Thread: Utopia Bound
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Old 05-02-2019, 10:36 AM
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Default Re: Utopia Bound

Chapter three

The Winds of Destiny
When they drove into the Flying J Truck stop, the motor coughed and died, and they coasted the truck the remaining fifty yards to the fuel pump. “Now this is a very lucky day.” Tom said, “I generally end up walking at least a couple of miles when I am out of gas. Billy, how much money can you spare me now that we are here?”
Billy thought for a minute, then he said, “I donīt know, It depends on whether you will let me ride along, I have no destination or anyone I can rely on. I think I am out of luck and headed for the bottom when this money I got for my wedding ring is gone. I am cold, hungry; need a shower and some warmer clothes. After that I am in the hands of Saint Joseph Labre. Do you know who he was?”
“Of course I do Billy, he is the Saint of all vagabonds, and he brought you to me just before the police
Impounded my truck and put me back in jail for panhandling. We vagabonds call him Saint Joe, and
He helps us in time of need; you and I are from the same family of destinies. You can ride with me as
long as you need to.”Then he held out his hand in genuine friendship. They shook hands once more.
Tom said, “Billy, I have a pile of clean warm cloths I got from the Salvation Army in the back. This truck stop has good food, and if you eat here, they have clean restrooms, showers, free soap, shaving gear, and towels for truckers and cots where you can take a nap. As a new member of this very elite group of free and independent thinking humans, I will help you to understand all the customs, but first I want to thank you for saving my ass back there with those cops.
When I said “You drive.” you knew instinctively I was in trouble. You see I don’t have a valid driving
Permit, I had it revoked for driving under the influence of alcohol .Drink happens to be a Irish
Weakness of mine, inherited from the Daddy I never knew. Saw a picture of him once, and my
Mother told me he was a railroad man. .
With the exception of a dismissed burglary charge in Pennsylvania and a minor shoplifting
conviction in West Virginia. I have few other problems. In Texas, I once had a very successful
business filing income tax forms, until the government inspected my records. Even though I felt I
had done no wrong, they found too many errors in favor of my clients in my mathematic
calculations. The judge put me in jail for tax fraud and I served Two years.
When, I was set free. I decided I needed to leave Texas. retire and travel, which I have been doing
for the last five years . The reason I am telling you this Billy, is if we join up, you will be doing most
of the driving .” Now, what about you? Whatīs your story?
Billy thought about this for a while and decided he needed more time to answer him
” First I need a shower and food in my stomach, and right now we need to move this truck into the
parking area. Here are ten dollars for gas so we came move it out of the way.” he finally said.
Once the truck was fueled and out of the way. Tom said “In the back of the camper thereīs a cardboard box full of clean clothes under my bunk. Get rid of that suit and find something that will make you look like a truck driver. You need a heavy, a wool sweater, a pair of jeans and a baseball cap. And try on my old boots, the soles are thin but I think they will fit you.
Truckers are a willing to help out one another, but they don’t take too kindly to strangers who look like they work for the IRS or finance company.”
To Billy’s surprise the back of the truck was well organized. In one corner sat a small grinding wheel powered by a foot treadle, neatly racked along one wall there was well cared for a guitar and the banjo and a small filing cabinet that served as a table. Its door was open and Billy could see that except for a half pint bottle of whiskey it was empty. He rummaged through the box of cloths and found everything he needed to stay warm. Once he had changed, he stepped down from the camper.
Tom was waiting and smiled in approval, “Now you look like a long haul trucker .You will fit in, as long as you keep your mouth shut and don’t let anyone shake your soft Lilly white hands.”Then he bent down and scraped a bit of oil off the asphalt, “Here rub this on them and some on your forehead. The secret of survival in the vagabond part of the world is to become invisible, like a chameleon. The truckers know me as Texas Tom .It is my road name, and from now on you are Boston Billy. We do not use last names, makes it easier to disappear and harder to be found. The past, we now have left behind in Pleasantville .And only Saint Joseph knows what our future is to be.
