TWO SOULS: INTO THE FIRE
Steve grabbed his things from their motel room, and went to help Linda and the kids with their packing up. Ghost got his backpack and jacket, and paused a minute, looking around the room. He knew he'd gotten everything, but it felt like he was forgetting something important.
"You ready," Steve asked, when he got back. He was ready to lock up the door and turn in the key.
"I think so," Ghost said, "but something feels weird. I can't remember what it is."
"Well, maybe you'll think of it later...let's get going," Steve said, as he locked the door. "I'll be back in a minute...need to turn in the key."
Ghost got up in the U-Haul, and was flipping through his journal, when Steve got back.
"It's here somewhere...I know I wrote it down," Ghost said. "Or, maybe I didn't, but it was part of the cowboy story."
"Whatever...no need to get all worked up about it," Steve said. He started the truck up. "You'll either think of it or not."
Ghost sighed, and stopped flipping the pages of his book, and stared out the window. Steve concentrated on his driving, getting them out onto the highway. Soon, they were at cruising speed, and there wasn't much traffic. When he relaxed a bit, he saw that Ghost was still staring out the window...or maybe sleeping...maybe both...his eyes were half shut.
"You awake?" he asked.
"Um-hmm, but it won't happen like I said," Ghost said.
Ghost looked over at Steve. "The cowboys...they won't. We can't stop at all in Texas, so just keep going, ok?"
"Huh?" Steve asked. "I'll try, but we probably will need to stop, you know, to get gas, go to the bathroom, get snacks. Anyway, why can't we stop?"
"'Cause I remembered," Ghost said. "The story I told the kids was fun, and they got to see the horses, but if we stop and go in the diner, it won't be fun. They'll be mean, and it will scare Stevie and Mandy."
"No, the cowboys. They will be mean to us, and call us names, and hit us with a bat, and cut us, Steve." Ghost was getting really upset, now. "Don't let them...I'm scared." He was breathing hard, and he reached over, clenching his hand on Steve's arm.
"Ghost, snap out of it...nothing's gonna happen," Steve said. He could tell that somehow, Ghost was somewhere else in his head, and was reliving the past. He was getting alarmed, now, himself. "Wake up, Ghost. You're getting mixed up. That all happened in the past...a long time ago. It's not happening now. I will pull over, if you don't wake up...I swear I will," Steve shouted.
Ghost kept staring at Steve, but Steve could tell he wasn't seeing him, yet. He needed to think of something fast, to bring Ghost back to the present. He started singing one of their oldest songs, one they both knew by heart, but purposely left out some of the words...to see if Ghost would pay attention. It had worked before, when Ghost was lost in his head. Sure enough, it worked this time. Ghost shook his head, reminding Steve of the right words.
"Huh? I was singing it wrong," Steve asked. "So, how does it go, then?"
Ghost sang it to him the right way. "Why you not remember, Steve? We sing it all the time." He started laughing. So did Steve...seeing Ghost was acting normal again.
A half hour later, they passed a big sign saying 'Entering Texas - Welcome to the Lone Star State'.
"Well, it don't look any different," Ghost said.
"We're still on the same road...what did you expect?"
"I don't know...like in the movies or something..."
"Oh, you mean like cattle drives, and shoot-outs at saloons?" Steve asked.
"Well, something like that..." Ghost said. He kept looking at the passing scenery...dried grass in the fields, mesquite trees, a cactus or two...then a sign, saying the next town was twenty miles farther on.
"You know I have to stop up there for gas, don't you?" Steve asked.
"Yeah, I know."
"I'm hungry too. I'd like to find a place to eat, and take a break from driving," Steve mentioned casually.
"Why are you telling me this?" Ghost asked. "We already planned on it, this morning."
"Oh, right...I forgot," Steve said, but really, he felt like he was in the twilight zone, or something, after their conversation a little while ago. "You ok with it?"
Looking at Steve, a bit confused, Ghost asked, "Why wouldn't I be? I'm hungry too, and I think Linda and the kids are, too. Just find somewhere we can eat."
Steve shrugged. "Ok, no problem...I will."
The city they were entering was a big one...Amarillo. It was easy to find a place to stop for food and gas. While Steve and Linda filled the gas tanks, they discussed where to eat. Steve told her of what Ghost had said.
"Oh, I get it...the kids were going on about seeing horses and cowboys, because Ghost said they would," Linda said, looking around. "I don't see any, though, do you?"
"Nope, at least not right here. Maybe I could ask inside, see where they hang out," Steve said.
"Ok, you go do that," Linda said.
When he got back from inside the little convenience store, he said, "They said there's a truck stop about a mile east, with good food, and he said there's usually a cowboy or two hauling cows or horses, who have stopped there."
"Good, let's go there, then," Linda said.
"Ok, but I hope they're not mean, like Ghost said," Steve said.
"Me too, but we're hungry, so we have to stop somewhere," Linda said. They got back in the van and U-Haul, and arrived soon, at the truck stop.
"Come on, let's go in and eat," Steve said.
"I'm gonna stay out here," Ghost said. "Just bring me something."
"Uh-uh...you're getting out, too. Let's go," Steve said.
Reluctantly, Ghost got out, and they all went inside the truck stop.
Steve did feel eyes staring at them, as they walked around, looking for an empty booth. The place was pretty crowded. Steve led the way, with Ghost close behind, his head down, and his long hair obscuring his face. Linda was herding the kids, behind Ghost. Steve had immediately felt out of place here. He had on his usual black outfit, and looked more like a biker, than anything else. The other people there were mostly long-haul trucker types, and must have been regulars on this I-40 route, because the waitresses were joking and calling them by name. Steve did hear a few rude comments, as they passed by the tables, but he didn't acknowledge them. ...hey, studly...who's your sissy boy?...come over here...aw, he ain't no stud...they both a couple'a queers...hahaha...ain't 'cha? ... Pretty mama, we got some real men who'll show ya around... There were a few wolf whistles, too.
After sitting down at their table, the waitress came over with the menu. "Don't pay no attention to those jerks...they holler at everybody that comes in here. They're a bunch of assholes," she said loud, looking the truckers' way. "Ok, y'all look over the menu...I'll be back."
Ghost had still not looked up. Stevie and Mandy were cutting up, punching each other's arms, and giggling. Steve had a frown on his face. Linda took a menu, and decided what she and the kids would order. "Here, Steve...find something...let's just eat and then get out of here."
Steve took the menu, but didn't look at it. "Let's go somewhere else. I don't like this place."
"Steve, we're here, we're hungry. It's a public place. I'm staying and will not let rude people upset me...now, hurry up," Linda said.
"We wanna see horses...we wanna see cowboys," the kids were saying over and over.
"Hush, you two, behave yourselves. We're eating politely, and then leaving," she scolded them.
"Fine...I'll just get a hamburger. Ghost...what do you want?" Steve asked, sliding the menu across the table.
Steve sighed. "Listen, Ghost, you have to eat. We're here...now pick something."
Ghost shook his head. "These people are mean. I feel sick." He put his head down on his arms, on the table.
The waitress came back, bringing water for everyone. "Y'all ready to order?" she asked.
Steve looked at Linda. "Let's get it to go, ok?" he asked.
She nodded, and told the waitress what she and the kids would have, and Steve ordered two burgers, fries, and cokes for him and Ghost. "Make it all to go," he said.
"Ok, no problem...it won't be long," she said, and was gone again.
Linda had brought out coloring books for the kids to keep busy with. "Ghost, you going to be ok? Drink some water, honey." Ghost just moaned. She looked at Steve, shrugging. "I'll tell ya later," Steve mouthed back to her.
Their order was ready, and put into bags, so they all filed out of the truck stop, amid more heckling.
"Look, horses," Stevie hollered, and ran toward a truck, with a horse trailer, that was parked over to the side of the parking lot.
"Stevie, come back here...leave them alone," Linda yelled, as she hurried after him.
Next part coming soon!
Peace, Love, & Writing