The Soupster compliments an off-road driver.
The man loved Our Town’s cool dampness, its outpost quality, its traditions which he had taken as his own. Despite being known as friendly, the man kept a lot secret. When asked how he’d come to be in Our Town, he would only say, “On the ferry, just like everybody else.”
At another time in his life, the man had loved to drive his car for long distances alone. Herculean drives – 20-hour hauls taking him non-stop from Denver to San Francisco or Raleigh to Oklahoma City. His first car had an 8-track where he played Beatles and Satchmo tapes for company. “Ramblin’ Man.” Later, a cassette player, then CDs.
The man still played CDs sometimes, it helped him when he felt compelled to overlook Our Town’s physical imitations by driving several times from one end of the road all the way to the other, while pretending he was actually going somewhere. Since he moved to Our Town, the man purchased beaters and lemons for cars, to disabuse himself of his desire to escape by a road that went nowhere. And then one day, he had the luck – good or bad – to inherit a nice, peppy, late-model car.
The man drove his new ride to the end of the road and felt, for the first time in a long time, the desire to drive further. He fought the urge.
He liked the new car – it had satellite radio and heated seats. The Soupster, among others, had complimented the man, as though he had lost weight. The man did feel vaguely…proud? Yes, he liked his new car. But ooh, that urge.
One day, as he drove north on the state highway, the urge won.
He passed a shuttered convenience store, then a private cruise ship dock. He felt in no way agitated. More like the calm one feels on the first steps of a long journey.
Past the ferry terminal he drove, and the last vestiges of Our Town disappeared into the forest. He saw the “End of Road” sign ahead of him. He closed his eyes for a split moment and wished that he could keep driving, keep driving. Keep driving.
And when he opened his eyes he saw a very familiar sight – the 24-hour SeaTac restaurant, 13 Coins. Late-model cars whizzed past on either side of him along the straight-as-an-arrow road festooned with motels and eateries. To his left were the elevated tracks of the new light rail by SeaTac Airport. The man and his peppy car worked their way up International Boulevard toward Seattle.
The man was confused. He pulled into the parking lot of a Denny’s and went inside for coffee. He sat at the counter pondering his experience when a big trucker with a kind face sat down on the next stool.
The trucker looked just like the old actor Pat O’Brien, who often played priests. So the man told the trucker his whole story. “…and then there I was,” the man told the trucker. “I mean, here I am.”
The trucker was the non-judgmental type. His only comment was, “Wow. How are you going to get the car back home?”
The man was silent for a second. Oh, I’ll probably put it on the ferry,” he said. “Just like everybody else.”
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