Now we can eat. I am looking forward to a chicken fried steak, hash browns and a couple of beers.
What about you?” “I want pizza and a coke, Tom.” Tom stopped dead in his tracks, looked at Billy and shouted. “Pizza and a coke! That’s tourist food; these truckers will laugh you out of the place, Have a double cheese burger, fries and a beer. How old are you Billy? ” “I will be twenty-four in a couple of months, got married at twenty-one, Even though my grandmother once told me it was the biggest mistake to marry young. I thought it would last forever, but it ended after she had spent all of my inheritance. Can you believe that she divorced me on the grounds of mental cruelty? I finished college where I studied marketing, but never had a job, and now I am broke, and confused. Tom, I sure could use some help.”
“Billy I am old enough to be your father and I will help. You are now going to learn a job, working with me, playing a harmonica and sharpening knives, I have a good feeling about you and I believe Saint Joseph Labre is going to be looking over us..
Right now the most important thing is to be opportunistic and get some food. Then I will begin to teach you how to survive and make money, and your marketing training will be a big benefit to that endeavor.”
When they entered the restaurant, two truckers waved and said. “Texas Tom is back, are you going to play a few songs for us tonight old man?”
As Tom took off his sombrero and sat down at the counter, he said “It depends on how much money you intend to put into my sombrero amigos , and how many of you show up, I don’t share my talents without applause, and for me the only applause I want now is money, and believe me I need some. I had an unpleasant run in with the cops in Pleasantville, and by the time it was over they had confiscated my stash and all my cash.
This here young feller saved me from the jail. His handle is Boston Billy, and he will be sharpening your folding knives, straight razors and Bowie knives to a fine edge. All the while, accompanying me with the saddest sounds the harmonica ever made. Show will start at dark and continue until my last half pint of whiskey is gone.”
When they were seated and the flirty waitress had taken their orders Billy said. “Tom, the only thing I know how to do is sharpen is a pencil, and I don’t know to play a harmonica.” Tom took a long swallow of his beer, and then he took another, finally he said. “Not to worry Billy, by tonight you and I are going to be rolling in the cash. After we eat and get cleaned up I will show you all you need to know about putting a razors edge on any knife and as far as the harmonica is concerned , all you have to do is think sad thoughts and play, my guitar and your emotions will do the rest.
By the time we are done, these homesick truckers will be crying, and giving us enough cash to fuel the truck. Then we get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow we hit the road again, our destination, the next truck stop two hundred miles south of here.”

Chapter four A Three Legged Companion

The musical duo of Tom and Billy was held in the large mechanics work shop and the opening song “Big Wheels Keep on Rolling” was a hit with all in attendance. By the time Tom had played Moving On, East Bound and Down and Six days On the Road, the whisky bottle was empty and the sombrero was full of cash.
But it was “Waiting For The Train” that brought Billyīs loneliness and despair into the playing of the harmonica to such an emotional moment that caused all these rough, life hardened truckers to stand and give a roaring ovation .
It was also the same moment that a black, scruffy, skinny mongrel dog showed up and began to howl in harmony to the harmonica.
Its appearance brought out the wallets and more money was put into the sombrero...Tom was quick to realize the dogs appearance was a gift from their patron saint. Then he noticed that the dog’s front leg was crippled. He stood up, put away his guitar and introduced the dog to the crowd, in a voice full of honest emotion he said.
”This is our newest traveling companion Gimpy. We intend to take it on the road with us, if anyone owns it please speak up. Otherwise it goes with us to Texas.”
Tom waited for someone to claim the dog,, but the only response was when one of the truckers laughed and said “Tom, that looks like a poor choice for a guard dog. Do you think it can run? Maybe you should name it Flat Tire?”
