When you drive over 400 miles, as we did, in one day, topics of conversation start to become a bit thin on the ground. We occasionally play games to pass the time; ‘I Spy’ is a popular choice, or the license plate game, where words are thought of that have all the letters of passing license plates in the order in which they appear, albeit with other letters of course. Sign posts provide some amusement. Outside of Augusta we spied one that said, “Herculaneum McNutt.” That still has us rolling around; we don’t know if that’s a person’s name, a place, or, indeed, two places, but it will surely reappear as a character in one of my books one day. Then there are the billboards which, in Missouri, seem to be evenly divided between fireworks for sale, ‘Adult Superstores,’ and various proclamations portending damnation. On top of everything, Cristal swears she saw a triangular spaceship in the clouds while driving.
In the parking lot of a rest stop, we were approached by a man, barefoot and with cigarette dangling from a corner of his mouth, who needed to borrow jump leads. It was one of those moments where you’re quickly running through in your mind (a) whether you’ll ever see those jump leads again; (b) whether you can spare the time to wait for their return on a trip of 400+ miles; or (c) whether you will do the right thing and loan them—if you can find them. Well, we did the right thing, found the leads straight away in the bag right by the trunk door, and handed them over while we went off and walked to get some exercise. When we went over to collect the leads when the gentleman was finished, we got into the kind of conversation that would be most welcome over a bottle of wine on a lazy evening with no place to go. It ranged from Hopi spiritual beliefs to environmental preservation around the country, and a singular rattlesnake.
George Williams, wherever you are, thanks for the brief respite from boredom, and let’s get together for that bottle of wine one day.