White Crosses to Windward
The life of a nomad fit him better than a hundred dollar pair of Larry Mahans.
He mowed his second wife's grass on Saturdays in his cut off Lee's and sneaked a Blue Ribbon on the way back from picking up a couple of Brown Mules at The Pantry. Sometimes he'd take the boys fishing down on the Watauga and they'd gig tadpoles while he rescued line from the fingers of trees lining the bank. On rare occasions he and his brothers would take a Great War model Jap and a thirty ought over the gap and shoot groundhogs while the kids popped their cap pistols. Neither of them liked Hee Haw and it wasn't that he had the kids every weekend but when he did it hurt so bad to watch them play soldiers and not drink and think about them becoming what he knew they were gonna be, which was exactly like him that he wanted a drink like all hell.
Sunday couldn't come down fast enough.
Storing up zee's on the sofa wreathed in little mirrors, plastic army men, cartoon wolves and Kool Aid he told himself he'd hold out till he hit the road to the station. Dropping his sons off at his first wife's was always hell because the boys would be all snot, tears, and DADDY DON'T LEAVE US but she'd do like she always did and he'd just be the bad guy once again. At the end of her drive he'd pop that Bocephus eight track and reach beneath the seat for some ease and comfort, Tennessee style. Then he'd roll the windows all the way down and let the breeze blow his sandy red hair like a Norse raider at the prow rounding Scapa Flow, all dragon beaks, axes and war hammered.
The road was his life and his livelihood and he loved Her, unrequited, in grief as if she were already dead and he a wandering haint seeking dust and a home beyond the next Gulf sign. A steel guitar funeral march bid him onward long into middle age even though he was barely a father and not long returned from a foreign war. Mandolin strings and George Dickel drowned maudlin guilt as he drank the first of many Benzadrines, the red flames of his bowels becoming quieter as the buzz spread from his heart to his head, Marlboro smoke curling round his yellow stache and the butt end a consolation gritted in his dentures.
He stopped off at the Gaslight in Hickory for a Pabst and smoked another one in the blue late day haze, the juke rolling off The Stones, war buddies alone at different ends of the bar, oblivious to mirrors, playing pool and nursing Scotch. He tipped the barman a quarter and lifted his hand to no one but the smoke.
When he crawled up the side of his Peterbilt and into the spring seat he tucked his .45 in the glove box and set to wiping down the dust from another man's journey with a roll of paper and Windex his oldest son had bought him for his birthday. Some drivers carried a picture of their kids or posted it on the dash but he didn't. He wanted to feel as if the truck were a neutral vessel carrying him out of time into a comforting void rich in solitude and lacking commandments. He screwed down his CB into the black metal hangers and flipped the ON switch set to channel 19. Cranking the rig up he heard the pistons hammer, fuel setting the weary crank ablaze and he kicked back for a power nap while she warmed.
The night greeted him as Bo Diddley and the load he was hitched to inched down the yard onto the Interstate free for a time from his Christian name, white crosses to windward. Two forty-nine dollar checks rounded out his expense account but he'd only need enough for crackers, diesel, and a whore if the need struck him. He didn't itch for them often, but he knew a stop outside Chicago where Milly would let him hold her for an extra dollar fifty.
Bo shifted without the clutch, knowing the gears better than he knew anyone or anything, other than regret, but blue eyes crying in the rain didn't take up too much space in the sleeper. Long trip ahead, and the stars didn't mind Waylon Jennings.