I was zooming up Interstate 95 with a leap frogging caravan. One guy from the back would race forward and take the pole position and lead and set pace for a while. Then somebody else would jump ahead – pass on the left and jolt foreward to the head of the parade. This same clump of cars working together as a team, an unspoken, understood arrangement and formation assembled by strangers just trying to get home from the weekend – making great time in this way, working as a team, exceeding speed limits by 25 or 30 miles-per-hour – sharing the risk by taking turns out front – our herd keeping the safety of its numbers. I occupied a position in this stack behind this pickup with a cap over the truck bed and no back window in the cap, I was behind this truck for hours, continuously, for the whole trip, except when it was my turn to race forward, but then the pickup jumped ahead of me and so on. In the back of this truck was a little kid, a five or six-year-old boy. He was having a blast back there, dancing around, looking out the window, yelling and singing. We even played pretend gun fight with each other. He fired his plastic M-16 rifle at me, and I pointed my pointer finger at him and cocked my thumb and fired back at him. I let him win each time, I'd grab my chest and make a face like I'd been shot and he'd raise his weapon over his head and chant like victorious warriors do. He got bored with me after a while, and he started poking his head through the little sliding window up to the cab where his dad was driving the truck. Yelling, kicking up his legs, squirming - at one point trying to climb through and, his dad let him have it - verbally. I could see his dad yelling. I could see his face in his own rear view mirror. The kid's ramblings subsided a bit for a while, and he just sat there pouting. He wouldn't even raise his weapon at me. The kid just looked down, frowning at all of the stuff loaded into the truck. The father had really loaded it up. The kid barely had enough crawl room, and that’s why he was so restless, and that’s why his dad was getting so mad at him. There was stuff stacked up just above the edge of the tail gate. There was a big purple plastic toy of some kind right on top. Some kind of outdoor toy, I couldn’t tell what. Maybe it was part of a little slide or some kind of jungle jim set up or a sled or something like that – it was about three feet long and a foot or so wide. Our caravan hit a rather bumpy stretch of road. There was some construction going on in the area. Patches of asphalt were torn out and there were sudden drops and lips and old patches of asphalt lumped up in the road. Our caravan tried to maintain its high speeds, however. We hit one particularly bad spot, a drop off of a few inches followed by some really bumpy old asphalt. The father in the truck ahead of me had his hands full keeping control. The jolt to his vehicle suddenly caused that big plastic toy thing to pop up and fly out the back of the truck! It took my most skilled and lucky and well-timed maneuver to avoid the thing as it hurled at me, bouncing and cartwheeling crazily at me, I swerved left and cut it back before I started fish tailing. I think the object may have hit a car behind me a few cars back in the caravan. The kid went berzerk. He started wailing. His toy had flown out of the truck, and it was the worst thing in the world to him. He started screaming and pointing, poking his head into the cab again. The father had his hands full driving. He screamed at his kid to leave him alone. I could see his eyeballs bulge in his rear view mirror. Again and again, he must have been screaming at the kid, shut up shut up!! Finally the kid sat down and faced me, he faced the disapearing landscape that his toy had flown off into. Its fate lost on the communication break down between himself and his father, lost in the frustration of the road and now beside the road for other travellers to see and think about for a few seconds, for a few fractions of a mile as they passed. The kid was crying up there in the truck, taking big gulps of air and wiping his face on his sleeve. He gradually calmed down, his movement subsided. His head started to nod down. Finally I could not see his face because his head was all the way down, his chin rested on his chest. He was asleep. The sun started to go down.

No comments: