In less than a month, I have created an extremely bad situation.
I stand on the shoulder and watch as Joe turns his van around and leaves, headed back to Midland. In fifteen minutes he and the boy will be home safe.
A minute before, he sat in his driver’s seat acting cool while my son tried to understand why this sudden change of plans had to take place. The expression on his young face showed that the three hundred-dollar bills I slipped in his hand before getting out could never justify what was going on. The truth is that giving the gift left me feeling totally helpless but very relieved.
The day has begun to warm already for this early December morning. As I point the bicycle south again, the haze of gray-green west Texas scrub is marred only by that familiar two-lane blacktop, that which disappears into the far horizon. Both appear bleak and empty. I cannot help but relive the recent events in my mind.
What was I thinking? The cute waitress already had a husband. The man was a sadistic drug-dealing biker who came into the diner often to sit without moving for hours at a time. He would watch her from behind a pair of mirrored sunglasses while she did her work, and often with two small children in tow that mimicked their dominating father. A pair of dreamers had dreamed of escaping her unhappy marriage together, this waitress and the cook. But that idea suddenly vaporized at dawn today.
A loud pounding on Joe’s front door had jarred me awake. I got up and parted a curtain at my bedroom window to see her sitting in the passenger seat of a car parked out at the curb. She looked either excited or elated -- I couldn’t tell exactly. But something sure didn’t seem right.
Then I saw the husband. The biker pounded hard on our door again, and that’s when I noticed the glove he had on his right fist. He wore a single black-leather and metal-studded glove, along with a big smile.
I reacted fast as panic exploded in my belly. I ran to wake Joe, and in hushed whispers asked him to go answer the door.
“What’s going on?”
My knees shook as I replied,
“Don’t ask -- just tell the guy outside I’m not here.”
Joe sneered at me after closing the front door, and then he asked what I planned on doing about that.
So now his van recedes in the distance, and I am on my way out of town. In less than a half-hour, my life turned a bad flip. But my hide still remains intact, and I feel safe for the present. I own this bike, a sleeping bag and my backpack, plus I have a couple of hundred dollars stuffed inside my pocket, so things could be a lot worse.
Now it looks as if a warm winter might be in store for me after all.
The next few days pass by uneventful. The nights spent camping out are as familiar as old friends, yet I keep checking back over my shoulder, for the dream I am having keeps troubling me.
Somewhere along the way I stop and phone Mrs. Dee. She agrees to forward my final paycheck to the one restaurant down in Corpus.
I breeze into the bluff city for the second time, but rather than find a job right away, I have a little side trip planned. What I want to do is ride up the coast toward Galveston while the weather is still nice. This way I can relax while putting more distance between myself and my concerns, plus I’ll have an ocean view to enjoy while allowing the check plenty of time to arrive.
I make camp each night in what looks like safe areas, and for the first three days, things go fine.