After the crowd dispersed, Tom and Billy counted the money they had made. It amounted to two hundred and sixty-two dollars. As Tom divided the money he said “There you see Billy boy. I said that we would be fine, now we have food, gas money. And we can get a goodnights sleep in a warm bed tonight...It is possible to live as a vagabond if you use your imagination and never bend to the nagging voices of despair.” Then he added. “I need one last drink of whisky to finish the day, it helps me sleep.” He put half of the money in his pocket and gave Billy the rest.
“Tom, what should we do about this dog? It must be starving, we need to feed it.” Billyasked.
Tom shrugged his shoulders as he said. “Billy the dog is a vagabond like us. It most likely will wander off tonight, but if we find it here in the morning you canl feed it and then it will stay with us and remember that we fed it. Then it will be loyal to you and never stray.
I know you have a kind heart but remember that a soft heart is wounded too easily. Give it your jacket from the back of the camper to sleep on and wait until the morning.
Now take five dollars from of your money, put the rest in your boot and letīs find a bar so I can have a have a double shot of whisky as a night cap, then we get a good nightīs sleep. And donīt let me have more than one drink.”
“Why don’t we put the money in the file cabinet that is in the back of the truck?”Billy asked.
Tom shook his head in amazement before he answered. “Billy boy, you are not still living in a civilized world. This is the vagabond’s world, It is f.ull of thieves, cheaters, liars, hookers and desperate people who will cut your throat and steal you blind for a couple of dollars.
The truckers are honest, and each one has at least one gun with them at all times. No one ever tries to rob a truck stop. It is the safest place on the highways of America .If we put that money in the truck it would be gone by dawn. It is a good thing we met. You would be robbed and broke by morning .It is hard to believe how naive you are. You have a lot to learn sonny boy.”
Billy was wide awake before sunrise, next to him Texas Tom was snoring loudly .The first thought to enter his mind was whether the dog would be still waiting by the truck. He looked out the window and next to the truck he saw the dog curled up on his jacket.
He had slept fully clothed and for fear of having his money stolen had put it in Tomīs old boots. In the restroom he relieved himself, splashed cold water on his face, and ran his fingers through his fair hair, then went out the door. In the snack bar he bought a package of hotdogs, a bottle of water, a bag of dog food and a cup of black coffee. Sipping the coffee, he made his way to the truck.
As he approached the dog got up and growled at him. The hackles on its back were up, as it watched warily as Billy approached. Then when Billy spoke, it recognized his voice and came running to his side, and suddenly sat in front of him. Then its whole body began the wag from head to its tail.
Billy held out his hand to smell as he said. “Good dog, I have brought you some breakfast and water.” He filled the empty coffee cup with water and was pleased to see the dog drink it all,. He filled it again, then opened the package of hot dogs and gave one to the dog.
It disappeared instantly in one swallow, when the package was empty, he poured the rest of the water into the cup ,set it down next to his coat, told the dog to stay. Then he went back to wake the still sound asleep Tom.
Billy touched Tomīs shoulder and started to say. “Wake up” but the words never came out.
Suddenly he was staring into the muzzle of the Colt revolver in Tomīs hand. “Rule number one in survival Billy. Never think that your friend is not armed and never wake him by touching. It may get you accidently killed. How is the dog? Is it still there?” Tom asked pleasantly.
Seeing the revolver came as such a shock to Billy that he sat down on his bunk and stared at it. Then he said.”I had no idea that you slept with a loaded gun.” Tom lowered the hammer of the revolver and put it back under his pillow. He said.”Billy there is a multitude of things about me you still do not know. But! You do know that I am from Texas, and you should know that in Texas even old ladies know how to shoot and most of them have a pistol in their purse. Of course I have a gun and I carry it at all times.
Do you think that I was going to accept you at face value? You may have been an escaped prisoner, or a murderer who was going to kill me and steal my truck?”
When Billy heard this he broke out in a fit of hilarious laughter. “Steal your truck? You are kidding me!!I wouldn’t take that truck if you gave it to me... The brakes are shot its tire are bald, it burns more oil than a freight train, and the license tags are going to expire at the end of this month. It doesn’t even have a radio...and I doubt that it will make to Texas. But in answer to your question: Yes the dog is still with us; I have fed him and gave him water.”
