The Torino crossed the flooded Mississippi and passed heavily loaded semi-trailers laboring up a steep bluff. Davenport, Iowa wasn’t a big city, but river town had been even smaller, when a trucker had dropped Jack Kerouac in 1947. The sun had set without the beat writer catching a ride and Keroacc had backtracked to Davenport for the night

In the morning another truck driver drove him to Iowa City.

Twenty-seven years later the Recession of 1974 had badly battered the American economy and the Ford Torino was the only passenger car on the Interstate. Sean checked the dashboard clock. It was 5:10 Central Standard Time.


A local AM station broadcasted country-western music.

Following the promo plug for the Quad City Angels baseball team the DJ played Melba Montgomery’s # 1 hit NO CHARGE followed by Ronnie Millsap’s PURE LOVE. Sean looked at the other passengers.

AK huddled against the front door and Pam slept in the back of the station wagon. Sean repressed a yawn and cracked open the driver-side window, then splashed water on his face.

After the municipal airport I-80 beelined through the vast fields of grain. In the distance was the silhouette of an unlit farmhouse. Other than the stars there were no lights. A quick glimpse at the map informed Sean that the next truck stop was about thirty-five minutes away at 75mph.

Once he had some coffee, he would be fine.

The DJ cued up Dolly Parton’s I WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU. The long love ballad led to a series of yawns. On the third Sean rested his right eye and fifteen seconds later opened it to give his left eye a short rest.

Seesawing between eyes was a dangerous game and Sean splashed more water in his face.

He sang along Charlie Rich’s chart-climber I DON’T SEE IN ME IN YOUR EYES for about a minute, then both eyes shut and his hands fell off the steering wheel.

“Yo, man.” AK shouted, as the Torino’s driver-side tires edged off the asphalt onto the grassy meridian.

A jerk of the steering wheel righted the car onto the empty interstate and Sean pulled over to the shoulder. I

“What happened?” Pam asked, rubbing her eyes. She had slept through all of Illinois.

“He fell asleep at the wheel.”

“Just for a second.”

“Another second and we were dead.”

“Pam, it’s your turn at the wheel.” Sean stepped out of the Torino and opened the door for the blonde co-ed.

It was probably was my turn last time you stopped.” Pam stretched with the wind dancing with her loose shirt.

“You looked too comfortable to wake up.” AK’s finger brushed order into his sleep-tangled hair.

“Where are we?” The twenty year-old gazed at the black plains stretching west.

“A little west of the Mississippi in Iowa.” Sean gave her the map.

“Another ‘I’ state?”

“Yes, but the last. Next up is Nebraska and it’s a long one.”

Omaha was over four hundred miles from Colorado. Kerouac had ridden in trucks to Cheyenne and caught a bus south to Denver.

“How far from here?”

“A hundred and sixty miles. We should get there around dawn.”

“Then I suggest you go to sleep.” Pam sat behind the wheel.

“I don’t mind if I do.” Sean crawled into the back to lay his head on the pile of sleeping bags. One of them smelled of Pam’s lilac oil. Sean liked flowers. She put on the 8-track BLUE. Like most college girls of the 70s she was a Joni Mitchell fan and Sean asked, “What is it about Joni that you like so much?”

“Her songs are magic to my soul. I know it’s not cool for men to like her, but she sings about our lives.”

“I saw Dave Van Ronk perform BOTH SIDES NOW at the Club 47 in Harvard Square. Before that show I thought she had nothing to offer me. I was wrong. Tom Rush covered URGE FOR GOING. I’m probably in this car as much for that song as Kerouac’s ON THE ROAD. I’d love to hear it now.”

“I can play it on my kalimba.” AK lifted his African thumb piano.

“You can?”

“I know all the words.” Pam stepped on the gas. A billboard advertised the truck stop in Atalissa. The tank was three-quarters full. They weren’t stopping there.

“I can help on the chorus.”

AK plucked the plaintive chords of Joni’s song on the thumb piano. Pam sang a decent soprano backed by Sean’s baritone. They repeated URGE FOR GOING and the second time tears stained the corners of Sean eyes, because Joni sang for everyone with an ear for music and a soul to feel life. At the fourth chorus Sean slipped into sleep with the wheels mumbling, 
“And I get the urge for going.”

Sean woke with AK behind the wheel.

Outside the car the rays of the rising sun tipped the infant corn. The radio transmitted Kenny Rodgers’ RUBY. They were approaching a broad river, which unlike the Mississippi wasn’t in flood.

“Morning, sunshine.” Pam offered with a sleep-sweetened smile.

“Is this the Missouri?” Sean tossed back the sleeping bags and pulled up the back seat, then climbed over to sit behind Pam.

“You were right about your talent for Geography,” AK said without turning his head away from the road.

“We’re just east of Omaha.”

A city on the bluff shone in the bright morning light.

“We’re making time.”

“Thanks to Old Leadfoot.” AK pointed his thumb at Pam. “But I don’t think we’ll break your record.”

“So now you believe I made it cross country in fifty hours.”

AK had scoffed at his claim back in Boston.

“Not really, but we are 100% disbelievers and since there’s nothing on the radio, so tell us again.”

“Two years ago this speed freak picked up my friend and me in Iowa. Lucky was driving a Super Bee. The only time he below 100 was to buy gas. He had trouble staying awake. A couple of times his head fell on the steering wheel and I steered from the passenger seat. Lucky was heading to LA and should have been on I-40 instead of I-80”

“Nice guys.”

“We didn’t tell him about this error until Winnemucca, then he headed south. Forty-four hours after leaving Boston.”

“I almost believe you, but only almost.” AK opened the window. The cornfields had been replaced by wheat, low hills bordered the horizon, and men in pick-ups wore cowboy hats. They weren’t in the east anymore.

“Me too.” Pam resumed reading her book.

“Like Jake said. All stories are true, if interesting.”

They drove through Omaha in a matter of minutes and followed a mist hiding the Platte River.

A century ago pioneers had traveled this route into the West.

“We’re getting low on gas,” announced AK.

“And I could use a wash.” The blonde nursing student tugged at her windblown hair.

“Then we’re in luck.” AK pulled off I-80 into a truck stop offering showers.

A young black teenager with reddish hair was pumping gas. Pam slid out of the car and his eyes followed, as if she was someone famous.

“Fill it with high test,” AK told the young man.

His friend might have been a hippie, but he was also white and the teenager lowered his eyes before asking,

“Anything else, sir.”

“Could you clean the windshield?” The glass was smeared with insects.

“Yes, sir.” Fear edged his politeness was edged with fear, for back in 1919 Omaha’s whites had brutally lynched a black man suspected of rape and leveled the prairie city’s colored section. That savage event had been forgotten by most Americans, but not this young black man from Nebraska.

“Where are the showers?” Pam asked the service attendant.

“Over there, ma’am. The bath facilities are attached to the diner. A shower it’d costs a dollar.”

“It could cost $10 and be worth it.” She grabbed a towel and left smiling at the black gas attendant. Sean tipped him a $1 once the tank was full.

“Thanks, mister.” Nobody tipped gas attendants. “For doing what you’re doing.”

“Doing what?”

Thousands of hippies crossed America this time of year.

“You know.”

“No, I don’t.”

“Sorry, I thought you were someone else.” The black attendant checked the gas station. “Where you going?”

“San Francisco.”

“Damn, the city of love. Wish I wuz goin’ with you.”

“You could come with us.”

“Naw, I’ll stay here with my family, but you be careful with the speed. The police don’t like people like you, but you know that.”

“Thanks for the warning.”

“We have to stick together.”

The teenager flashed a secretive black power fist and replaced the gas nozzle before attending to the next car.

Sean motioned for AK to park the Torino and walked behind the car, which the New Yorker slotted between two campers with out-of-state plates. A wind devil swirled across the parking lot. The fine grit bit at his eyes and layered his skin with another layer of road dirt.
AK left the station wagon and glanced back at the attendant, saying, “Bet he’s the last black we see before California.”

“You’re probably right about that. We’re entering white man territory.”

“The last time I drove cross-country I only saw Indians on Route 66.”

