I’d walked a long way. But coming out of Philadelphia I’d gotten a good ride that took me to Harrisburg and then another trucker who hauled me from there to Wheeling, West Virginia. It was a little before one in the morning when the trucker pulled into the truck stop and said he was bagging it for the day. I climbed out and stood in the slight chill of the night air and looked around. There were about 30 trucks, motors running but their lights off save for a couple of obstruction lights marking the corners of their trailers. There was a greasy spoon over by the gas pump lanes, fluorescent lights glaring from the windows and attracting clouds of bugs that swirled on the light pools like annoyed clouds.
I dug into my jeans pocket and grasped the greasy little wad of cash I had. I counted forty two bucks. Not a lot of money for a guy hoofing his way to San Francisco to start life anew. I wanted to live a fantasy I had; owning a houseboat on the bay with a view of the Bay Bridge hopscotching to Treasure Island, behind it Alcatraz and the Golden Gate. I had seen it in my dreams and knew just how it was supposed to look. I walked inside the restaurant and picked up a menu stuck in a holder for sugar and condiments.
“Whukinahgetcha, Hun?” asked the waitress. She was thirtyish, not hard to look at but no beauty queen. She wore a pink server’s uniform that accented her buxom figure. She caught me checking her out and winked. “Offin the menu, baby.” she added with a smile. I ordered a burger with cheese and extra pickle. She sashayed off to yell my order through the window and then moved to top off the coffee cups of the few people sitting at the counter. She was pretty in my eyes, her brown hair had lots of blonde highlights and she had it done up in a French Weave, A couple of delicate wisps hung down on each side of her face that accented her femininity. About five foot six and built with proportion. When I saw her grinning at me I realized she’d caught me staring at her again and I felt my cheeks warm and knew they were red.
Two of the patrons got up and left, tossing a few bills and change on the counter. The waitress picked up the money, rang up the purchases and collected the dirty dishes. The cook hit a bell and she grabbed a plate and came my way. I noted this time she had a name tag that said ‘Dolly.’ “Y’all wan sumthin’ a drink, honey?” she asked. I told her a Coke would be great. “Comin’ raht up.”
The only other customer finished eating and asked for his check and Dolly took his money and cleaned up his dishes. She wiped the counter as I took bites of my burger, working from the end of the counter up to where I sat. “You gotcha rig outside?” she asked. She crossed her arms and leaned them on the counter, giving me a pleasant view of her cleavage.
“Me? No, I’m just hitchin’ rides is all.” I answered her. She asked where I was headed and I told her San Francisco and told her about my houseboat idea and asked her if she lived nearby. Stupid question, you think she commutes from Houston maybe?
I got me a little house not too far away from here.” she said. “Wanna see it?” I stopped chewing and looked at her wide eyed. “Y’all havin’ a stroke, baby?” she grinned. I shook my head and made sure my mouth was closed. I swallowed the bite in my mouth whole and had to chase it with a gulp of my drink.
“I think I’d love to see your house.” I finally said. I noticed that she had a light sprinkling of freckles that ran from cheek across the bridge of her button nose to the other cheek. She had a light dusting of them exposed by the open area of her blouse.
“Good. I don’t get off till two though. Maybe you’d like some pie while you’re waiting. On the house.” I chose pecan.
We pulled up to a little white cottage in her car, an old Dodge. The yard and house looked clean but had probably seen better years. Dolly stepped in the door after unlocking it with a key and flipped on the lights. I stepped into a tiny living room with a threadbare but handsome looking Persian rug covering most of the floor. There was a couch with a squat little coffee table and a pair of wing chairs that generally faced an older Zenith console TV. There were a couple of pictures on the wall depicting fields of wildflowers. To one side was a door that led to a bedroom, identified by the corner of a brass bed frame. To the other side was a galley style kitchenette that had a single tub sink, a gas stove and a Kelvinator fridge.
Dolly stepped into the kitchen and grabbed a couple of beers from the fridge. They were Pabst Blue Ribbon and she motioned for me to have a seat on the couch. I took off my denim jacket and laid it over the back of the couch and then sat in front of it as she took a seat next to me. She did something almost magical that caused the tops to pop right off the beer bottles. The fell to the rug and she ignored them, handing me one of the beers. With her free hand, she gently moved some dangling hairs away from my eyes and hooked it over my ears. She took a swig of her beer and said I ‘surely was a cute one,’ and asked me if I’d been with a woman before.
“Well, hell yeah.” I said and then told her I’d been in the military and had come back from Vietnam just a year earlier. It dawned on me that I’d just pegged myself as having been with a prostitute and I felt my ears get hot.
“S’alright, baby. A man has needs. I understand. A woman has her needs too,” She smiled coyly and winked. I leaned towards her and kissed her on her lips. It was a soft and uncertain kiss. She put a hand behind my head and pulled me into a deeper kiss, exploring with her tongue. I was getting pretty relaxed when suddenly BOOM, BOOM, BOOM! Someone was banging on the door. I was startled and jumped to my feet. “Damn,” said Dolly. “That’s prolly Del again.”
“Del? Who’s Del?” I asked.
“He’s muh ex.” she replied. “I broke up with him yesterdee an’ parently he ain’t taken the message. You wanna answer the door an’ tell him a go away?”
“Oh, come on, sugar. He sees I got me a new man an’ he’ll get the idea and get gone.” Dolly looked at me and smiled and said “then we kin get back to where we were.”
I sighed and walked to the front door and opened it. Standing on the stoop was a four ton snorting wildebeest. “You must be Del.” I said, holding my hand out to shake.
“Hoon hell are you?” snorted the behemoth.
“Just a friend.” I said. I came by to say hello to Dolly. Am I wetting myself yet?
Dolly came over and stood behind me. “Now Del, I tol’ you yestidee that we was over. This is mah new man.” She proclaimed.
Yeah, I think I’m wetting myself.
“But baby, I love you. We was made for each other. Y’all can’t up and leave me now.” whined Del.
“You need to go, Del.” said Dolly, pushing me forward, “Honey, run him off.”
I was about to suggest that we all talk this out when Gargantua hit me in the forehead with a ham sized fist. Fade to black.
I realized that my ears were ringing and light slowly came back. At first blurred, my vision cleared and I took assessment of my situation. I was on the living room floor, laying where the wildebeest’s punch had easily levitated me. Del and Dolly were sitting on the couch, Dolly holding a bloodied towel to Del’s head while they spoke in soft whispers, occasionally kissing. What the hell?
I struggled to my feet and the pair both looked at me from their place on the couch. “Do yoo mand?” growled Dolly. “We’re havin’ a private moment heah.” She stood up and pulled my jacket from behind the side of beef on her couch and tossed it to me. “Ah think you should go now. You been enough trouble already.”
“I, uh, what?” Glass crunched under my feet and I looked down at the remains of a broken beer bottle. That explained the bloodied towel. Dolly marched to the door and opened it and made a production out of swinging her arm and pointing out the door.
“You go on now. Git.” she said firmly. I took the hint and stepped out the door. Dolly followed me a few steps and then whispered “He works the tow truck startin’ at nine in the mornin’, come on by after that.” She winked at me and went back in the house, shutting the door firmly.
An hour later I’d managed to scarf up a ride all the way to Indianapolis from a Western Auto driver at the truck stop.