By now Tom was out of bed and getting dressed. He looked at Billy and said “I think you had better take a closer look at your new dog Billy, it is a female. Did you ever have a dog?
Billy shook his head as he said. “No Tom, I never did, I grew up in the city, lived with my grandmother in a penthouse and dogs were not allowed.” Tom, put on his sombrero turned his eyes up to the ceiling as he said. “Heaven help us.”
Well, Billy boy you do now, and she is your responsibility to feed, water, exercise and clean up after, when she decides to take a crap at three in the morning.
Itīs time you learned about responsibilities. Are you sure that you want this dog?”
“Yes I am Tom, I thought about it half the night. Gimpy is a vagabond tramp, just like us and I am sure the she came to us for help. I think Saint Joseph sent her to test me. He wanted to find out if I was worthy of his blessings, and I am going to prove that I am.”
“I am pleased to hear you say that Billy .It shows that you have empathy and are a true believer. Now let’s get some breakfast and hit the road, we have miles to go before we get to Texas..
Now what do you eat for breakfast Billy boy?” Tom asked. “Usually I like plain toast, cornflakes, apple juice and coffee with cream and sugar. Why do you ask?”
“Billy you need to eat a better meal than that. You are too thin and we are not going to stop until we get to Pennsylvania ,Today I will order breakfast for both of us” As they sat at the counter waiting for a breakfast of bacon ,eggs ,hash brown potatoes and black coffee to be served. Tom said “I have been thinking over what you said about my truck. And you are right. It needs better tires. I don’t have money to buy new ones, but they have piles of good used ones behind the garage workshop, and I have been postponing fixing the brakes. Before we hit the road I will get them fixed. I think that between tires, brakes and fuel I will be down to my last dollar. Iīm sure that truck will take us all the way to Texas. Will you help out?” A long lasting bond between the boy and the old man was made when Billy said “Of course I will Tom. But can you teach me how to shoot your revolver when we get to Texas?” The response took the old man by surprise. He never thought that this city boy would have ever thought about shooting anything but a spitball in class. “Billy, that is not a problem as long as your wrist is strong, your eyes are good, and you have a steady hand. Now letīs get the truck worked on, fill up the fuel tank, see if the dog is still around and then we get on the road to Pennsylvania.”
It took all morning, but by noon they had had the brakes fixed, four decent tires mounted, and a gas tank full, when they paid the bill their cash was almost depleted and Tom said.”Billy we don’t have enough to pay for the toll road, so we will be taking the free roads and you can be positive that every town cop will be watching for anyone going over the speed limits, especially a rig like this with Texas plates. Now call the dog and if it wants to go, then we will be on our way.” Billy suddenly realized he had no idea how to find Texas, and he asked to Tom. “Do you have the road map?”
Tom grinned as he said,” Why would I have a road map? That instrument on the dashboard is a compass, and we need to go to the South-South- West to find Texas. Now you drive and leave the navigating to me .I have a natural sense of direction, just remember the sun rises is in the East and it always sets in the West
The dog seemed to know that Billy was going to leave her behind if it didn’t want to get into the cab. She was bouncing up and down on her three good legs and as soon as Billy opened the door he said to it.”Do you want to go for a ride Gimpy?” It leaped into the truck and settled herself on to the front seat. “Well it looks like you have a dog Billy; we are now a band of three vagabonds.”Tom said then he reached into the glove box, took out the harmonica, saying to the dog “Now is a perfect time for you to learn to sing in tune with this. Billy: You can drive and sing at the same time. And, remember it is your dog and not mine.”
Then he put the dog on his lap and began to play “On the Road Again” while the dog yipped, howled and barked in perfect harmony.
To be Continued
"What a large volume of adventures may be grasped within this little span of life by him who interests his heart in everything"-Lawrence Sterne
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