The Walking Man has coffee in an IHOP just west of Lometa, Texas. He's
with Karen, a friend from his long distant past,
Sedona, a passionate Ecuadoran, and Michael, a thirty-something
businessman who watched Karen almost kill the Walking Man in a freak highway
Over Belgian waffles, and pitchers of hot Hazelnut scented
coffee, their stories emerge.
The Walking Man scratched his head as he shuffled across the jade floral
carpet towards the bar. His new friends, Karen and Michael, had insisted at breakfast that
he spend the night, at the Marriott down the street from the IHOP
where they'd met that morning. They'd
fallen into an easy friendship this morning and all had agreed that
the conversation they'd started over breakfast that morning was too interesting
to abandon. Karen wasn't due home till tomorrow anyway, Sedona and her
daughter lived in the modular home behind the IHOP, and Michael was going to be
in town all week anyway.
Shit, Shave and a Shower
"What the hell," the Walking Man thought , he wasn't as young as he used to be, and a night in a real bed wasn't a
completely unwelcome prospect. He'd been traveling for over nine years, and that's a long time by any measure.
The Walking Man cleaned up in Michael's room while Michael did his dog and pony show for the quirky venture cap billionaire who lived in the Texas Hill
Country just outside of
town. Michael had come running to their aid this morning after watching Karen almost
cream the Walking Man on the highway. Since he was checking into the Marriott anyway,
he had more or
less joined the little group.
The Walking Man was
surprised when he came out of the shower to find that Michael had laid out some
fresh clothes on the bed. He smiled at the welcome offering of expeditious
normalcy and dressed slowly in the freshly pressed chinos, a silk Hawaiian print
shirt and and dark blue Vans tennis shoes. A soft sigh escaped his lips
as he donned the Panama Hat sitting
atop the pillows of the hotel bed. Clearly, Michael was a man of taste.
Karen checked into her room, then dove on the hotel phone to leave a
breathless message for her friend Beth: "Oh my god Elizabeth,
Kent, HE'S HERE!
Call me, on me cell. Now!" She shook her head at the sudden thought of how long
it had been since she'd seen the walking man. They'd called him Kent
when they were in school together, but who the hell knew what his real name was? He
had been writing for nine years! Just walking and writing. Beth was
gonna shit a brick!
Sedona finished her shift at the IHOP in a blind panic. She was, simultaneously relieved at seeing the Walking Man,
and a little spooked at the circumstances in which he'd suddenly reappeared in her
life. Just when things between them had been looking up, La Migra
had shown up at her workplace last week and sent her and all the other
"Pollos," scattering. Pinche
Cabrones! She swept her long gunmetal blue hair back behind her and smiled as she saw her
relief stroll through the side door of the IHOP restaurant.
Michael smiled until it hurt, and then he smiled some more. He'd
learned years ago that the most efficacious response to very wealthy people,
especially old money people, was to smile. All the time. Even when you were
giving them some really bad news, just smile and let them absorb it at their own
pace. Michael could see the taut muscles in the old man's wrinkled face slowly
relaxing as the
tension leached into the silence of the oak paneled room.
The billionaire's quick blue eyes scanned Michael's face for any trace of malice or
perfidy. Detecting none,
he gathered his thoughts and prepared to respond. But, how could one
respond to this? Michael was telling him that he'd thrown two million dollars down the
tube outsourcing a development project to India. Even worse, the only way he could hope to recover his losses was to double up on
his bet and provide funding for Michael's company to rescue the project. Michael was only the messenger, and no matter how painful the
message was, he was appreciative of receiving it now rather than being left in the
"Do you stipulate that everything you've told me is the truth?" His
sudden resumption of speech jerked Michael from his reverie.
"Yes sir," Michael said, smiling at the finely honed legalese, "to the best of my knowledge
that is the
"Well, leave your number with my secretary on the way out, I'll get back
to you tonight with my answer."
"Thank you sir, I'm sorry to have brought you this painful news."
"Listen my young friend, I'm 96 years old, and they can only estimate my net
worth. If a little treachery was going to do me in, I'd of been six feet
under years ago. I appreciate your honesty in this distasteful
matter. Now run along."
Michael nodded and backed slowly from the elegant room. As he drove to the hotel through the grassy rolling hills of northern Texas, he thought
about each of his new friends. The Walking Man, what a cypher! Karen
called him Kent, but the man didn't seem to respond to the name
comfortably. He was friendly enough, but didn't give anything away.
It was a jaw dropper when he pulled the little silver iBook laptop out of his bag
and suddenly showed them some of his writing. Karen had ended up damned
near sitting in Michael's lap as she squirmed to read the screen. For the last nine years the guy had just been walking, walking and writing.
Michael smiled as he thought of the pretty, auburn haired Karen. With her come-hither smile and intelligent happy
eyes, Karen was disarmingly
oblivious of the pheromonal bloom surrounding her. It was worth hanging out with these
guys tonight just to get to know Karen a little better, thought Michael.
Sedona, the dark, spicy, latina who served them breakfast seemed to have
the closest connection to the Walking Man. When they looked at each other,
the air around them seemed to crackle with blue sparks. The whole situation was
the kind of classic road warrior weirdness that Michael relished. It was just
So, after breakfast, he'd laid out some clean clothes for the Walking Man and
left him the room key. Then he hoisted his briefcase and headed out to the
rental car. They'd all agreed to meet again that afternoon in the Marriott
Sedona joined the Walking Man at the Marriott bar before the others.
She didn't recognize him at first. Without the beard, and dressed in
Michael's clothes, he looked almost normal. Except for the eyes, she
concluded as they unclenched from a prolonged hug at the table. His eyes
were a hollow black void, like a smoke blackened cave. They awakened
something deep and fundamental in her.
Sedona's dress was almost a cliche, which was why she had kept it, even as
her circumstances improved. Oddly enough, the inexpensive turquoise peasant
that she'd bought in Oaxaca on their way North was extraordinarily flattering to
her full figure and rich dark complexion. She blushed with awareness of
the unconscious desire in the Walking Man's gaze as they sat down.
In the few short weeks they'd known each other, Sedona felt as though she
were falling into a trance every time they held each other close. She sniffed at
his hair, then smiled shyly. He even smelled of Old Spice rather than the road,
how strange! He was something she wanted, badly, but knew she shouldn't,
and probably couldn't have.
Is it you?
As Beth worked her way across the lounge, she still wasn't entirely sure whether she was in the right
place. When her eyes locked onto the Walking Man, the rest of her being
focused like a beam of coherent light. She traveled the length of the room
in a daze and appeared at the table peering at the tall gaunt man with a
question on her lips, "Is it you?"
The Walking Man stood bolt upright. He was, momentarily, as stunned as
she was. It was Beth. She was here. Now. Karen was the last one to
see Beth and as she started to rise
from her chair Beth pressed her back down without even looking at
"We...need...a few minutes... alone," Beth said softly to the group
without taking her eyes from his. She
reached out for the Walking Man's hand and led him slowly and gracefully from
The highway ran almost precisely east, as flat and unforgiving as a euclidian
plane. A glorious rising sun arched over the dark hills in the distance.
He walked along the macadam road at an easy but steady pace. His
mind stretched back to the people and events behind him, but his stride never wavered.
Lometa, Texas: http://www.texasescapes.com/TexasHillCountryTowns/LometaTexas/LometaTexas.htm