September 1998
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Shucksters On the Road

Part 2 of 3

Fiction by Adam Bresson

See last month's wacky installment

We didn't have a real plan for where to sleep. In our wildest dreams we thought each night we'd end up in bed with some Midwestern sweetheart eager to make good with the big LA superstars. No such luck in Arizona.

We were rushing into the night without an idea. We drove South into Nogales, Mexico, thinking the hotels would be cheap and the beers cheaper. When we got to the border we parked and walked over the decaying bridge into the Mexican city which is built into the cliffs. It was dead. Like a ghost town. Jeff was feeling bleary-eyed so we asked a hotel owner how much the rate was. Scared by the lack of English, we shuffled off. Washout international trip.

We headed back up North to Ojo, a sleepy town outside of the heartland of Arizona. I had spotted a rest stop where we'd crash for the night and sleep in the car. The whole ride up Jeff slept, leaving me bored and lonely on barren Route 19 up from Nogales. Jeff sniffled and turned in the seat next to me and I wondered for the first time if this trip was a good idea.

Good ideas are highly underrated. They truly come in fits of ecstatic planning that rage into the night. That was what the trip was about. Riders on the storm. Music and food. Random interludes with innocent local girls. Maybe a few numbers, a few addresses never written to. So damn heroic.

I pulled the car into the rest stop and prodded Jeff awake. He had some drool streaming down his chin making a break for his shorts. I got out of the car and went to the trunk to grab my pajamas and was startled by the wild sounds of the Arizona mountains. We were pressed up against some very large hills with mountain lions and coyotes catcalling in the wind. Jeff didn't want to get out and change (he thought I'd watch him), so he slept in his clothes. I nestled into the driver's seat and saw some eyes in the bushes. I locked the door and sort of slept the night away.

In the morning, I awoke to see two cops fifteen feet behind us. I froze. They were staring at us, apparently they didn't like the way we were resting. I didn't move but shocked Jeff awake and we planned our alibis. Had they caught up with us from the restaurant? Seen us steal gas? Not approved of our thoughtful road signs? Face the demon head on. I got out of the car.

Of course, I was wearing pajamas. A happy little pair I had picked up at a department store with cute, old-fashioned skis and snowshoes on them. They seemed to be just the friendly ice-breaker I needed with the cops. Jeff sat fearful in the drivers seat. Walking back to the trunk with confidence, I suddenly changed my plan. Ignore them. Ignore the hell out of them. Let them reconcile their hatred of the straying and wicked and just watch me-- me in my pajamas, me with my smug smile-- go to my trunk and pretend they don't exist. Except for a little wave, I did nothing but get my clothes and went back in my car.

-Jeff: "What the f**k do you think you are doing?"

-Scott: "Evasive action. Stimulation through zero direct contact."

-Jeff: "They're going to burn us at the stake!"

The coppers got into their car and left.

-Scott: "Or not."

Jeff and I had narrowly escaped (in our minds). He changed and we headed for New Mexico.

On the way out of Arizona, we were overwhelmed with signs that read, "What is The Thing?" and "The Thing is only 231 miles away." We were intrigued. Was it naked? Was it evil? After the two-hundredth sign we decided to check it out. We paid the inflationary price of fifty-cents (boy, you know it's got to be good!) and took the self-guided tour. The path was littered with straw and trash. A thin yellow line guided us through the festival. Unfortunately, there was nothing to see. One room had what looked like an alien made of papier-mache holding a martini glass and toasting the fake farm sunset painted on the wall. Another room had an authentic Hitler car with very German looking men peeking over the top of it and what I would assume to be maps to concentration camps comically spread throughout the car's interior. But the grand finale, the THING, was actually a mummified person in a coffin that the owners of this amazing attraction claimed was King Nesfaratu himself, Dracula--his belly glowed yellowish-orange with the evil incarnate of a GE lightbulb.

We were not impressed. We snapped some pictures for posterity and drove off. The heat was burning us. My car didn't have a sun roof so we roasted on the Interstate. I had a clever idea-- let's go for a swim. Unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico was two hundred miles away. No problem. There were Best Westerns at every exit.

