No shame in hitching. Weather's fine, stick the thumb out again and wait. Think. Still going west now. Feel the sun. Feel the body. Get home and do some reps. See what works, what doesn't. Get home? Where's home really? Mmm.
A large sedan hove into view around the bend whence he came, it wasn't weaving exactly, rather it seemed slower than other traffic and uncertain of the road. It's intention settled on pulling over and picking him up.
The thing slowed and dropped one wheel, then the other off the pavement onto the ragged gravel that passed for a shoulder on a two lane in West Virginia, and came to rest beside him. The car was a fine warm relic. A near silent wall of force pushed out from what Kraque knew to be a giant V8 motor. The car positively radiated power.
All it's windows were down. The raised door lock knobs looked like big chrome nails. Kraque bent to peer in under the weak low spring sunlight reflecting off the roof at the driver. A smallish dude with long hair and wearing a faded striped shirt and khaki pants hailed him from the far end of the long front bench seat.
“My fellow traveler in both time and space. Enter my fine '63.”
Kraque opened the immense door and slid in, wondering if the guy was chilly, though hot air blew in from various chromed vents. He looked about the vast interior. It appeared to be original, and in good if well worn condition.
“This a Buick?”
“The inimitable 1963 Wildcat, my friend, so acquired for it's lack of door pillars, which I find restrictive.”
Kraque saw his host was holding a cigarette with his upright left arm in the window, fingering it like a pencil, elbow on the door. He flashed on a memory of smoking. The man held the wheel loosely with his right, and regarded him with unblinking brown eyes. As they pulled away he began moving his right hand around the wheel intermittently, as if unsure where to grip it, but held the cigarette up with his left unwaveringly, yet still fingering it. And still watching Kraque. This casual method resulted in the tentative lurching Kraque had seen as the big car approached using nearly the full width of the lane. Still, Kraque admired the dashboard and interior.
“You regard the lavish appointments,” the man said coming alive with the enthusiasm of a connoisseur. “Upon the presentation of alternatives, the Avatar of Zosmos demands clarity of decision. Facilitating that requires a certain uniformity of milieu, free of modern distracting lights and noises. The most satisfactory manifestation of the optimum environment in ground based transportation is chrome, and plenty of it, found primarily in the Detroit products of the fifties and sixties. The roomy interior eliminates all ergonomic considerations, rendering them superfluous. The futuristic design motif stabilizes the visual field, aiding in the orderly transference of my authority directly to the powerplant, thusly indeed it is transmitted through the circuitry and the mechanism directly to the road, distributing my own biologic energy via my appendages in such a way as to attain a virtually cyborgian state utilizing these very same magnificent chrome appointments! I am one with the apparatus! Note the perfect ride! We are borne in virtual silence on the magic susurrus of motor city internal combustion! I achieve this with the near perfect coalescing of my body with the larger machine, albeit being a GM product. Like electricity and any energy itself, we ourselves are but machines through which it traverses. I refer to thought itself, of course. Care for a butt? I have plenty in reserve.” All this delivered without a blink, yet a not unkind expression. He continued gazing at Kraque while leaning forward to crush his cigarette in the full ashtray, then finding a fresh one behind his left ear that Kraque hadn't noticed. He punched the chrome lighter into it's receptacle on the dash. Falling back into his easy posture behind the wheel, he then fell silent.
Dumbfounded, Kraque took this in mostly while gazing sightlessly at the impressive radio in the center of the dashboard. Was it possible the man hadn't looked at the road in all that time? He decided The Avatar of Zosmos was a personal bugaboo of the fellow, the principal voice, perhaps of many in his head. Kraque was not unfamiliar with such mental disorder. With a deep breath he squinted out at the still winter-bleak April landscape thinking that the car indeed was impressive. He hoped there was a decent late model pickup or similar vehicle parked at his house. He wasn't alarmed or nervous at being in the company of a possible schizophrenic, he'd served with some disturbed individuals, and had sometimes been berserk right along with them.
Still, he was recovering from the wreck, felt a little watery from medication, and not completely present in the here-and-now. Kraque wondered that he had the energy to converse with anyone as voluble as this fellow, sane or not. He doubted his own sanity once in a while, and just wasn't in the mood to deal just yet.
So he nodded, and accepted a cigarette fished this time from the man's breast pocket, a Pall Mall. When the lighter popped, they shared it, and Kraque watched the road while the man lit his own.
