Would you trust a guy that lied to you when people were
shooting at him?
That’s what I asked myself as I stood by the side of the
road, an old red bandana tied around my forehead, my thumb pointing north. Why did Bill tell me those people in Portland weren’t shooting
at him when they obviously were? And
why, after he made his dishonest nature so clear, did I spend the next six
months with him?
But here’s the thing.
We had a great six months. Since
nothing ever happened in Crossroads before noon, I didn’t have to show up at
the newspaper early. So I went to Bill’s
gigs at The Kitchen, swilling Tequila
Sunrises while he crooned the blues along with his methodical guitar
picking. After the show we went back to
the Clean Linen, as we called the rooming house we lived in, and cooked
middle-of-the-night omelets, filling them with whatever Mrs. Perkins, the
landlady, had left in the fridge.
Mashed potatoes and turkey gravy made a very filling
omelet. Bleu cheese and black olives
tasted divine. Capers and walnuts were
strangely salty and crunchy. It didn’t
matter. We ate omelets every night,
damned our poor cholesterol clogged arteries, and laughed, first muffled, then
louder, until Mrs. Perkins banged on the wall between her room and the kitchen.
Bill listened while I ranted about the frustrations of the
small town reporter. I whined about the
city council meeting that ran three hours over because none of those people had
anything else to do, the city council being comprised of the same bunch of old
men that congregated at Ella’s, the
coffee shop, in the morning and at The
Kitchen at night. I complained about
the regional school superintendent who never, ever, answered her phone and, I
suspected, didn’t really exist. I
bemoaned the utter lack of real news, the dearth of excitement, the near total
absence of behavior among the citizens of Crossroads. Bill nodded, made sympathetic noises, and
praised the magnificent quality of the articles I drafted out of thin air to
inform the public about very little.
He talked to me about music.
We played Mrs. Perkins’ beat up old radio constantly, always tuned to the
blues station out of Sacramento. When a favorite tune came on we sang along,
and then Bill told me who wrote it, who played it first, who covered it, and
which version was the very best. The
next time we heard it, his “best version” had often changed.
Some nights, I would’ve stayed in that kitchen in Crossroads
forever. I was warm and safe there,
well-fed, and loved by my editor, my readers, and my friend.
But there I was on the shoulder, waiting for a ride. The first car that came by stopped. I guess hitchhikers are a rarity on that
lonely road. I slid in the front seat.
“Thanks,” I said.
“I’ve been out here for awhile.”
“Not too much traffic along here,” he said. He held out a hand. “I’m Rob.”
I shook it. “Jodi.”
“Where you headed?” he asked, pulling the car back into its
I stared out the side window for a moment, mentally saying
goodbye to Crossroads, goodbye to Bill.