“Same as me. I saw Navahos in Gallup, New Mexico and rode in the back of a pick-up truck in the dead of night with some. No one said a word.”

“I doubt there are any Indians out here.”

“Nebraska has six reservations on the map, but they’re stuck in the middle of nowhere, but I can’t throw any rocks. The Yankee side of my family seized the Abenaki lands in Maine long before a single white man stepped foot on the plains.”

“Same as Long Island. The Shinnecocks have a reservation the size of Yankee Stadium.”

“Better than nothing. My Irish Nana’s family had been forced off their farm by the British landlords.”
Sean reached into the car for his leather jacket and a tee shirt. A shower could wait until the Rockies.

“And my father’s family fled the Russian pogroms.” AK locked the car.

“Like the Mormons fled their persecutors?” Sean checked his wallet, which was in his back pocket.

“The Mormons are more a cult than a people, plus we won’t see them until the western reaches of Colorado. So after here we longhairs are one of the minorities.”

“You know I’m related to Joseph Smith?”

“You’ve told me that before.” AK also picked out a tee shirt and a towel.

“And my grandmother said it more than once and she never lied to me.”

“Mormons are a cult. They believe that blacks will be slaves in heaven.”

“Don’t worry, we won’t be making it into their heaven either.”

“Certainly won’t since you don’t even believe in God.”

“Guilty as accused.”

The morning wind blew dust into his eyes.

“No god, huh?”

“None at all.”

“Don’t tell anyone out here that. This is Bible thumping territory.”

“I know how to keep my mouth shut.” Sean said, as they entered the truck stop. “I need to make a phone call.”
“Not Jackie.”
“What about a shower?”
“Not now.”
“Suit yourself, but you’re getting a little ripe.”
“I am?” Sean sniffed his shirt.
Nixon’s Silent Majority was right to call longhairs ‘dirty’, but all cross-country travelers were dirty after a few days on the road. Families were dirty, hippies were dirtier, and hoboes were dirtiest of all.
“See you in a minute.” AK went to shower off the road.
Sean called his parents collect at the hallway payphone. No one picked up on the South Shore and he phoned Jackie in Buffalo. After thirty seconds Sean slammed down the receiver and entered the diner, half-filled with sleepy truckers in desperate need of a lift stronger than coffee. He sat at the counter.
Several seconds later AK joined him.
“You can’t believe what some guy said to me in the toilet.”
“Something about sucking and fucking.” Truck stops were notorious cruising spots.
“Worse than that.”
“Yes, guess I’ll stay dirty until California.”
“Won’t bother me, but Pam might complain.”
“Yeah, maybe we’ll stay in a motel tonight.” AK scratched his hair, as the waitress served hot coffee. None of the truckers commented about hippies. They wore their hair long too.

Sean picked up a discarded local paper and scanned the sport pages for baseball results. The Red Sox remained his team, despite last season’s epic collapse in September. They had lost the previous day and he read the front page.

Watergate dominated the headlines. Nixon grew guiltier each passing day. The other big story was Patty Hearst on the run from the police. The kidnapped heiress-SLA radical topped the FBI’s Most Wanted List.

AK read the menu, as if he might chose a breakfast other than eggs over easy with bacon, but lowered the plasticized folder to watch Pam saunter into the room.

He wasn’t alone.

The men in the diner ogled the twenty year-old, but several stared at the newspapers in their hands, then studied the blonde with an interest greater than sex. Suddenly the black gas attendant’s comments made sense.

“I feel like a new woman.” Pam beamed with the pleasure of a hot shower, and then she noticed the attention of the men in the diner. “They stare at me, as if they haven’t ever seen a woman in their life.

“They might have another reason.” Sean showed her Patti Hearst’s photo in the newspaper.

“They think I look like her?”

“I look nothing like her.”

“I agree, but a reward has a funny way of making people see things that aren’t there. Mr. Hearst has offered $50,000 for his daughter’s return.”

A fortune in 1974.

“If she’s Patty Hearst, then they must think that we’re the SLA. You think any of these cowboys have a gun?”


Two men glared, as if they had robbed the Hibernia Bank in California.