We pulled off at some no name town and parked in front of a bright, shiny new Best Western. We went around to the trunk and changed into our bathing suits; I wore a navy and maroon one, Jeff black and florescent yellow. We threw on some flipflops and grabbed our towels and walked over to the pool.

"No admittance unless you are a guest of Best Western." We took this as a suggestion. As the boasting sun of the Southwest cut into our pours and teased sweat out, we threw off our shirts, jumped arching just right in the air and glided into the cool water.

A hotel guest, who had watched our little ruse from the beginning, asked us if we were staying in the hotel. Quick thinking. I said, "Yes. We're staying with our best friend blah, blah, blah." I pointed to a very attractive woman sitting on the other end of the pool. She nodded. Hot damn!

Jeff and I swam for a couple of hours and sunned like pudgy little sea lions on the plastic chairs. We thought long and hard about our next destination. We napped the afternoon away. We never got the name of that woman who covered for us and she floated right away.

We stopped that night in Silver City because we liked the name so much. It was most definitely a small town. A local bar, Motel 6 and a hardware store justified its inclusion on a map of New Mexico. This was the first night we were going to stay in a hotel on "God's money," the parcel of the Lord. Which means we were determined not to pay.

Now this is very, very tough to do at a hotel. They require that you pay up front. We thought long and hard and came up with a plan. We'd call the hotel and tell them our name was Eric and that we were stranded in Denver in the snow and can't get the car fixed until the morning. Leave a message for Scott and Jeff. We called a restaurant and ate well.

Several hours later we showed up at the hotel and asked for a room for the night. "Plenty of vacancies for lonely travelers," the wise old lady told us. Jeff and Scott. She told us that Eric had left a message for us that he was stuck in Denver. Shoot, awe shucks! He has the money for our room! After a bit of agony she let us stay with the promise that Eric would return in the morning. We unpacked and watched the MTV.

We went to the local bar to get a drink and play some pool. I secretly was a pool shark having seen Color of Money one too many times. Our plan was to scam the locals for money. Didn't work. They spotted our tourist bulls**t from a mile away. Instead, the bartender fronted us some Zimas (apparently word of our stranded travels spread around town quite fast) and we hunkered down for some billiards.

After a couple of sweaty games we returned to the hotel to wash up and enjoy the cleanliness of our hotel room. There was a Hersheys Kiss on the pillow. There were fresh linens hanging from the rusted towel rack. There were three blankets on top of the sheets in case it got too cold in the Southwestern night.

There was also a nagging suspicion that we were going to get caught. It started as a faint suggestion in Jeff's head. "Maybe you will be found out..." Then it made its way to his lips and then his hand started to shake. He became irrational and I was caught up in his infectious irrationality.

-Jeff: "We're going to get screwed! They're going to raid us in the middle of the night."

-Scott: "Nope, can't. Our alibi, sad looks and soothing baritones forbid it."

-Jeff: "They probably traced the call."

-Scott: "That old woman did look wise..."

We slept with this black, dark fear in our stomachs. It gave me dreams of giant old ladies looming menacingly outside the door. The bar patrons didn't help to temper the foreboding picture. I mean, damnit, they were like Deliverance with pool cues-- all burly in their flannel shirts and gleaming cowhide boots.

So in the morning, we decided the absolute best idea was to frantically dust everything like a sonofabitch. I mean we scoured the place like an Ajax housewife on TV. Jeff grabbed a towel and wiped in a circular motion over every surface, every handle. I snooped around the room looking for slips of paper, clothing or even fingernails that might tell the cops (the hotel cops, scary!) that we were the culprits.

Then we made a break for it. We used Jeff's sock to close the handle after us. We feared that some country folk would be awake at 5:30 AM so we used a row of parked cars to hide us. We had successfully kept the strong arm of the law at bay.

Or was it just paranoia? I mean, these places probably had insurance for these kinds of thing, right? Who cares. We hopped on the Interstate and headed north on the boomerang of our trip and miles and miles from home. Tonight would be Santa Fe and Harmony-- the hostess at a restaurant where we ate like kings.

The third and final installment of this 3-part series will be in the next issue of The Shrubbery (Oct. 98). You may contact Mr. Bresson via theshrub@theshrubbery.prohosting.com
or visit his website,
Dustbin Religions and Roadside Prayers
"Other silliness and road stories"
www.poboxes.com/heyadam

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