The Long Walk
Walking, there appears to be no end in sight, stranded on a country road for all eternity. It is almost dark; so far, away from all that is familiar. The trees are groaning against the wind’s fury: when did the wind start blowing? Have I been walking for so long that time hysterically slipped away! The leaves are rustling about swirling through the air like discarded post-it notes: smashing, slapping against the trees and blacktop, “splat-snap.” Where did the sun go? It gave the impression only an instant ago, or had it been longer; that it was going to be a still and peaceful day; has panic from hunger and walking so long finally caught up. Waking up this morning, had I been warned of the impending day, the highs and lows that I would soon face, and the surprising twist of fate that awaited me, I would have gotten up nonetheless.
It was a sunny day, even though the remnants of last week’s snowstorm still blanketed most of the surrounding area. I decided, after fumbling around the house for a few hours, lethargy creeping in, that I would go for a drive in my trusty old Maverick. I purchased the dark blue 1975, Ford Maverick, from a used car lot ten years past its prime. It was a good car and until today, I had not had any problems with it. There was nothing planned for this trip, no basket of food prepared, or any other preparations taken, just a spur of the moment kind of drive. Living in the city can be depressing so getting away from the concrete jungle for a few hours was a welcomed escape. I have not lived in this city for very long and although I knew several of the names of the adjoining towns, there were a few that I did not know. However, being the adventurer that I am, I drove off in a direction that I have never been. I do not know why I did not think to look at the gas gauge before I left; perhaps I was too preoccupied with the thought of fleeing that I did not care.
After an hour or so, now coasting on a narrow old country road, I began to sense the problem with my car even before it actually happened. As if there was a telepathic connection from man to machine. Almost as soon as the thought blasted into my consciousness, I started to feel the thrashing and lurching from the cars fuel starvation. I did not worry though, at least not right away. Because, over the last twenty or so years I have become somewhat of a shade-tree mechanic: If it can be fixed, I can fix it, at least the basic things anyway. However, this situation was different, because I was out of gas. I parked the car on the side of the road, exited; being careful of oncoming traffic and went to the trunk to get the spare gallon of gas that I always kept there. I opened the truck and instantly realized that while cleaning the trunk out the other day I forgot to put the gas back in afterwards.
Hence, there I was, stranded on this narrow country road, burrowing through the foliage that was exploding everywhere, with my broken down Maverick. I was two hours drive from home and getting hungry. I reached for my wallet only to find that I too, had left that at home. Being sure to lock up my car before I left, I started walking. It was starting to get cold and a dark gathering of clouds stared to form through the thick canopy of trees, almost instantly. I assumed that I was headed in the right direction only I had no idea if I was. Minutes turned into quarter hours, as I shuffled forward. The day had been nice when I started out late this morning, however, now, it was turning quite ugly. “Stumbling forward,” a vision from so very long ago is beckoning: knocking on the awareness of years past, as a child. I had been bad and as punishment was halfhazardly escorted into the cellar, or basement if you will to spend the night. I was afraid. It was night and I was only six years old. I remember it so clearly. There was not much in the way of comfort in our cellar. A rusted old water heater, which clanked and banged to life every hour, sat in one corner, surrounded by cobwebs thick as cotton candy. It resided in its own spot, perhaps a hundred years away from the narrow walkway, which was less than a foot across. On another side of our dungeon sat an old worn workbench dusty from lack of care; just standing there, with canning jars placed indiscriminately nearby. In the middle of the subterranean crypt was the play area where us kids usually had to play during the day. Here sat a rectangle crib framed squarely by steel padded poles with fish-netting walls hanging three feet from the floor. This familiar wicked playpen suddenly did not seem so comforting; after all, it was soon to be my overnight quarters. Entering the confine, after having been told that this was home for the night, I took little solace in the stuffed animals that encircled the enclosure. As my make-believe parent left, I settled in for a long night ahead.
Walking now, floating in and out of reality, pitch as black not a car in sight. Have I slipped into a different dimension? Trapped in a time warp? It seems like days have passed. Why hasn’t anyone given me a lift?
I awoke to a crashing sound, awkwardly sensing the dense cellar air, my coconsciousness screaming to go back to sleep. As I slowly became aware of my right mind, suddenly I realized, that I was not alone. Fear swept through me like a sandstorm through a chain link fence. I did not know what to think. Was it someone playing a cruel joke or was it something else; some demons come to get me. I was huddled right next to the thin fishnet walls trying to feel the security of that flimsy backing, but alas, I did not. Unexpectedly, a slight gust of air splashed my forehead, I wanted to get up and run: run as fast as I could, but where? There was nowhere to run. My heart, now doing a hundred and eighty miles an hour, felt like it would soon split open and spill its contents. I was frozen; I did not know what to do. Slowly, I crept towards the center of the pen and covered myself with the stuffed animals that were all around me. I knew that at any moment the thing in the cellar would soon get me. I shut my eyes.
The light was blinding. Where was it coming from? Slowly, I realized where I was, on the dark country road. The road, being so narrow, forced me to walk on the better half of the main part, which put me in harms way from passing cars. Having vanished now, in and out of awareness for what, I looked at my watch, four hours. Walking, slouched over, I can only imagine what the passing motorists thought as they overtook me on the road. No wonder why I am still walking. The lights advanced on me and for an instant, I thought I was road kill. As the car slowed down, I stepped off the asphalt onto the soft shoulder. It was slushy and muddy from the winter’s weather. The car came to a halt and the side window slowly rolled down. A elderly voice spoke out through the darkness, ” Are you alright there young feller,” for an instant and only an instant I was afraid, but as soon as I heard that calm tone in the mans voice I began to relax. “Yes,” I said. Then I told the man my story. After a few minutes of talking to each other, he too seemed more relaxed. Then, he offered to help me, which I did not refuse. I hoped in the car and off we drove towards my lifeless Maverick. He had some spare gas on hand and gave it to me. I told him that if he would give me his address, that I would mail him the money. He said, “Not to bother, but you can return the favor by helping someone else out,” I said, “yes,” that I would surely help someone out if I was in a position to do so. Subsequently, after starting up my car with his last voice saying good luck, he was gone.
This whole ordeal has been a tremendous learning experience for me. I have never again gone for a “spur of the moment drive,” without knowing that my trunk is equipped with a gallon of water, an emergency first aid kit, and more importantly a full, two and a half gallon can of gasoline. The place where my mind went, on that old country road, has put into perspective for me that no matter what kind of dark, cold, and deserted circumstances I might find myself in, a power greater than myself always intervenes.
I was stranded in the middle of no-where with my
broken down Maverick.