Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Shiny Side Stayed Up


From high in the passenger seat of a Peterbilt truck, the featureless expanse of the Great Plains stretched to the horizons. Beside me The Cisco Kid, a Canadian trucker, my ride, a lonely soul who spotted me hitchhiking in Sacramento, thumped the steering wheel, keeping time.

 It was March, and Cisco — I never learned his real name — kept the cab cold and the music loud, just above the CB chatter.

 “Ooh, I'm driving my life away, looking for a better way, for me”, Cisco sang in his scratchy voice.

It was the hundredth time I’d heard Eddie Rabbitt’s song since my road adventure started. Behind us an 18-wheeler carried a load of concentrated juice. Cisco drove and drank sweet creamy coffee, while I smoked and told stories to keep him awake. Eddie Rabbitt was fading away, but never very far. Cisco reached for the CB and increased the squelch.

 “Breaker 1-9, Westbounders on the I-80, how’s it look over your shoulder?”

 “Lake Rat here. Y’all look good back that way,” a disembodied voice said. “Copy?”

 “Cisco Kid copies.” He took a gulp of sugary caffeine juice. “Clean and green your way, but smile and comb your hair east of Des Moines. 4-10?”

 “10-4. Keep the shiny side up and the rubber side down.” The Cisco Kid winked, as he hung up the mic. “Pizza and Murder by noon.”

 “Chicago?”

 “That’s right, boy. Chicago. The Windy City. Find me some country music.”

 I gave a silent groan and fiddled with the dial. Seconds later Eddie Rabbitt’s voice returned. “Well the midnight headlight finds you on a rainy night…”

 “Great job!” Cisco said. “Yeah.”

 “Gotta keep rollin”, Eddie sang. “Ooh, I’m driving my life away…”

 Two thousand miles we’d come together, and I was far, but still nowhere further. I rummaged for my notebook and wrote a couplet.

 “Looking for a better way —”, sang Eddie, and the Cisco Kid grinned. I smiled back, inhaled toxic smoke, and watched the snow-covered cornfields shoot past.

 “Looking for a sunny day”, I whispered along. He’d heard me anyhow.

 “That’s right!” he said. “Gotta keep rollin’.”

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