“Let’s get out of here,” Pam folded the menu.

“No, we stay or else some idiot will call the State Police for the reward.” Sean waved to the middle-aged waitress.

“What’s up?”

Her nametag said ‘June’.

“That’s my aunt’s name.”

“How nice. You ready to order?” She posed a pencil over her pad.

“Yes, June, but we have a small problem.”

“I hope that it isn’t a vegetarian thing, because this diner serves bacon, ham, and steak with breakfasts.”

She impatiently planted both hands on her hips.

“No, we love bacon.” AK reversed the newspaper. “But a few of your customers might think that our lady friend here is Patty Hearst.”

“Patty Hearst?” the waitress gasped, then her eyes flitted between the picture and Pam two times before chuckling, “These boys are as dumb as a cow tied to a post. You’re much prettier than that poor rich girl. Let me handle this.”


The waitress faced the other diners.

“You idiots keep your eyes on your food. This pretty girl ain’t no Patti Hearst. She’s like the rest of us. Plain people, so get back to your grits and eggs.”

“How can you be sure?” a fat man asked from the back of the diner.

“Jack, you want extra coffee or a check?”

“Extra coffee, please.” Jack lowered his head.

“That should take care of them. What will you kids have?” The waitress had enjoyed her tirade.

“Bacon, eggs over-easy, home-fries, toast and OJ.” Pam smiled with the delight in another woman’s power over men.

“Make it two.” Sean loved breakfast in America.

“Three.” AK added his order, which Helen gave to the short-order cook.

Thirty minutes later they exited from the truck stop. The young black attendant was filling the tank of a state trooper’s cruiser. The officer’s gaze tracked Pam to the station wagon, then tipped his hat. To him the blonde was just another beautiful hippie girl on the way west.
Pam sat in the back.

AK and Sean stood by the station wagon, basking in a dry breeze.

“You smelled that?” Sean breathed the scent of a continent’s center.

“Alan Lerner called this wind ‘Mariah’ in his musical PAINT YOUR WAGONS.”

“It’s almost the West.”

“By the end of the day we should see the Rockies.”

“The miles keep piling up.”

“Even at 55.”

AK got in the co-pilot seat and turned on the radio. An Omaha rock station was playing HEY JUDE. Sean drove at 55 for the next two miles, as the Beatles wailed the chorus of ‘HEY JUDE’.

“That was weird.” Pam looked over her shoulder to see if the trooper had followed the station wagon.

“What was?”

“Those people thinking I was Patty Hearst.

“Tania’s on the Top Ten Most Wanted list.”

“Her name’s not Tania,” Pam spoke with reactionary conviction.

“It’s her name now.”

“You have no idea what they did to her.”

“Who did what? The SLA are revolutionaries.”

“Who kidnapped her? Not Nixon. Not General Westmorland. Not the Pope. She was grabbed by a gang of criminals.”

“Her father controls a newspaper backing the war.”

“So she was fair game?”

“He’s an enemy of the State.”

HEY JUDE was lasting forever.

“My father is a lawyer. Yours works for the phone company. They support the System.” AK had a strong aversion to hypocrisy.

“But I don’t.”

“So we’re all targets?” Pam was a member of the Silent Majority.

“Same as a kid in Vietnam.”

“That’s another reason Jackie didn’t like you. You believe that there will be a revolution in this country. Those men in that diner voted for Nixon. They outnumbered you twenty to one. They will never let there be a revolution.”

“Pam’s right.” AK agreed with the musing student. “The police beat us in Chicago, the National Guard shot us in Kent State. RFK, Malcolm X, and Martin Luther King are dead. They even shot George Wallace.”
AK didn’t clarify who ‘they’ were, because their names remained a mystery.

“What about the Struggle?”

“The Struggle?” AK laughed at the word. “People in this country have forgotten the Days of Rage, Stop the War, and the Black Panthers. This country is tired of the fighting.”

“So all they want is a peaceful barbecue on Memorial Weekend.”

“With well-done burgers and warm Bud beer and the troops home from Viet Nam”

“But B52s are still bombing targets big and small in Indochina.”

“Americans don’t care about the War anymore. They have shut off Viet-Nam like it was an old Green Acres re-run on TV.”

“The SLA and Weather Underground are fighting for freedom.”

“Yes, and a week ago four hundred LAPD attacked an SLA safe house. The SWAT team shot tear gas through the windows. The gun battle lasted until the house caught fire. America doesn’t fool around with revolutionaries.”

“The SLA deserved what they got from the police.” Pam’s family lived in the suburbs outside of Washington DC.

“Deserved?” Sean parents’ split-level ranch house was painted pink, but he felt more urban than suburban. “The LAPD killed all the people in that house without any attempt to peacefully end the siege.”

“Thankfully Patty wasn’t among the dead.”

“That’s another reason I hate the Beatles.” Sean snapped off the radio to kill HEY JUDE. “Their song REVOLUTION. “If you want to talk about destruction, then count me out.” I expect nothing else from a group who sold out rock for pop, so they could say they were more popular that Jesus.”

“Time out, time out.” AK lifted his hands to quiet his friend more than Pam.

“Jackie thought you had a bad temper. Not to her, but against anyone who supported the war people.”

Her list of his failings lengthened state by state.

“Because I care.”

“About what?”

“The end to injustice.”

“You and a few others, but the rest are sell-outs. Seniors cut their hair and put on suits to meet with corporate recruiters.

“Not me.”

“And no company hired a longhair in 1974.” Pam glimpsed into the rearview mirror and said, “I care, but I’m no revolutionary.”

“Neither am I.” Bombs, kidnappings, and bank robberies were beyond his commitment to change and Sean said,

“Sorry, Pam.”

“I’m sorry too. I have a bad temper.”

I know, but so do I.”

Sean turned on the radio to catch the second chorus of STREET FIGHTING MAN.

Neither of them explained their apologies and they listened to a medley of hits from the Rolling Stones, as

I-80 crossed Nebraska like a snake nailed to the prairie. The distance increased between the small towns and trucks accelerated to 70. Sean pushed the Torino to 75. There was no place off the road for a state trooper to hide, but he slowed at each off-ramp.

Approaching Kearny he spotted a bearded hitchhiker on the side of the road.

“It’s Bill.” Pam recognized the ragged longhair.

They had thrown him out of the Torino back in Boston over 1600 miles from Kearney.

“How’d he get in front of us?” asked AK.

“Same way I did the USA in 50 hours. Long steady rides.”

“Are we stopping?” asked Pam.

“Not a chance.” Sean stepped on the gas.

Bill glared at the station wagon and flipped them the finger.

They did the same and laughed.

“Didn’t he say that he was joining a carnival in the Midwest?”

“Someone likes Bill tells the stories people want to hear.”

“Like Jack Kerouac.” Pam had banned hitchhikers after Bill.

“I think Kerouac was nicer than Bill.”

“Anyone is nicer than Bill.” Pam re-opened her book FEAR OF FLYING.
Sean sped up to 80. Spring wheat fields covered the undulating prairie. At the next exit stood two tattered hobos. They barely bothered to lift their thumbs.

“Not stopping for them?” Pam was riding Sean.

“Not them. No anyone.”

After Gothenburg Pam switched places with Sean. Parched buttes escorted the interstate. The Torino cruised at 90. Sean attempted to tell Pam to beware of cops, but she refused to believe that one would give a beautiful blonde a ticket. She was more right than Sean once again.

I-80 split at Julesberg, Nebraska.

Kerouac had taken the northern route to Cheyenne.

They changed over to I-78.

It headed to Denver.

“First one to see the Rockies wins a beer,” Sean said to break the silence.

“You’re on.” Pam accepted the wager.

He spotted the mountains a little east of Sterling, Colorado and said, “Turn here.”

“Why here?” Pam pulled off the highway.

Distant peaks shined white with snow and Sean held up the map.

“Route 14 runs west to Fort Collins and the Rockies, plus I don’t think Bill will be coming this way.”

“And you think there’s a bar in this town?” Pam was rewarded for heeding the speed limit. A cop car sat at an intersection. The officer was eating a sandwich. Pam waved to him and he waved back.

