Category: Hippie

The Journey: Chapter Four


The Journey: 4 (Still in Iowa)

Jeff had just turned off the freeway, guiding the bus up the off ramp and onto a county road. There was supposed to be an historical marker ahead. Summer had tidied up a little, stowing the loose things from the kids’ lesson and her own laptop was powered down and slipped into its cubby. She sat on the bench seat behind Jeff watching out the front window for the sign that would indicate they had reached the place where amazing things had once happened long before, when she saw something out of the corner of her eye.

“What was that?” she asked Jeff.

“Hmm,” he responded absently.

She turned around in her seat to look behind her and then back to the front, searching for anything that could have moved in her field of vision. “I saw something in the big mirror.”

As she watched his eyes glanced up and met hers in the reflection. “Like what?”

She blinked and shook her head. It would sound crazy if she told him. “It was probably just the sun hitting it,” she lied but even after he had looked to the front again, she couldn’t take her eyes off the wide expanse of mirrored glass above the windshield.

There was a stiff breeze so the historical part of their stop was kept necessarily short. They stood around the large sign while Jeff read the information on it in but Bren and Saige kept their noses down inside the collars of their jackets.

“I’m cold, Mom,” Saige whined. “Can’t you tell us about this stuff inside the bus?”

Back inside she heated up a family sized can of tomato soup and began slathering butter on bread to make grilled cheese sandwiches.  “We can’t continue eating like this,” she said to no one in particular.

Bren picked a crunchy bit of browned cheese off the frying pan and popped it in his mouth. “Why not?”

“We’re eating the same stuff for lunch and dinner and it’s all instant or canned or carbs.”

Steaming bowls were set on the table and even though the wind was making the bus rock a little bit, it’s was cozy inside.  Saige slurped noisily at her spoon before saying with a grin, “I like it.”

Summer couldn’t help but smile back but the truth was that their health would suffer if they didn’t start eating some fresh foods. She ate her sandwich standing up next to the tiny two-burner stove.

Jeff wolfed his down and stood up, stretching. “We’d better get back on the road.”

Summer looked around. The landscape was flat with dead cornfields stretching into the distance. “Why? Can’t we just stay here tonight?”

“There’s plenty of travel hours left in the day,” Jeff reminded her as he settled himself into the driver’s seat.

“But we aren’t in a hurry to go anyplace. No one will bother us here. Let’s just stay put. I can work on a painting and the kids can do their school work.”

Up until then she’d been looking at the back of his head but she noticed he was looking upwards and she couldn’t help herself. She glanced above him, above the windshield to the big mirror, and gasped. His expression was full of anger and hatred, but worse even than that, there was something else in the mirror.

 

 

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The Journey: Chapter Three


The Journey: 3 (Iowa)

 

“What happened to you back there?” Summer asked her husband. “You looked like you were in a trance.”

“It was nothing.” His voice was sharp, completely unlike his usual happy-go-lucky demeanor.

They had made a simple dinner of macaroni and cheese on the Coleman stove and the kids were running around on the winter-yellow grassy lawn of the rest stop after eating.  Even so early in the winter season it was novel to be able to run on the ground with no snow underfoot. “I can do some of the driving you know. You don’t have to do it all.”

He looked at her and his lips started to move, like he was going to say something but then they clamped shut and he shook his head slightly. “No, I prefer to do the driving.”

The first night in the bus went surprisingly smoothly. Summer tucked the kids into their bunks and made herself a cup of tea. The rest area had free wi-fi and she wanted to take advantage of it to upload her latest design to her website. Jeff had pulled out the bench seat that converted to a bed and was already there with his eyes shut.

She glanced over at him, noting that his face was a little sweaty. It wasn’t warm in the bus. On the contrary, it was slightly cool. They were still in the upper midwest and the temperatures were below freezing outside.

“Why are you staring at me?” he growled in a low whisper.

Echoing what he had said to her earlier she responded quietly. “Sorry, I was just thinking about stuff, I guess.”

“Hurry up and finish what you’re doing. I can’t sleep with all that light.”

She looked at her laptop screen. The light was on power save so it wasn’t very bright and her body actually blocked most of it from where he was.  Sighing she powered down and closed the computer.  She ground her molars together. If he expected her artwork to pay for this adventure he had better get on board with her actually creating designs.

The next day, somewhere along I-35 in Iowa, where the land is flat and the largest things to look at are the immense windmills spinning madly as they cast their long shadows over fields of corn, Summer opened up the package of homeschooling supplies she’d gathered. After looking at a lot of different web sites and joining several Facebook groups, she’d  decided to stick to the the basics of math and English. She’d use their life on the road to create opportunities to learn about other things like science and history and Social Studies.

“Bren and Saige, Come over to the table. We’re going to work on a lesson.” She had expected them to whine and refuse but instead they happily did as she asked and before long were bent over worksheets.

“Hey sweetie,” Jeff called out.  “Do you want to find us someplace interesting to stop for lunch?”

It was as if the day before had never happened. Summer had worried over her husband’s behavior to such a degree that she hadn’t slept much. One of her biggest concerns was if he was regretting the decision to live in the bus. They couldn’t easily go back now. Their house was rented and the tenants had a year long lease. Their jobs were history, and in a small town in the north woods those kinds of jobs didn’t come open too frequently.

She had just picked up her cell phone to do a search for parks or historical places when a ping announced she had a message. “I just sold a picture,” she announced excitedly.

“Oh, babe, that’s awesome. Everything is working out just as I’d planned.”

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The Journey: Chapter Two


The Journey: 2 (Starting Out)

 

Before snow flew, Summer and Jeff and painted the outside of the old school bus a flat black. The interior took more time, and they worked on it when they could.

“It’s never going to be done,” she lamented from where she was crouched on the floor screwing down plywood.

Jeff, who was usually cheerful stopped what he was doing. He scowled at her.  Outside it was just beginning to snow but inside the bus it was cozy. The small wood stove was heating up nicely. “We can finish it as we go,” he declared putting his fists on his hips.

The two kids, Brendan and Saige were on the top bunk in the very back of the bus. “Yeah,” Bren called out. “Let’s leave now.”

“I want to have Christmas on the bus,” Saige added.

“I guess I’m out voted,” Summer sighed. It hadn’t been what she was thinking when she complained.

In short order their house was rented out, most of their belongings put in storage, and the bus, though still needing a lot of work, was packed in every nook and cranny. And off they went.

With Jeff behind the wheel, the bus slowly pulled out of their lane and onto the highway, a ribbon of black stretching south between the stark white snowy fields. In the distance trees rose dark  against the sky.

Summer was sitting at the dinette behind Jeff. At first she was watchful, interested in seeing their future unfold before them, but she soon grew bored.

Bren and Saige had retreated to their own bunks, Bren with a book and Saige with her dolls. As the sun rose, the inside of the rolling house grew warm and bright and Summer pulled out her laptop.

“You going to work?” Jeff asked absently.

She gritted her teeth. Everything was relying on her ability to actually sell enough of her artwork to fund this crazy plan. She wasn’t sure she could paint while they drove but she knew she could design other items. She nodded without saying anything, sure he could see her in the huge rear view mirror across the front windshield. She supposed it had originally been for seeing what the school children were up to.

Hours passed, miles were gobbled up under the tires, and still Jeff drove. “When are we going to stop for lunch?” the children whined.

Summer looked up from where she had been, inside the picture developing on her screen. She tilted her head one way and the other, her neck bones crackling. “Jeff, we should think about stopping soon.” She looked at the face of her husband through the huge mirror and he seemed somewhat mesmerized. He never even glanced at her reflection.  She snapped her fingers and raised her voice, “honey,” she said,”take the next rest stop exit. We all need to get out and stretch.”

He seemed to mentally shake his head, a subtle movement but she noticed it, mainly because the peculiar look in his eyes seemed to change. “What’s that?” he mumbled, almost sleepily.

She sat forward, on high alert, looking at him sharply. “Are you okay, Jeff?”

He smiled, a little more like himself. “Sure, I’m fine. Just thinking about stuff, I guess.” He put on the blinker and steered toward the off ramp.

 

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The Journey: Chapter One


The Journey: 1 (The Beginning)

 

The bus  was old and rusty, the yellow paint long painted over and the new color heavily oxidized. A stove pipe stuck out on one side indicating there was some sort of a wood burner inside, and some of the windows were curtained with moth eaten fabric.  

In another lifetime it had taken children to school and faintly on the front, above the windshield, could be seen the words “School Bus.”

Summer looked at her husband, her brow crinkling. “Tell me again why you bought this relic.”

Jeff rubbed his hands together, trying to warm them against the cold. “We could live in it.” He pointed around them where the sky was heavy gray, and close. “You’re always saying you hate winter here. We could travel.”

Summer just stared at him. It was true she dreaded the coming cold. Northern Wisconsin could get bitter, and snow might be three feet deep. But she had imagined moving to someplace warm, like San Diego, and living in an adobe house with an avocado tree growing in the yard.  “How do you propose we pay for this vagabond lifestyle?”

Jeff was midlevel management at a local bank and she had a job in a shop on Main Street in their small town. They didn’t make a lot of money, nor did they have much in savings. Having two kids kept them living nearly paycheck to paycheck. Jeff just shrugged. “I thought we could travel around to art shows and sell your paintings.”

Summer sighed. She loved to paint but there wasn’t much market for surrealistic Steampunk, Neo-Hippie canvases. Jeff was her champion and believed in her but in this case he might be a little unrealistic. “You might as well show me the inside,” she said reluctantly.

The interior was even worse. Mice and other critters had nested in the cushions and the carpentry was dubious. “Before you get all worked up,” he warned, “I have a plan.”

He was obviously really excited about the bus, and as he marched up and down the length of it, pointing out different features, something wild grew in her heart, something crazy and defiant and trusting.

“The best part,” he finally said, stopping in front of her and taking her hands, “is that if you paint the whole outside of the bus it will be a rolling advertisement for your art.”

She stepped closer and grinned up into his face. “Let’s do it,” she whispered back.

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