Pulling his eyes down from the view over the acre of hood, Kraque noted the man's ancient brogans over stark white feet and calculating their share of the distribution or influence of the car's energy on the roadway, decided he could survive whatever happened, as it wasn't happening all that quickly anyway. A ride's a ride. You get what you pay for, hitching, Kraque reflected. He put his left arm up along the top of the long seat after a drag, his right along the top of the down window, settling into the angle between the door and the seat with his legs parted to brace himself for whatever, and looked out the window again, sucking another deep pull. Watery sunlight flashed through the trees from the left, that being generally south as they drove mostly west on the curvy asphalt two lane. Not cold, not warm. Sorta beige when it clouded up, then lightening up again. They passed comfortable, well kept modest homes on sometimes large, sometimes small lots. Some were small farms, some were obviously abandoned. They passed a gas station, and Kraque noted a personal message on a portable sign under the gallon fuel price, “JASON IS SIXTY! LOVE FAMILY AND FRIENDS! Below that was LOVE YOU GRANDPA D.
There was the occasional church and it's message of threat or goodwill, the occasional rural convenience store, the occasional small business as they swayed along the road. The church signs, and there were several, had the usual sentiments. One was Be Free from the Chains of Regret - God Forgives. Below that was a series of obviously random numbers, and Kraque realized they were just extra figures and letters left over from a previous notice of biblical verse references, as they didn't always correspond to any verses he knew. One ended with IBID. Kraque thought about term papers of long ago.
Kraque wondered what his own house looked like. He knew from the county map he was yet some miles away.
Looking up and over to his Samaritan he said, “I'm going out route 9 about ten, twelve miles, then over River Road to Burnt Mill. You headed to Berkeley Springs?”
The man looked back, narrowing his eyes, apparently considering, and nodding.
“Who knows where any of us is going, my friend? Even ultimately, what will be the end result? Even assuming that observing an event changes it, and we all know it does, and we know we are indeed all under observation, where will we all wind up? Who can say?” Shrugging elaborately, the man went on, his voice rising.
“I know that for many the standard answer is hellfire and damnation, and the smug among us will maintain that a personal relationship with Jesus will obviate that particular outcome, but would mass observation at the precise moment of passing over by sufficient numbers of those not so inclined, and wishing fervently for the opposite goal, would that result in a transference to the other direction? A complete raptural U turn?” Gesticulating with both hands his tone was strident. He paused, his small body turned and leaning at Kraque in a posture of serious inquiry, searching Kraque's eyes at the crescendo. For just a moment this absurd performance caused Kraque to forget they were even in a moving automobile. The man relaxed, returning his attention to the road. They had not strayed far; miraculously?
Having lapsed back to what Kraque took for the man's normal attitude, he shrugged again.
“That don't confront me, as the man once said. I employ not mere rhetoric, but more rather pose the age-old question to refresh it's importance in our mind. Our mind. The Avatar of Zosmos doesn't reveal all. But in short, yes. Or I can speed you along that way betimes.”
The man settled into some sort of resignation. Then looked over and back brightly.
“Would you care for a drink by and by? One craves a beer, betimes. As the man once said, you don't have to be a good Buddhist to be a good Buddhist.”
Looking closely at the man and this invitation, Kraque decided it was face value.
“Sure. What the hell. What man was that?”
Glancing back and forth between the road and Kraque the man seemed excited at the prospect.
“I know a little place, just the place. Conveniently located just here.”
Sure enough, a roadside joint appeared on the left, fairly new and clean on the outside. Small and almost at the edge of the pavement, it had no sign, but a lighted rolling marquee with plastic letters like the church signs listed burgers and shrimp at happy hour. Just past a gravel parking lot sloped to a forest. The big car veered across the oncoming lane without slowing until it dipped off the pavement, past the front door. Slowed it to a halt in a straight line before it ran into the woods. Like landing an airliner. Putting the transmission into park, the small fellow flipped switches on the dash and twisted knobs to positive clicks. Then he shut off the key. The behemoth shut down, stillness ticking profound. Wakefulness in silence after a trance. The sun before him through the trees in a strange strange land. A hand grasped his arm on the seat back from below and behind, and a large dark haired figure rose from the floor in the rear. How had he not see him? The near giant must have been completely unconscious on the floor back there.
“Are we there yet?” he said in a sleepy near whisper as if not wishing to alarm, exhaling carefully.
“The King arises, alive and alert. I jest, but only somewhat,” said the small man over his shoulder, exiting his side of the big machine.
“The man was Gary Snyder, if I'm not mistaken. And he was probably right,” the lanky man from the back seat asserted, opening the passenger back door and hauling himself upright, rubbing complex black hair back with a large hand and swinging a worn dark green fedora up into place with the other. He stood some six foot six inches Kraque reckoned, not young, not old, slim but not slight, large nose, large leather shoes, socks maybe, shirttails out of khaki pants he hitched up from low on slim hips, big arms hanging negligently from broad shoulders as he unfurled and stretched before hunching over to turn and trudge along behind their short fellow toward the encouragingly modern looking roadhouse in an un-exciting part of nowhere particularly. Kraque followed wondering. The footgear you see on country types.
The roadhouse required one to ring a bell to gain entry. They were buzzed in immediately.