Back to the World
by James Shaffer
Table of Contents|
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,
11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18,
19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25
“There’s thirty-some thousand here!” Daddy said after a few minutes. His eyes were big and round. When I heard the sum, I wanted to push it, but I stayed at the speed limit.
“Count out twenty. You take the rest. Buy three bus tickets at Greyhound: one for Las Vegas, one for Miami and one for Chicago. Take the Chicago bus but get off in Kansas as planned. Go to Aunt Peg’s. Keep your head down. Help her work the farm. Stay frosty, you hear?”
“I hear ya.” He’d already started to count out the cash.
Thirty minutes later we pulled into the bus terminal. I hopped out of the car and opened the trunk. I lifted out our bags, opened the back door and placed them on the seat. Then I got back in the car. I grabbed my backpack from the back, took the cash he had counted out for me and buried it in the bottom along with the gun and Ed’s book.
“You might want to keep the briefcase with you. You look like a salesman whose last deal didn’t go so well. Your eyes will be black tomorrow. Besides, it’s not wise to stow the cash in the luggage hold. It’s your nest egg.”
He looked over at me. “How’d you get so smart?” Given our circumstances, it wasn’t a stupid question. I gave him the most honest answer I knew. “There’s a wealth of information in books. Mama taught me that. I’ve wanted to escape for a long time Daddy. Now’s the time. Carpe diem.” He looked at me like I was speaking a foreign language. I was. “It’s Latin for ‘seize the day’.”
“You’ve covered all the bases, haven’t you?” he asked matter-of-factly.
When my mama died, I had a hard time seeing my daddy from the other side of the world for anything more than what he was, a drunk and a gambler. I blamed him. Her cancer wasn’t his fault, but at a distance, a simple logic reasoned that someone had to take the blame. He was the closest target. But over the years, though he was rarely around, I’d grown to love my daddy.
He had his weaknesses like everyone — like borrowing from Ed. But he loved my mama. I saw that. He was hurting, too. He’d watched it all close up while I’d been in a jungle far away. In the middle of our troubles now, sharing that loss and that pain made a difference. I turned toward him.
“Except the part where we don’t get killed.” We embraced. Then he got out of the car with the briefcase and took his bag from the back seat. “Remember. Buy those tickets. And keep your head down. I’ll be in touch.”
He took about ten steps away from the car, then turned and made a small, farewell nod with his head. I watched him as he disappeared inside the station. Maybe it would be the last time I saw him. I wasn’t sure. I pulled out of the bus station in Ed’s new Caddie and headed west, first on I-40, then on Route 66.
Part way to the state border I found a dirt road that led across the desert and curved behind a butte. I parked the car under a rock overhang that shielded it from any eyes in the sky. Hopefully, it would be weeks before someone discovered it. I hoped I’d be long gone by that time. I wiped down the car, grabbed my backpack, and headed out for the highway. It was a good day to leave Texas.
That night I slept under the stars. I found a place off the highway, an overhang of flat rocks that offered some shelter if I needed it. It was a cool night, like desert nights can be, but I figured if I could survive the jungle heat, I could take a little cold.
Copyright © 2015 by James Shaffer