The International Writers Magazine:Dreamscapes Travel Fiction
Travel Story, from the Word Go
"How come youre so sour
this morning, Marcie?" Melanie Sopes leaned toward her co-worker
at the Saugus branch of AAA. Both were young, both striking redheads,
hired as if they had been twins looking for work, now staffing
the Trip Tik desks at the facility. Miles Kenneally, the boss,
had moved the desk around in his office so he could watch their
sunshine all day long.
never understand, Mellie. Ive never been anyplace. Lucky to get
out of Saugus once in a while. A trip now and then to see my aunt in
New Hampshire. Thats not much of a ride. Boredom at another word."
A deep breath came as punctuation. "I could draw that route in
my sleep, number each exit, print out the mileage by heart. But youve
been all over. Atlantic City, Foxwoods, even out to the Finger Lakes
that time with Eddie whos long gone now." She shrugged her
shoulders, not understanding the break-up between Melanie and Eddie.
"Im just dead in the water." She turned her palms up
at her own abject dissolution, and said it again: "Just dead in
the water. And my mother tells me this morning, can you imagine, shes
going to Yarmouth again, up in Nova Scotia, on the gambling boat with
a boyfriend. And thats overnight again. I bet its her third
trip or so."
"Same guy?" Melanies eyes moved with the question, knowing
"I dont think so." Marcie, turning slowly in her chair,
shrugged her shoulders again and looked at the surroundings, but at
nothing in particular.
Melanie offered a sage caution: "Better start smiling, Marcie.
If luck jumped up and bit you in the ass, youd never know it."
From across the room, moving with a sense of dependence, a pair of old
timers wearing their ages wearily, wearing eye glasses, both with hearing
aids, clothing of each entirely uncoordinated, but holding hands, sat
down in front of Melanies desk.
The man, in a purple sweater and a hideous green shirt, offered a chaste
smile and said, "We want a trip ticket to Walla Walla, Washington."
The woman smiled at the man, then at Melanie. Crows feet, implanted
near her eyes, might have been scored in place. Gray hair hung thin
and sparse, but her cheeks shone. "Were going to elope and
were not going to tell the kids." She giggled. Melanie almost
giggled in turn. In an escape measure, she looked around the room, seeking
something to concentrate on. Her eyes set on a young man being directed
to Marcies desk by the reception clerk. Leaning over, whispering,
Melanie said, "Smile, Marcie, theres a grand hunk of lover
boy coming your way. My gawd, he is scrumptious! We can swap if you
want. I wont mind a bit." Then she giggled again, deep in
her throat. The giggle made her cough.
The young man of extraordinary looks, eyes blue as her bedroom lampshade,
blond to the roots, settled easily into the chair in front of Marcies
desk. Wide shoulders loomed square and powerful. She drew her knees
together in a slight panic, with a bell, a sounder of sorts, ringing
somewhere deep inside saying what she felt. Redness, as if from her
hair, spread in a wave across her face.
Marcie said, "Do you have a ticket?" Her knees, tight together,
knocked. Shed die if they echoed.
"No," he said, his voice smooth as the low end of a violin.
"Thats what Im here for, a trip ticket. Can you do
that for me?" His blue cardigan sweater, hanging open and loose
over a well-formed physique, picked on his eyes for support. One hand
spread itself on the desktop; no rings, no scars, no old-time stories.
Her knees slowed their rhythm, but the beat was still known, still threatened
"I mean, do you have a card? May I see it, please?" She could
hear her Aunt Marys voice saying the phrase over and over again,
proposing that you always learn from your mistakes in life: "When
he comes, hell come like a stiletto. Hell slide under your
skin like youve never felt a thing before. Believe me, like a
stiletto, like a razors edge. Theyre the ones that are worth
it all. You better be able to pick them out right off the bat."
The young mans hand on the desk disappeared, came back, and placed
his membership card in front of her. A name leaped out in black letters
on the gold surface. When she said the name to herself it was like a
mouthful of candy. She dared chew on it: Jared Perempteron. Never had
she seen that name. Never had it come across her desk for the year and
a half shed been here. She said it again, mouthed it, tried counting
syllables and felt the fluster and the redness merge on her face, and
saw that hed been a member since 1998, so he was at least 28 years
old, said her figuring. Another look at his hands confirmed her first
assessment, and how exceptionally strong they looked, tanned on the
backsides and no knuckle scars evident, no rough stories. She remembered
that was what she had seen in Melanies Eddie the first time, the
knuckles giving away his past, some of his recent history.
"Where do you plan to visit, Mr. Perempteron?" she said, trying
to make it all smoother than it was. The name rushed through her as
before. Counting syllables in his name seemed worth it, appropriate;
she tried it again. His eyes fell on her breasts, lingered, moved away,
but not before they broadcast a sense of acknowledgment, appreciation.
A shiver was waiting to happen along her backside.
"I dont care," he said, without hesitation. "Im
just going, looking at scenery, seeing a bit of the country. I have
the time. Ive always wanted to go, so now Im going. But
I dont like a lot of detours, a lot of construction on the way.
Thats a definite requirement. Ive heard you people can fill
that in for me, divert me away from it, at least the on-going stuff.
Am I right on that account?"
The deep blue of
his eyes made its own point and the melody in his voice seeped through
her body. "Oh, yes. I can take care of that. Do you like the seashore
or the mountains? Do you drive for long days or short hauls? Do you
stop for lunch when driving?" How do you spend your nights, tell
"None of that do I know. Ive never been any place. Now I
have the chance."
"So where is it that youre heading to?" Not too far
"I dont care. Just tell me how to get there, keep me away
from detours and road construction, make life pleasant for me."
"How long would you be going for?"
"It doesnt matter. I have all the time in the world."
Marcie wondered about his age again. Had she been right? Had he been
so successful so early in life that he could run off just like that?
She could almost hear her fingers snap.
For a moment her mind was suddenly lost in another trip. She couldnt
remember who had told her about Prince Edward Island and the lobster
bakes and a sparkling ride on the Cabot Trail, and how they had celebrated
the end of their trip by fishing for salmon on the Miramichi River at
Ted Williams own pool in Doaktown, New Brunswick. But she had
gone studiously to the travel books and often went back over every foot
of the trip, committing it to desire. It had brought the wanderlust
and, too, the rut that assailed her each morning.
Now, as if in waiting for the right occasion, that other trip animated
"How about the Finger Lakes in New York?" She wanted to stretch,
to feel good, but didnt dare to. She could have said, Eddie went
up there and now hes gone, but she said, "Its exquisite
country up there. You can get there by going up through Vermont, which
is a great ride in itself, like on Route 100 or Route 7, and go to the
tip of Vermont up by North Hero and then go down through upstate New
York, and the whole country is open after that. You can go to Canandaigua
and then theres the ride along Lake Erie and out to Chicago along
the lake too, and the lakes of Wisconsin and Michigan and mountains
of Idaho and Montana and the wide open ranges and the national parks
Deep breaths made their way, punctuated her litany. "Find a whole
world out there right in our own country. My gosh, you could go right
on to Oregon and Washington state or even on to Alaska. Like Rogers
and Clark did, or some of the mountain men. Did you ever see the movie
Jeremiah Johnson? My god, my kid brother loved that movie, knew all
the dialogue, every last line. I even think I remember some of it."
At the back of her head someplace, in a memory patch full of color,
she saw Robert Redford gazing down at his Indian woman for the first
time, his eyes lighting up the screen. Her knees knocked for awareness
one more time.
Melanie stared at her, puzzlement emanating from her open mouth. Miles
Kenneally, from inside his office, watched Marcies redder sunrise.
She knew she had carried on too far, but Jared Perempteror was smiling
at her. He dazzled; his teeth shone perfectly, his chin carried a small
dimple with character of its own, the sun that once roamed on his cheeks
and forehead took on a keener display. Her knees knocked with threat,
swearing anew theyd be heard across the room. Oh, God forgive
me, she said under her breath, and afraid that would be heard too.
Jared Perempteror had not let go of his smile. "Mark it out for
me, and just the way you said it, that remarkable way, that exciting
way you do it, like you love your job and are best at it. Does things
for your eyes, I swear." He paused and she believed he was going
to change his mind, but he added, "Put in the Alaska part too,
the whole shooting match. Might as well make it a fell swoop, if thats
how they say it."
His hands spread apart in a significant gesture that encompassed the
whole country. Strong forearms loomed atop her desk. Did Robert Redford
pick up his Indian woman with such arms? The color of Marcies
hair must have drained entirely into her face. Suddenly she knew she
had no awareness of her hair, as if she had gone bald. Her hand reached,
touched loose red strands, and she had acute knowledge that her breasts
had moved with the reach, felt the stretch; his eyes had moved too with
abrupt calculation. His look exhilarated her. Deep inside, where everything
starts out on its wherever, she knew him in a desperate way.
She knew she had to ask. The words popped out of her. "When would
you be leaving, Mr. Perempteror?" The dream, the longing, sat in
her eyes obvious as a billboard. His name is sweetness itself, smooth
like chocolate. I can taste it; Perempteror. Oh, my.
"As soon as I can find a co-pilot. I dont like to drive alone."
Hes joking with me. The look in her eyes aroused surprise, then
alertness, a warning, came alongside, like a boat being secured to the
pier, coming from the spread of water, coming to sudden roost.
For the first time, like ignition or spontaneous combustion, an intuitive
screech started inside, rising from an old memory patch long thought
lost. Oh, God, he must be sick. Maybe hes been given a death sentence.
Perhaps cancer or a blood disorder. Her mouth must have collapsed with
the thought. He wants to see his country, this country, as much as he
can as quick as he can. He wants to see it as much as I do. The thought
plunged home. Aunt Mary went just like that, in one swift month. So
unfair! So damn unfair!
Her mouth went agape, and the redness filled her face again. "Are
you all right, Mr. Perempteror? Youre not sick are you?"
Oh, Im so wide open, too intrusive and entirely out of my mind.
Ill get canned now if Miles heard me.
Jared Perempteror laughed lowly and softly, trying to assure no one
would hear him. "No," he said, "nothing like that."
His voice was a whisper. "I just dont have to work any more.
But I will. I just want to see the country while Im young enough
to enjoy it." He tossed a minimal gesture of his head to the older
couple at Melanies desk. "While Im young enough to
enjoy it." He nodded at the couple at Melanies desk. "Stuff
like thats beginning to bother me."
"Oh, yes," Marcie said, almost collapsing in a surge of satisfaction,
of pleasure touching even her bones. "I was just telling Mellie
about such a trip."
He leaned across the desk and said, "I dont have to go right
away. Could we talk about it at dinner sometime, like tonight?"
Melanies gasp matched Marcies as the two redheads lit up
the office, as Miles wondered what was going on at the Trip Tik desk,
where the two older customers were roughly getting to their feet, leaning
on each other, silly grins on their faces.
© Tom Sheehan September 2005
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