May 02, 2009

May 2009, Vol. 8, Issue 5

Welcome back to the latest issue of Truckin'...

1. Popeye by Paul McGuire
The beat up truck with Maryland plates included three large green trashbags that were strapped down in the back. A skinny woman in the passenger seat took a swig off of a bottle and handed it to a guy in a baseball hat. He took one long pull and then spit it out of the open window... More

2. Quicklube: A Fable By Milton T. Burton
It's turning out to be an A-number-one-fine day for C.C. Chumly. He and several of his like-minded buddies are quaffing a few Tall Toad Pilsners at the Belly-Up Bar, a truly classy place in beautiful downtown Midland, Texas... More

3. The Regret by David "Drizz" Aydt
My scar is buried under six feet of solid Nordic dirt and ice, among the mass headstones there's a grave marked with her name that has not been seen by these eyes... More

4. Blue No. 1 by Betty Underground
He looked up from the table and our eyes were locked. After so many years, sometimes there is no need for words... More

5. The Miracle of Highway Six by Art Rosch
Nevada is a washboard, an undulating series of mountains and valleys, and the roads cut straight across this ancient seabed. At the top of each peak, the view spreads down the road ahead, which goes in a straight line for miles and miles until it disappears into the next rise of the landscape... More

What a Long Strange Trip It's Been...

From the Editor's Laptop:

Welcome back to the May edition of Truckin' which includes a gem from David "Drizz" Aydt, perhaps one of my favorite stories in a very long time. Art Rosch is the latest writer to make his Truckin' debut with The Miracle of Highway Six. I'm ecstatic that Milton T. Burton is back with a fable and as always, Betty Underground's voice is always a pleasant and sultry mix to this month's issue. Oh, and I penned a little something inspired by a trip to Virginia.

Please spread the word about Truckin' and increase your karma tenfold by telling your friends and family about your favorite stories. The writers write for free so help me get the word about their bloodwork.

And as always, please let me know if anyone is interested in being added to the mailing list or perhaps you are interested in writing for a future issue.

Before I go, I have to sincerely thank the writers for exposing the soul to the world. Thanks for taking this leap of faith with me.

Be good,

"All great truths begin as blasphemies." - G.B.Shaw


By Paul McGuire © 2009

Eddie and I power smoked as we sped through southern New Jersey. He blasted Led Zeppelin's Physical Graffiti and Kaya (Eddie's sister and my girlfriend) took two hits before she passed out. Eddie smoked at least two-thirds of a blunt and I rolled down the windows to air out the car.

I tensed up as we drove over the Delaware Memorial Bridge. Normally, bridges and heights did not bother me, but the pot lulled me into a heightened sense of paranoia. Once I navigated the bridge, I unleashed a sigh of relief and started to bang my hands on the steering wheel in a poor attempt to mimic John Bonham.

Eddie was in the middle of rolling a second blunt when I saw a toll booth.

"Dude, hide the bud!"

"We just paid a toll. Why the fuck is there another one?"

"Who cares! Hide the stash, Eddie... now!"

"Slow the fuck down, so I can!"

Eddie frantically shoved everything into the glove compartment as flakes of marijuana peppered his lap and the floorboard. The entire vehicle reeked and I quickly lit a cigarette to mask the odor.

Once we paid the toll, Eddie returned to his blunt rolling project. That's when he saw the sign.

"We're stopping!"

He pointed to a Popeye's logo on a blue food highway sign.

"One and a half miles to Popeye's," I said.

"One and a half miles!" screamed Eddie. "Pop-fuckin-eyes!"

If we held out for food and drove one more exit, we would have seen a sign for Waffle House and instead feasting on hasbrowns and Bert's chili and drinking buckets of sweet tea. However, the munchies got the best of me and I let Eddie persuade me to pull off I-95.

We stopped at a shady gas station in the middle of Delaware. They shared a space with a Popeye's franchise, otherwise known as a poor man's Kentucky Fried Chicken. I actually liked their greasy biscuits and the munchies got the best of me. If Kaya were awake, she would have made a solid argument to eat at Waffle House instead of enduring the sickly food at Popeye's.