“Probably on the outskirts.”

At the edge of Sterling was a bar called the INFERNO LOUNGE. Two battered pick-up trucks were in the parking lot. The bar appeared like the previous owners might have served whiskey and beer to westward bound pioneers in the last century. The road beyond the bar bisected calf-high wheat to the mountainous horizon.

“This looks like the place.” It was here or nowhere.

“I can make a call.”

“To Harry?”


Pam parked the Torino near the entrance and got out of the station wagon.

AK followed her into the bar. The stuffed heads of wild animals decorated its wooden interior, proclaiming the clientele’s fondness for guns. The two older men at the bar regarded them for a second and returned to their beers. They had seen hippies before.

“Guess you stopped looking like Patty Hearst.” Sean sat on a stool with a cracked leather pad.

“I hope you’re right.” Pam wasn’t looking to repeat the scene back at the truck stop.

“Sorry about before.”

Pam faced him. “And I’m sorry about you and Jackie. Some things don’t out the way we hope, plus you and her weren’t in love.”

“It wasn’t?” It had felt like love.

“No, you two were just a thing.”

Sean tried to recall if he had ever said the love word.

His memory came up empty.

“Just a thing?”

“She was killing time until she and her old boyfriend got back together. You must have known that.”

”No, I didn’t.” Sean wished that he was talking to Jackie instead of Pam, but his wish wasn’t coming true any time soon.

“What you folks want?” The bearded bartender placed both hands on the bar, whose ancient wood was scarred with carved names.

“Coors.” The brand wasn’t available in the East.

“Three.” AK stood at the jukebox and reached into his pocket for change.

Sean picked up the cold Coors can and gulped down his, while Pam sipped hers and handed the bartender $2.

“Can I make a call?”

“Payphone is out back.” The bartender gave her eight quarters and she walked to the rear of the bar.

“Pretty girl. How long you know her?” He had clever eyes.

“I know where you’re headed with this. You think she’s Patty Hearst. She isn’t.”

“She isn’t?”

“No, Pam’s a college co-ed from Boston. She’s friend’s of my ex.”

“Damn.” He shrugged with a well-aged disappointment. “I could have used the $50,000.”

“Couldn’t we all. That much money is the price of ten GTOs.”

“I only needed one.”

“Me too.” Sean introduced himself.

“Buck, it’s not my real name, but no one here knows that.” Buck shook his hand. “By the way where’s your ex-?”

“She’s spending the summer with her high school sweetheart.”

“High school sweetheart are always trouble.” The bartender nodded, as if he was an expert at old boyfriends.
“Yeah, I confronted her about him.”
“How’d that work out?” The bartender winced, having heard enough bad endings involving old girlfriends.
“We sort of made up over a bottle of tequila and I decided to drive home rather than spend the night, since she shared a bedroom with her roommate.”
“The girl on the phone?”
“One in the same.”
“A bad decision.”

Tell me about it. I ran over some bushes and an unmarked car pulled up on my left. Two policemen were inside. They ordered me to stop. I decided to run for it. I was driving a VW hatchback.”

“Not the best vehicle for a getaway.”

“No, and pretty soon the town’s entire police force was on my tail.”

“Must have been a slow night.”

“Yeah, but not for me. I pulled into a dead end and jumped out of the car like it had been had been stolen.”

“Was it stolen?”

“No, I had borrowed it from a friend.” Sean had seen Pam put the coins into the slot several times without speaking on the phone. Harry wasn’t home and he wasn’t at the hospital. She had both numbers. “But I figured my friend would tell them it was stolen and I’d get off.”

“Did the cops believe your friend’s story?” Buck was used to relatively smart people doing stupid things after a few too many drinks.

“They didn’t have to. I ran into a backyard and fell over a low ledge into a big bush. The cops had a laugh at that.”

“Bad night for you and bushes.”

“Yeah, the first bushes had friends. The cops threw me in jail. My uncle arranged bail in the morning. He was a big-time lawyer and settled the charges. In the end I only had to pay $200 for the ruined bushes.”

“Damn expensive bushes.”

“That they were.”

“We have bushes out back you could run over for free.”

“Probably thousands of them.”


Sean’s beer was almost empty.

Buck served him another Coors.

“My girlfriend wanted nothing to do me after that night.”

“Can’t say that I blame her.” The bartender was a master at listening to a sad tale.

“Me too.” Sean turned his head at the slam on the payphone.

Pam strode up to the bar in a bad mood.

“Don’t say a word.”

It was a demand and Sean stepped away from the bar to give her the time to calm down. A young cowboy shot pool. He wasn’t too bad.

“That’s your girlfriend?” a teenager asked with a pool cue in his hand.

“No, we’re just traveling together.”

“You wanna play a game of pool?” Hay covered his shirt, dirt stained his jeans, and cow paddy rimmed his boots. Farm work was a messy job.

“Not for money.” Sean wasn’t into gambling.

“A game that’s all. I’m no hustler too.” His toothy smile beamed with small town honesty.

“Eight Ball.”

“Fine with me. I like a game needing luck as much as skill. The name’s Billy.”

Sean was warming up to the Inferno Lounge.

The two men shook hands and flipped a coin for break. The young cowboy won with heads and his first shot sunk a solid with a steady hand and a keen eye. The nineteen year-old sunk three more balls before missing a bank shot.

Pam drank her beer on the stool without a smile on her face, while AK selected songs. The first to play was

Joni Mitchell’s URGE FOR GOING, but as much as Pam loved Joni Mitchell, she ignored AK’s selection, because her eyes were on the farm boy.

Sean miraculously sunk six balls in a row, only to scratch on the 8-ball and Pam called next.

“This is Billy.”

“Your father’s name isn’t Bill, is it?”

The violent hitchhiker was either in or close to Colorado.

“No, my old man’s Buck.” He nodded to the bartender.

“A good man.”

“Certainly no Bill.” She waved to AK. “Two on two. Billy won. We break.”

Pam somehow sank the eight ball on her break.

In the next game Pam ran the table, as if she were related to Minnesota Fats. Billy was impressed with her skill as were the other three men in the Inferno Lounge.

“Playing pool well in the sign of a misspent youth.” Pam laid the cue pool on the table.

“Herbert Spencer, English philosopher said that,” AK identified the quote and Jake replied, “Ain’t no one around here been named Herbert since Herbert Hoover.”

“Only Billy.” Pam held his hand. “Let’s take some air.”

The young cowboy and Pam exited the bar and Sean ordered another Coors.

AK stood before the jukebox.

Sean’s second beer tasted as fresh as the first and he ordered a third. His driving was done for the day.

Several minutes later AK sat and asked, “You think she’s all right.”

“We’re on the road. She’s fine.” Pam was taking a break from being someone’s girlfriend. Flirting ain’t a sin.

“I mean…”

“I know what you mean.” AK liked Pam in the same way that Sean had liked Jackie. They were girls made to love. “She’s just having some fun same as me holding hands with a cold beer and a dark bar.

“Are you sure?” AK peered out the window.

“Take a look.”

Pam was taking photos of the farm boy with her Kodak. The blonde nursing student lowered her camera and held hands with Billy. The Beatles had scored a huge debut hit with I WANNA HOLD YOUR HAND in 1964. As a twelve year-old boy on the South Shore Sean had sung the song to a thirteen year-old blonde girl named Ginnie.
Sean put down his beer and bought three songs at the jukebox.

They cost a quarter.

GIMME SHELTER rang true after three beers. Sean sang along with Mick on RUBY TUESDAY and nodded his head during SYMPATHY FOR THE DEVIL, but Pam was right. The revolution was over in America, The SLA and Weather Underground were too small to threaten millions in the Silent Majority. Sean wandered to the front window.

Pam and Billy sat in the dented pick-up truck. The prairies crawled to the wall of mountains crowding the horizon from north to south. He returned to the bar to sit with AK.

“You okay?”

“Never better.”

“The same for me.”
They clinked glasses and toasted the moment without saying a word.

Both of them John Wayne quiet.

It was good to be back in the West.

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *