hands and I quickly transferred my belongings from my other car to the new one. He had nothing to remove from his car. Blue, my stout little red nose pit bull, took his rightful position in the passenger seat. I turned the key and we were off once again.
It wasn’t until we arrived to the Roanoke Valley in Western Virginia later that day that I realized this was going to be a long ride north. I had stopped for gas about three hours out of Rock Hill when the baldheaded attendant advised me I had no brake lights. After putting three gallons of gas in the car I was broke so I couldn’t change the bulbs. I could only hope those three gallons would get me to Lynchburg by nightfall. I had a friend there who might be able to give me a hand or at least buy a few hits of acid for gas money. Maine was still well over a thousand miles ahead and the only means I had was half a vile of liquid LSD to get me there. It was after five o’clock when I pulled out of the truckstop. I had fifty three cents in my pocket, a hungry dog, an empty belly and an urge to give up right then and there. But, I pulled onto the highway and stepped on the gas. I couldn’t have gone more than two miles when there was a sudden vibration in the steering wheel and then a loud blast that sounded like an evening stroll through Harlem I experienced a year before. I pulled the car over to the side to inspect the damage, it turned out to be a flat tire of course, beyond repair. Upon opening the trunk I then discovered my luck was surely left back in Biloxi with that cute little belle who offered me a place to stay through the winter. Of course, I was restless and had to get moving so I didn’t accept her offer. Now I was thinking twice about turning back, it wasn’t to late to make up for my walking out three days before and besides, the car I was in had no spare tire. I was screwed halfway between here and there.
Here I was with a suspicous looking car that wasn’t mine, a flat tire, no money, and a hungry dog who was pawing at what looked to be a freshly flattened possum on the side of the road. It was getting dark quickly and I needed to get off the highway to avoid any run-ins with the law. Did I mention that my driver’s license was suspended and a warrant issued for my arrest in Florida a month before? Either way, that was the least of my worries, I needed to get under cover soon. So, I jumped back in and proceeded to hobble my way to the next exit in hopes of finding some other solution. Little did I know what would await me a mile up the road.
There was no filling station, no truck stops, and no telephones at the exit I took – just one lone house sitting off the road with a dirt driveway leading up to it. The house was of typical southern style, unpainted clapboards, a falling porch and a tire swing hanging from a tree to the left side. Out front there were five cars and a primered Chevy 4x4 with a huge motor winch sitting over the hood. I was imagining Ned Beaty’s horror in Deliverence. I rolled the car into the driveway, cautious of who might inhabit this place. As soon as I pulled in a pack of unkept dogs surrounded the car and my little Blue was going wild. It turns out, Blue was the one who would save my day. The front screen door flew open and a tall lanky fellow in his thirties with greasy blonde hair and soiled jeans stepped out screaming at the dogs. They must know better than to ignore him because they quickly withdrew and went off to doing whatever they were doing before my arrival. He approached the car before I had a chance to get out. He looked at me with a supicious eye from under a rebel flag bandana he had tied around his forehead and my first thought was to turn around and run like hell. However, the rim was bent so badly I was in no position to do anything of the sort. Luckily, I had a pit bull and a pair of jeans myself so I didn’t appear to menacing and in hindsight, I fit right in. I rolled the window down and introduced myself with a vain attempt at a southern accent. His name was “Eunace”, he said, with a nasal sort of one syllable drawl that made me want to crack a joke. But this wasn’t the time for southern jokes so I stepped out of the car and put my hand out to shake his. He stared for a moment at my hand and then slowly put his forward. “Today is your lucky day”, he said. I stopped dead in my tracks and thought how bizarre it was to have heard this twice in the same day while at once having second thoughts about what luck really means in the first place. “I see ya gotcha a flat tire there”, he said while peering over the side of the car. “For twenty dollars I can put ya a new on and have ya on yer way in no time”. My luck had once again been taken away – he surely wouldn’t accept a few hits of LSD in place of money, yet I had nothing else to offer him. “Well, ya, I do have a flat. But, I don’t have any money I’m afraid. Is there any other way I can pay you?” He looked at the car, stuck his head in the passenger window and said, “well, them bucket seats are in pretty good shape and they’ll fit nice in the Nova I’m rebuilding”. I was suddenly wondering how the hell I was going to drive with no seats even if I had repaired the tire. “Sounds good to me, they’re yours”, I said without pausing to reconsider the implications.
It was already night time when I began unbolting the seats and Eunace was off trying to rig a rim with an old used tire he had stored in the garage. It turns out the Nova and Ventura are identical cars and the rim bolted up easily. The tire wasn’t in the best shape but it looked like it might get me as far as Maine if I drive easy on it. He continued to mount the new wheel and I pulled out the remaining passenger seat, still wondering how on earth I was going to drive this car with two big empty holes in the cabin. He didn’t seem to care. When I finally unfastened the last seat and struggled to get it out, a small baggy fell on the ground beside the car. I dropped the seat to inspect the little bag further. It looked all to familiar and I raised an eyebrow as I picked it up from the driveway. To my delight it held a handful of pungent green buds! Surely the greasy televangelist wouldn’t have forgot this, he didn’t look like the type. I began to wonder if the car was stolen but quickly changed my thoughts to avoid the paranoia that would follow. Eunace turned around and smiled when he saw what was in my hand. “Hell boy! Why didn’t you say you had some weed? We could have saved you all that work pulling out them seats.” I wondered if it was worth giving up in return for my seats. After all, they were already out of the car and I didn’t have any will to put them back in now. I made a new offer. “You can keep the seats”, I said, looking around the yard, “in exchange for that old plastic lawn chair and twenty bucks”. With this money I could get some gas, a meal for Blue and I, and maybe even a pack of smokes to ease the tension of this trip. The chair, well, I needed something to sit on while I drove.
He only had seventeen dollars, I accepted and shook his hand in gratitude. It was late already and I couldn’t get on the road without brake lights so I asked him if it was okay to camp out in his driveway until morning, explaining the light problems I had. I knew this way too that the police wouldn’t bother me, the last thing I needed at the moment. He went to the garage and came back with two bulbs and changed them for me, the lights still didn’t work – it was a wiring problem and this couldn’t be fixed easily so he agreed to let me spend the night. It was getting chilly so I pulled out my sleeping bag and began to prepare my bed in the remaining back seat of the car. Eunace stored his new seats in the garage, took his bag of weed and headed inside, leaving me there with Blue wrapped up in the back seat. I was starving and tempted to knock on his door for one more favor, but I had already asked for to much so I tried to hold on. Fortunately, as it had been all day, today was my lucky day.
Eunace came out with a bowl of canned Dinty Moore beef stew, he didn’t bother to heat it. He just handed it to me without saying anything and leaned against my car taking a long haul off the joint he had rolled from the surprise baggy that fell out of the passenger seat. “Boy, this sure is some sweet weed my friend, want some?” I left the stew for a moment and took a couple of hits. It seemed more appealing at that moment than even food. Suddenly all my troubles seemed so far away, my eyelids grew heavier, and I remembered why I was on this journey - to find out life from the bottom of the barrell. We exchanged a few pleasantries, I thanked him once again and then continued with my stew while Blue was sitting in the car looking at me with those puppy dog eyes of “please leave some for me”. I dropped the spoon and like always, gave him half. Eunace walked off towards the house screaming at the dogs to go lay down and shut the door behind him. I never saw him after that.
The next morning I loaded the lawn chair into the car only to discover it was to high, so I busted the legs off and then it was to low. After fidgeting with my duffle bag I managed to position it at a sufficient height to be able to drive, albeit wobbling and sliding but still high enough so as not to draw attention. I figure once I was on the road I wouldn’t be swaying and shaking so it should hold in place. What a sorry sight to see…a seatless car with no brake lights, a caved in passenger door and primer patches scattered over the rusting body. Oh well, I was on my way once again, ready to leave the south in my wake and the rising sun on my back. But no, I still had to stop in Lynchburg to dump some acid before continuing north. I stopped for ten dollars in gas a short ways up Interstate 77, bought some filling snacks, walked the dog, and we were off to Lynchburg.
That morning everything was going smoothly, the car was runnning good, it was a warm sunny morning, our bellies were full and my destination was getting closer with every mile marker passed. I only wished I had a radio in the car to break up the silence and rumble of the rusted exhaust pipe. Finally, I saw the first sign indicating Lynchburg was ahead – only 67 miles to go! I stepped on the pedal a bit more and in under an hour I was pulling off the highway in search of my friend Charlie’s house.
Charlie lived off his parents back then. He did so under one condition, that he attend a christian university. He was accepted the year before to attend Liberty University, the home of Jerry Falwell’s evangelist empire and was studying psychology. Of all majors at a christian university, psychology seemed the most comical. But there he was, living it up at his parents expense and mocking the whole christian gig as has always been his style. He would later be expelled for allegedly distributing high grade LSD at campus parties, I had only a little to do with that of course. Anyway, today would be the first time I see Charlie since I took off hitchiking during our junior year in high school. Not much had changed for either of us and we always stayed in touch even though our paths had not crossed since then. Today that was all about to change. I had been four days since dropping a huge dose after leaving Biloxi and now that I was meeting up with Charlie, it was time for another trip. Only this time with him and some rather awkward college kids who had no idea what they were in for upon my sky blue arrival.