Allow me to explain the layout of our little home on wheels. In the back is a full-size bed for Arch and me. There’s a two sided booth. The table drops down even with the seats and the cushions fill in to make a small bed, just right for LoJ. For Petey, there is a small sofa that folds into a twin size bed. Over the drivers area is a bank of doors for storage space. It can be folded down and turned into a full size bed which you have to take a running jump to get up into. We had intended to use it strictly for storage and never, ever have to fold it down.
After unexpectedly being joined by Mavis Fortney and Millie Keats, all the planned sleeping arrangements went to hell in a hand basket. Last night, I made the beds for LoJ and Petey and settled them in with big hugs and kisses.
Arch and I locked gazes, and instantly I knew I would be doing the high jump to get into my bed. There really wasn’t any other solution unless we put Mavis and Millie back out on the road where we had found them, but I knew my husband wouldn’t let that happen. I shrugged and while Arch unloaded the tons of stuff we had stacked over the driver’s seat, I helped M&M get their night clothes from their suitcases. As patiently as I could, I waited for them to take turns stepping into the potty room where they could change clothes.
Mavis marched out of the small space dressed in stretch jersey pajamas. The gray outfit sported numerous red lips and teeth with the word “Bite Me” scattered among the large mouths. Petey giggled. I gave her an evil eye. She quickly disappeared under her blanket.
Finally, Millie made her way into the spotlight.
Petey peeked out from her cocoon. “Wow,” she scrambled to an upright position. “I love the Jonas Brothers.”
“Me, too.” Millie did a model-type spin to show off her PJ’s with the picture of the three young singers splashed across her chest. She staggered slightly, but I caught her before she fell.
“Come on, Millie. Climb in.” Raising the cover, I shooed her into bed next to Mavis. “Good night, ladies.”
By the time I had gotten back to the front of the coach, Arch had climbed into our bunk and waited with open arms to pull me to my roost. I flipped the final light out and made a less-than-graceful belly flop onto the thin sheet of foam topping a rock-hard plank of wood. It took a few seconds for me to jostle my legs up. Thankfully I had turned out the lights before my mount, because my short nightie would have left nothing for the imagination for the other occupants in our cozy, air-tight confines.
Sometime in the middle of a dark, mind-numbing dream I heard “Psst, Bert.” Whatever the annoying sound was, I willed it away and continued to hold onto the deep sleep I’d been enjoying.
“Bertie.” That time the sound came with hands that roughly shook my shoulder.
“What?!?” I yelled into what turned out to be Millie’s nose. Standing on the floor, her face was eye level with mine. She’d also turned on a dim light over the two-burner range top, making it easy to see that I had startled her as much as she’d scared me.
I rose onto my elbow. My head barely touched the roof. “What’s wrong?”
“Your snoring is keeping me and Mavis awake. Can you tone it down a little?”
If glares could kill, I’d be serving twenty to life right now.
“What’s wrong?” Arch asked.
“Millie wants me to quit snoring?”
“Oh, well, here’s what you do,” my soon-to-be ex-husband pinched my nose. I lay perfectly still for the demonstration, but when he moved his hand away and Millie actually tried to pinch my nose, I quickly objected.
“Don’t you dare do that, understand?”
Arch rolled over with his back to me, but I could feel his body quaking with laughter.
“Good night, Millie,” I said.
Miss Bite Me turned off the light on her way back to bed, but she mumbled something about it not being her fault she thought she heard a cow giving birth. Arch reached behind him and lightly padded my thigh.
“I know you want to laugh,” he whispered. “Go ahead. Let it out because if you don’t it will go down and make your butt bigger.”
I certainly didn’t want that to happen. So, my belly laugh was joined by Arch, Millie, and Mavis. Suddenly, I heard a tiny voice arise from the laughter.
Dang. Dang. Dang.
* * * * * * * *
Well, that was our first night on the road. LoJ took her time about going back to sleep which was fine. It gave me time to cuddle with my sweet baby and to reflect on what I wanted to experience on our adventure.
More than anything I wanted to relax and enjoy the time away from some of the insanity and various nuts that wove through the tapestry I call my life. Sure, I had two of the biggest macadamias with me right there in our motorhome. But, as much as I hate to admit it, if I survive their hijinks, I eventually always find them amusing.
I awoke twisted in a fetal position with LoJ pulled close to me. Slowly I untangled my stiff limbs and eased to a sitting position. As quietly as possible, I slipped into my jeans and T-shirt, then went out the door. The sun barely peeked over the horizon, and I desperately needed the coffee I could smell being brewed in the next campsite.
A middle-aged man wearing khaki shorts and a Hawaiian shirt looked up from a paperback he held in one hand. With his other, he gave me a slight salute with a large mug, which I assumed held the tantalizing coffee wafting my way.
“Beautiful morning.” I took the five steps toward his campfire.
“I was just thinking the same thing,” he answered with a deep, western twang. And, I don’t mean west Georgia. No, it was exactly what I thought the Marlboro Man would sound like.
He stood and asked if I’d like a cup of coffee.
Would I? I almost yelled. “That would be nice.” Much better.
The man pulled another mug from his backpack, blew in it to clear away any dust. He poured the black liquid that I was sure I could have whistled for and it would have come to me on its own.
“What do you take in it?”
“Black is just fine.” He handed the mug to me, and I took a slow sip. Hot, dark and strong coffee might just be the thing I needed to face the day that lay ahead.
The man introduced himself as Duke. I could have guessed that by the way he spoke. I told him a little about our big adventure.
He gave me a thumbnail version of his whole life. Born in Waco, Texas. Married his high school sweetheart. Immediately became the father of two girls. They are both in college. His wife left him for one of their daughter’s professors. So Duke was on a healing/finding himself mission.
I remembered from Arch and my honeymoon that people we met in the campgrounds were great and diversified. And I enjoyed learning as much as I could about them. Most were very different from the people who lived in my hometown. Maybe it was because I knew where they had hidden all the bodies, and they knew enough about me to get me hung.
The new people I met would only know what I wanted them to know and hopefully, I would appear halfway normal to most and there would be no pointing and saying, “Remember when Bertie had this or that happen to her?” For a short time, I was normal.
And I could talk to people who were also normal. I decided to start a journal and describe each person and try to remember every detail I could about them. The man I had just met would definitely go into my journal.
He was nice looking, clean cut, and read paperbacks.
”Do you read mostly mysteries?”
“I read anything and everything. It’s becoming a problem because I’m running out of room.” Duke hooked his thumb toward a fairly old van. The side door was slid open revealing a makeshift bed and several large, plastic bins. Lashed with bungee cords to the top of his van was an inverted canoe.
“Have you found many places to canoe in this area?”
He looked a little taken aback, but then after glancing at his canoe-topped van he said, “No, I don’t canoe at all. I have a hole in the roof of my van.”
And there you have it. That quickly, reality yanked me back into my usual surroundings of wacky people. The last drop of coffee or mud (I couldn’t decide which) slid down my throat.
“Well, I have to get back and wake up my family.” I sat the mug down on the picnic table. When I turned back to Duke, he had pulled a large box turtle out of his backpack and held it out for me to see.
“This is my traveling companion, Eltrut.” Duke used his index finger to raise and lower Eltrut’s front leg. The turtle was waving at me. Did I wave back? Did I turn and run? Or, did I try to erase the image of what Eltrut had done in the coffee mug I’d drunk from. After all they had both been stored in the same pocket of the backpack.”