"What? The? Fuck?" she screamed as I nudged her. "Where are we?"

"Popeye's," said Eddie.

"I can see that, but where? What state?"

"Delaware," Eddie and I said in unison.

Kaya sighed and took a drag on the blunt as a pick up truck with a cracked windshield screeched into the space next to us. The beat up truck with Maryland plates included three large green trashbags that were strapped down in the back. A skinny woman in the passenger seat took a swig off of a bottle and handed it to a guy in a baseball hat. He took one long pull and then spit it out of the open window. Some of it hit the side of my car. He opened the door and stumbled out.

"Is that Bicardi?" asked Eddie.

"I believe it's Bacardi Limon," said Kaya.

"Who drinks citrus rum at two in the afternoon?" I said.

"They do apparently. Oh, shit, that tweaker just spit it out on your car," said Eddie.

The Redneck turned his head and made a sniffing noise.

"You boys smoking the rope?" he said

Eddie nodded and he walked up to the window.

"Can I have a toke?" he asked as he offered Eddie the bottle of rum.

Eddie declined the rum and handed the blunt to the Redneck. The Redneck took a puff and instantly coughed. Before he could clear his lungs, he foolishly took another hit and dropped the blunt during a coughing fit. The woman jumped out of the pick up and rushed over.

"You gonna smoke that all by yourself?" she said as she bent over and picked the burning blunt off the asphalt.

He continued to cough while she took a couple of hits, chased down by a swig of Bacardi. Kaya held up her cell phone and recorded the entire event.

"You boys know where I can get some of that?"

Eddie made up some long-winded answer that only a stoner could deliver. I would have simply said, "Nope."

The Redneck offered to trade a coupel of lines of meth for a bag of weed. When Eddie refused, the Redneck counter-offered a sexual act.

"Let me get this straight, mister... you'd let me fuck your wife for the rest of my pot?"

"Well, she's my ex-wife," said the Redneck.

"I'd be honored but I'm gonna pass," said Eddie as he shivered at the thought of putting his penis inside the sketchy drunk tweaker with rashes all over her face.

"You sure? She'll let you fuck her without a condom. And in the ass if you want."

She took another swig of the bottle before it slipped out of her hands and fell to the ground. Miraculously, it did not break. I motioned to Eddie that it was time to leave the car. He let the Redneck keep the rest of the blunt and we went inside Popeye's.

The line moved slowly. While we waited, the Redneck and his ex-wife made out as they stood behind us. We were next to order when I heard a splashing sound. I whirled around and watched a stream of yellowish vomit spew from the mouth of the female tweaker. She puked all over the Redneck's dirty jeans. I glared at Eddie and he nodded. We both grabbed one of Kaya's arms and quickly escorted her outside.

I stared at the near empty bottle of rum on the roof of the pickup as we pulled away. We sat in silence for a minute as I sped down I-95, until a sign for Waffle House appeared.

"Why didn't we go to Waffle House in the first place?" asked Kaya.

Paul McGuire is the author of Lost Vegas. He currently lives in Los Angeles.

Quicklube: A Fable

By Milton T. Burton © 2009

It's turning out to be an A-number-one-fine day for C.C. Chumly. He and several of his like-minded buddies are quaffing a few Tall Toad Pilsners at the Belly-Up Bar, a truly classy place in beautiful downtown Midland, Texas. Early that morning Chumly, a Midland City Councilman, was asked on a local live radio talk show just what he thinks of the allegations of torture of the Iraqi prisoners. His reply prompted his ejection from the studio, but earned him thunderous applause from the audience. "If hooking up an Iraqi prisoner's gonads to a car's battery cables will save one Texas GI's life," he said, "then I have just three things to say: "Red is positive. Black is negative. And make sure his gonads are wet."

Still basking in the warm glow of his friends' backslapping approval of that morning's escapade, C.C. is working on his third brew and wondering if the young punk will show up like he promised. Suddenly the door opens and a pudgy kid in his late 20s slides into the room, a Quicklube gimmie cap pulled low over his face, his movements jerky and nervous. He pushes his cap back and his eyes dart anxiously around the room. "Is C.C. Chum...." he begins hesitantly.

The bartender, Jean The Ex-Porn Queen, nods toward the group of older men gathered at the end of the bar. Chumly notices the new arrival and grins broadly. "I'll be back in a few minutes," he tells his companions with a knowing wink. "Me and this young whipper-snapper got some MAN BUSINESS to tend to back yonder in the gents' room."

The others snicker. Oil operator Stub Martindale holds up his empty glass. "How 'bout some service here?" he asks Jean.

She pops the cap on another Tall Toad and sets it down on the bar in front of the hulking, red-faced oilman. "You want service, then you better follow them two," she tells him. "I ain't in that line o' work no more."

This brings a nasty giggle from the assembled men. Stub watches Jean as she oscillates back down toward her end of the bar. "Wouldn't mind gettin' me a little of that," he says to nobody in particular.

"You kiddin'?" one of the men asks.

Stub turns toward the man and shakes his head gravely. "This is Midland, Texas, boys. And in Midland, it don't pay a man to cull none of 'em."

"You're sure right about that," says fellow oilman Clifford Snark. "It's different in Odessa. Why, one time me and ole Chester Hoot went to one of them cat houses up there and..."

Outside the West Texas sun beats down hot and relentless, while inside the men pointedly ignore the pig-like squeals coming from the restroom. "Nope," Stub muses philosophically, "in Midland nothing ever changes."

Milton T. Burton was born and raised in East Texas. He has been variously, a college history teacher, a political consultant, and a cattleman. He have published two crime novels with St. Martin's Press, NY titled "The Rogues' Game" and "The Sweet and The Dead."

The Regret

By David "Drizz" Aydt © 2009

Many people sport a scar.

That scar could be four inch gash on their face from that bad car accident when your buddy had the great idea that shooting Irish car bombs until two a.m. with the townies at the local VFW, well after the softball team took off for their awaiting families, and ended with turning your 1999 Honda Prelude into the letter U on I-494 with a trooper shaking his perfectly starched hat at your stupidity.

Holding a firecracker long enough to qualify for a Darwin Award. Caught mounting the high school junior next door neighbor listening to Blink 182 when the wife came home early from the gym working off her mid-section to get back into bikini shape after producing your second offspring, and she applied a Ginsu to your back while trying to go a second round with the young three-sport academic star on her back.

Other scars are not seen on the skin. In my life, the proclamation of having one and only one regret rings true, and the reminder of that scar burns with every trip to the office. My scar is buried under six feet of solid Nordic dirt and ice, among the mass headstones there’s a grave marked with her name that has not been seen by these eyes.


Not getting the balls to take a simple right on 85th Ave. into the small plot of land for the dead to let 17 years of regret spill out onto her grave.

Survivor questions have pelted me since the day a letter from her mother arrived at the ASU campus with a Denver Post clipping with her face down on the pavement as a result of an attempt to recreate a Hawaiian cliffdiver’s form off a five story parking ramp.

Often there’s a dream of falling with her in slow-motion, questions of why are you here in the Mile High city, why did you do it, and were you coming to see me. The dream resulting in waking up on the couch right before kissing asphalt while Verne Lundquist is calmly describing Mickelson’s miraculous sand save on the 17th and his subsequent two foot putt for par to stay tied with Tiger Woods. Those questions are ones that without the help of Haley Joel Osment, or $1.99/hour on the psychic network, I’ll have to live without knowing their answers.

Survivor’s remorse?


Most of that college freshman year, after receiving her death notice, was spent with an asshole 21 year old freshman from New York who enjoyed fucking his flavor of the week, or jamming horrible grunge lyrics into my skull with me in the room trying to decide nightly if doing a similar dive off the yuppie priced dorm room would be my way to release the pain of hating myself for breathing. Daily walks to class, and spending two hours solving for x passed the time and eventually woke me up to landed me with better company in the form of a speckled pothead from Philly who enjoyed dishing out his deep supply to Greek lettered ladies in exchange for cash, blow, or conversation. It made the time pass, made living flow, made for a way to escape inside of a one-hitter instead of looking for ways to give-up or listening to the NYC dickhead’s 2am bad karaoke version of “Jeremy”.

It took many years of self-hatred to realize she died for reasons unrelated to myself. No more daily queries like “should I have called when she broke it off for the fourth and final time?”. Easier now then to speculate as an 18 year old who’s head and body hasn’t lived life. Selfishness ruled, as getting laid and smashed daily seemed more important than securing a piece of paper which would assure you and your wife will enjoy financial freedom in Sun City, Arizona in those later years while your kids enjoy learning the history of Jamestown while doing tequila shooters off the school’s cheerleaders perfectly flat abs.

Still, sitting 17 years later, older, wiser, having life experiences of deaths to loved one and potential offspring, I still laminate on my first love (or lust?) while incased in a new family I would gladly die for. When will her ghost leave? Am I stuck to relive memories of pretending to go to the homecoming game in our sophomore year to get a first feel of sticking two fingers inside a girl while receiving my first ten-second blowjob? The sexually awkward next day in the hallways between class, and subsequent dinner-and-movie dates leading to our first break-up a few months later when someone else caught her eye are just a few memories that fade as I sit next to my seed playing with his new special edition transformers.

Letting go these in these fatherhood days of fun fruit, kindergarten, and level two swimming classes is easier, the dream doesn’t come around as much, but there’s still no closure. Finally taking that turn into the cemetery may not appease my 17 year old self wrapped with insecurity and acne as to why the brush off before prom, but looking down at her last name etched in stone as a father of two could finally give the present me the chance to at last say good-bye.

David "Drizz" Aydt is a writer from Minnesota.

The Miracle of Highway Six

By Arthur Rosch © 2009

Highway 50 through Nevada is reputed to be the loneliest road in the USA. It has a rival, and its name is Highway 6. It takes a northeasterly diagonal the entire breadth of Nevada before vanishing into the wilds of The Great Basin in Utah. It is far more isolated than 50, a hard hot eerie stretch of rocky desert and bare crags. There is one Flying J truck stop a third of the way across the state. After that: nothing. The town of Ely (pronounced E –Lee) is the road's first destination. It's a crossroads town with signs pointing to Las Vegas, Reno, Salt Lake City. Highways 50, 6 and 93 enter and leave the town in a few confusing blocks.

After surviving our plunge down 89 we made it to Bishop, and, god knows why, we wanted to get onto 6 and put another fifty miles on the odometer before stopping for the night.

Rule number one about driving an RV. DON'T DRIVE AT NIGHT! It's hard enough to control a bulky machine without playing with peripheral monsters at the side of the road, highway fatigue and caffeine nerves.

We pushed out of Bishop after stopping at a Super K-Mart, where Fox and I got separated and I couldn't find her to save my life. I was reduced to calling her pet name, knowing that she would hear it more readily than a shouted “Fox, where are you?”

So, I stood in the middle of an aisle full of hosiery and started crying plaintively, "Boo Boo! BoooooBoooo!"

Everyone was certain I was retarded. I was wondering myself if my previous life of risky activities hadn't finally damaged my brain. From now on we carry cell phones or walkie talkies, I don't ever want to go through this ordeal again.

"Booooo boooooo!"

Where the hell did she go? One second she was right THERE, looking at skin cream, and the next, she had vaporized into the merchandise, wandered off like an un-tethered toddler. This store occupies ten thousand acres and you can't see more than twenty feet! I might never find her, or wander for two and a half years before fetching up at the customer service booth, begging the teenage girl in the silly uniform to speak into her microphone: Will Booboo come to the customer service counter, please?

At last, re-united by calling booboo until I got within sonic range of Fox, I was able to carry supplies out to Yertle, our beloved RV, in the darkening afternoon. Why did we continue driving? We were nuts. As I navigated the final stoplights of Bishop, a nearby driver began honking repeatedly and gesturing towards Yertle. I pulled over and discovered that I had been driving with the steps still sticking out of the camper. Keep a check list, RV rovers!

After fifty miles, we came to the tiny one-store town of Tonopah. Fortunately, the store was open. A very large young man, Native American, confirmed that there were no campgrounds before Ely. He said, however, that we could park in the school parking lot and spend the night. The school was just behind the store.

"Lots of people get stuck out here," he said. "It's okay. Just try to be gone before school starts in the morning. Nobody will bother you. I'll tell the sheriff when he drops by, that you're back there. But if he sees you before I do, tell him Bear said it was okay."

This kindness was touching. We began to realize that we had met kindness at every obstacle on this trip, and that kindness came in all sorts of disguises, in the most unlikely places.

In the morning there was snow on the tops of the mountains. Nevada is a washboard, an undulating series of mountains and valleys, and the roads cut straight across this ancient seabed. At the top of each peak, the view spreads down the road ahead, which goes in a straight line for miles and miles until it disappears into the next rise of the landscape. I had never expected Nevada to be so beautiful. There were huge clouds casting shadows upon the vast valley floors.

Tomorrow's drive was supposed to be easy: a hundred sixty miles to Ely, where we would join up with our old friend, Highway Fifty.

It was November; bright, clear, and warm in the valleys, crisp on the peaks. Yertle ran well, but I continued to be apprehensive. It's one thing to drive a car. It breaks down, you call a tow truck. An RV is another matter: we were carrying our lives in the damn thing. The water tank held twenty gallons. We had food, propane. There was no shelter on Highway Six, no trees, no roadside stops. If Yertle broke down, there was no telling how long we might be stranded.

I imagined our quandary if something happened. Out here in the desert, way beyond cell phone service, we could be truly stuck. There was little traffic. Every hour or so, we'd pass a car, going the other way. Everyone, it seemed, was going the other way.

Gathering my nerve, I hit the accelerator, and the old Chevy 350 gurgled forth, up the highway, into the brightening day. My gas tank had been filled in Bishop. The truck seemed happy. Yertle was whispering, "Don't worry, I'll get you to Arches, don't worry."

I can't help but worry, Yertle, I responded mentally. It's my nature to worry. I am the son of my father.

This was 'lower' Nevada, an uncompromising landscape. Sandstone blocks tipped by ancient floods and earthquakes littered the northern side of the road. On the south was nothing but miles and miles of scrub, tumbleweed, creosote bush. The stuff gave off a smell, a goldish earthen odor, not unpleasant. We were skirting the northern fringe of the immensity of Nellis Air Force Base, with its old atomic test sites. If they once tested atom bombs here, I thought, they must have considered this the ultimate in remoteness.

At fifty miles an hour, the noise from Yertle's engine and various parts bouncing around made conversation or music impossible. There was nothing to do but drive, and look at the landscape, however monotonous or downright eerie. Occasionally a vulture would mark the sky like a comma on vast blue paper.

We pushed north and east, and everything seemed okay. Then, about fifty miles out of Tonopah, I heard a high whining sound from the engine. Yertle kept on going, so I said my prayers and continued to drive. We had entered a wide valley. It looked like thirty miles to the next ridge, and I could see all thirty miles of road, slightly undulant, like a road-kill rattlesnake, until it disappeared between the breasts of the next rise in the primordial earth body.

Then I was brought to alertness by a loud bang, and a nasty smell of burning rubber. Yertle was running, but I had to pull over. I was afraid to turn the engine off; afraid she'd never start again. I got out and pulled open the hood. Pieces of fan belt were shredded all over the motor compartment. I picked them out, saving the biggest piece for reference. Fan belt for what, I wondered? How I wish I understood cars, how I wish I were a competent mechanic! Then, as I inspected the various parts of the motor, I saw a thumb-sized hole, right through the metal rectangle of the I-don't-know-what. Pieces of this metal were strewn about. It was as if we had been shot by a high caliber rifle. I knew, however, that it was a case of metal fatigue, that this porous, cheap material, this aluminum casing for some part of our vehicle's innards, had met its deadline.

Yet, the engine was running fine.

What the hell, I thought. Let's go until we can't go any more.

We kept driving, praying for Ely. Seventy miles to go. Come on, Ely, come on. About half an hour later, I saw a convoy of vehicles in the distance. Two highway patrol cars were parked at the side of the road. The officers were waving us to stop.

I was glad to see a human being, a person of authority. To make that statement, "I was glad to see a person of authority..." is indicative of how scared I was. I don't have anything against policemen. I have a significant resentment of all authority figures, always have and always will. I learned that there are times when one might be thrilled to see a person of authority, and this was one of those times.

We pulled out onto a wide margin. A mile down the road, a gigantic truck was hauling a gargantuan pipe, long as a freight car and wider than the entire road. I took a chance, and turned off the engine. I got out of Yertle and approached the officer.

"Sir," I asked respectfully, "can you spare a moment to look at our truck? Something broke a while ago, and I don't know what's going on."

The policeman was half my age. He was short and compact, and looked like someone who could tear three phone books in half with his bare hands. He glanced under the hood, while the monstrous pipe rolled slowly past our place beside the road.

"That's your air conditioner belt," he informed us. "And that hole, well that's your air conditioner. Looks like the belt shredded and then popped the AC unit right through the guts. Good thing it wasn't the fan belt, or you'd be stuck out here."

Greatly relieved, I thanked our benefactor, started Yertle and proceeded down the ever-lonely road.

Things happen to people. Events are events, but our interpretation of these events overshadows the events themselves. For me, the most important thing is to react with imagination, to view life as a process of gaining understanding, regardless of whether good things or bad things happen.

I didn't know what the hell was going on with this crazy trip. All I knew was that it was scaring the bejesus out of me. I asked Fox, several times, "Do you want to turn back?"

Fox is made of stronger stuff than I. "No," she always said, "We're supposed to go to Arches."

God, I felt like a pussy. Men don't enjoy feeling cowardly. It's not a good man-feeling. It's a feeling that lurks in some small fetid bathroom down in my soul, a bathroom with a naked bulb worked by a pull-string with a knot at the end, a bathroom with old squeaky faucets that give out brown water. It has a frosted window that's jammed shut, with a paint job where the streaky white paintbrush overswept right onto the window and the painter didn't give a shit to scrape it clean. That's what my cowardice feels like, it feels like that cheap hotel bathroom and it's not fun at all. I was going to have to brace up. That's what the wise old samurai said to the Toshirure Mifune character in "The Seven Samurai." It's become an in-joke for Fox and me.

"Brace up, Kikuchiyo," we'll tell one another. "Brace up."

And Yertle, in spite of her perfidy, kept reassuring me. "I'll get you there," she whispered, "Stop worrying so much. I may be old but I've got plenty of miles left in me."

Never once did I wonder if I was completely nuts, talking to an RV. I was simply being swept along by events as they occurred. What else could I do?

The landscape began to rise, as we came into another range of the Humboldt-Toyabe Forest. I looked at the gas gauge and with a shock realized that we were down to a quarter tank. Where did the gas go?! The tank was filled in Bishop, only a hundred fifty miles down the road. I had badly overestimated the mileage of which Yertle was capable. That, and a headwind, had drunk our gas, and I had been so preoccupied, I failed to fill her up at the one and only truck stop between Tonopah and Ely. Now, I wondered if we were going to run out of fuel on some tricky mountain curve without a shoulder.

Fox was an active participant in all this, of course. By mutual agreement, I was and would always be the driver of our RV. On rare occasions I would give Fox the wheel, but it was a shaky proposition. Fox is given to seeing things, especially when the light is low. A rhino can pop out of the sagebrush and give chase. Osama Bin Laden sits in the back of a pickup truck, grinning smugly. Fox isn't crazy, but she is psychic and sometimes has trouble separating vision from reality. Maybe it's the Apache blood. The closer we got to the ancestral homelands, the weirder she became. But she was calm where I was not. She was stoic where I was terrified.

Compulsively, I watched the gas gauge, then chastised myself and equally compulsively avoided watching the gas gauge. I forced my eyes to bypass the little meter as it quivered, ever downward toward EMPTY. Why weren't we carrying a gas can with five extra gallons. Rule Number Two of RV'ing. ALWAYS CARRY EXTRA FUEL! The fuel consumption of the most innocent looking RV is a ravening dragon, an elephant sucking up fluids faster than they can be replenished. Motor homes LOVE fuel, the way kids love candy or the way addicts love dope. Gimme some gas! they breathe, panting with appetite. Gimme some gas!

Thirty miles to Ely. Okay, steal a look at the gauge. It's hovering over the little line that says, EMERGENCY! hurry up and get a fill! I'm calculating. Let's see, if we are getting ten miles to the gallon, and we have three gallons, we can just get to Ely. But if we're getting eight per gallon, we're in big trouble. That's assuming there are three gallons. There might be five; or there might be two. Does the gauge read short when we're going uphill? That's possible, I suppose.

Naturally, the headwind grew more powerful and our route took to yet another interminable climb up into the Toyabe-Humboldt Forest. The road was Nevada-smooth, paid for by gambling taxes, well maintained. But here, on the undulant highway, there was no shoulder, just a line of white fence posts, blocking all exit from the road. Run out of gas here, around a blind curve, and some truck can come a'whamming along and crunch us like an old Pepsi can before the driver knows what's happening.

I spent the next forty five minutes waiting for the engine to sputter and die. I watched the side of the road for potential escapes, and watched the rear view mirror for the following eighteen wheeler that spelled our doom, like the monster truck from that early Spielberg movie, "Duel." The forest grew thicker, looking like a real forest. Now there were signs touting campgrounds and tourist sites, in the southern approach to Ely. They were little comfort to me. The gas gauge quivered and teased me as it sat on Empty. My heart was beating in every pore of my skin. Why so scared, I chided myself? Everybody runs out of gas at least a couple times in their lives. Yes, I responded, BUT NOT HERE! Not in Yertle, noble RV, not on a curvy road with no shoulder, where the last vehicle we saw was a FedEx truck, and it passed us going uphill in a no pass zone, like we were standing still. People drive crazy in Nevada on Highway Six. They think the roads are empty. Crazy.

We came to a crest of the mountain range, and I thought with relief, it's downhill from here! We can coast, we won't burn our precious bits of fuel climbing laboriously up every steep curve of the road. Alas! After going down for a bit, the road turned upward once again. The gauge was a millimeter above EMPTY. I played games with it. If I look at it from the side, it kinda looks like there's more gas in it. I leaned right, leaned left, but I wasn't fooling myself. Yertle soldiered onward. I was running out of gas on a road with no shoulder, I had a shredded air conditioner belt and a fist-sized hole in the engine.

The roadside sign said, "Ely — 12mi." And there we were, at the real crest of the range. I put Yertle in neutral, took my foot off the gas, and coasted down and around the mountain curves. At last, the ominous white fencing beside the road vanished. A few houses appeared. Billboards advertised motels and gift shops, gambling casinos, banks and auto body garages. More houses.

Ely! My eyes were pealed for a gas station. I made a left onto Ely's main drag and made a beeline for the first gas station I saw. Yertle coasted over the curb, I put her in drive, lined her up to the pump, and then... and then... she gurgled and died, out of gas.

Art Rosch is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Petaluma, California with his wife, three cats and two toy poodles. The Miracle of Highway Six is an excerpt from his book Green Highway: Living a Good Life in a Changing America.

Blue No. 1

By Betty Underground © 2009

That night he flipped the switch. Threw the cruel reality of light onto the months we had been spiraling out of control. In those moments of clarity it was impossible to imagine my life without him. Without his strength and his fearlessness in the face of the adversity we had buried ourselves in.

Working through our human imperfections was something we made the decision to do in the relationship. A safe place for us to learn, grow, change. The relationship wasn't broken by who we were. It existed because of it. At times in spite of us.

She was slender. Austrian. Wore her pants tucked into her knee high boots. A fashion statement that had played out already, but she was dedicated to it. Every week. The boots made her ridiculously tall. Him barely over 6ft, still dwarfed by her when she greeted us in the empty waiting room. Therapists always had empty waiting rooms. To protect anonymity. Her receptionist was positioned on the other side. In the lobby where patients exited. A separate door. Never seen. The entrance on Olympic Blvd. The exit on Beverly Drive.

We were there to have our characters poked and prodded. To pour Blue No. 1 into our souls, staining the leaks. Barium. Emptying out our pockets and doing a cavity search of our thoughts. To understand how we got off course and find our way back to the place we were at our best.

We never feared honesty. We were probably the easiest patients she had. Even looked forward to us because we quickly identified the areas of opportunity and were willing to set a plan in place. People don't fix themselves overnight but we had been together for so long and good for so long that this hiccup was just that. A hiccup. We committed to work through it together. To get to the other side.

Why did I get so angry? Irish blood? The curse of the redheads? Why did he shut down? The reserved Scotsman? Introverted writer?

All the things that were the triggers for the dysfunction were the reason we were drawn to one another. The reason, for nearly a decade, we loved no one else. We were wired for each other. The battles that had taken place in the last few months were not because of the drugs or weakness of character. We were becoming a product of our environment. Allowing the outside influences into our souls. Living in a space too small to find our own selves in. Too close to the control of his mother. Forcing marriage on two people who never intended to go down that aisle.

We were rubbed raw by the expectations of others. Of living in Santa Monica. Of measuring up to our neighbors and shallow friends. Escaping into lines on a beveled edge mirror. Using it to bind us together against the elements outside. It did. We came together because of it. Because we needed to leave it behind. Together.

It only took a few months. We were back to who were were. The way we were. He stood firm with his mother. Wedding plans halted indefinitely. We decided to move up. More room to spread out. Space to be individuals. A home. Without fine china.

We packed boxes. Endless boxes of books. So full we couldn't even push them across the Spanish tile floor. We packed as we house hunted. We were ready to flee as soon as we found something we could afford. The options were plenty. One of us always finding something wrong with them but the agent kept trudging along.

It was a Saturday. We sat together at the small table in our kitchen. Built in breakfast nook that I was inspecting to see if I could dismantle it and take it with us. I loved that nook. Our nook. A piece of that place that broke us and us built back up stronger.

He poured coffee and sat across from me. A soft finished wood that had taken a beating over the years. Scared by the love of the people who sat at it over the years. Running his finger in the scratches on the table top, like he ran his finger tip across the lifelines of my palm. He would do that at night when we were quiet with each other. Speaking low about our future dreams. Him on his back. One knee pulled up and out the the side. Me, on the other side. His left side. Curled in the shape of his body. My palm opened on his chest, his fingers dripping from his hand, lightly tracing my lifelines. We often fell asleep. Frozen in that moment.

He looked up from the table and our eyes were locked. After so many years, sometimes there is no need for words. Smiles grew in our mutual satisfaction over what had just been decided. Together, without words. He called our agent. Her job, and commission would double. We needed two homes.

We had grown as far as we could together. Had dug deep into our souls for a decade and experienced the stuff of life and love many only hope for. It was time to take that and share it with others.

My first great love. Not my last.

Betty Underground is a writer from Northern California.