I am at a gas station today. It is a Sunday. After picking up a fence panel in the morning late July heat and spending the last bits of morning and most of the afternoon at Wickham Park, I stopped for a soda.
I had not intended on staying as long as I had. The festivities were due to start at 12:30. At nearly two pm nothing had started. The autocrat was waiting for people to arrive. Each event held, the time seems to be later and later. People learn to show up later, stay home longer, spend less time in the heat, out of doors. The more they do, the later events start, the later they start, the later people show. The training is simple, effective and penalizes those who show up on time. The worst thing about being punctual is there is never anyone to appreciate it.
So later than I had anticipated, I readied to leave the park. Beth had show up, just coming from work, and I knew Evanne would have a ride home, would not be stranded. That’s all I needed and off I went.
I drove a mile or two to US1 and, at the corner, found a Kangaroo convenience store. Convenience stores seem to have some of the rather strangest names one could imagine for a business. Stop N Go, Circle K, Cash N Dash, whose name simply begs it to be robbed. Kangaroo.
In and Out, that’s another one and that’s what I was, exiting with a bottle of soda and getting into my truck, a short-bed with an eight foot by six foot privacy fence panel laying on and over the bed, held at top and bottom by bungee cords, tight but appearing precarious. Inside, crossing my seat-belt over me as he crossed the parking lot. Passing my truck so closely, tracing the front perimeter in such a way I knew he was headed for my driver-side window. As I position the pad pinching both the lap and shoulder belt together so we short-folk don’t choke on the upper belt, he taps on my window. I roll it down. A bit.
Tattoos over most of his torso and no shirt. Shorts. Several teeth are visibly missing. He’ll want money.
“Hey Brother, Me and my brother are just down here from Kentucky. Man, we came down with some girls…”
At one point, I knew no-one from Kentucky. Lisa moved there and I visited, discovering people actually live there. Lexington is actually on of the most literate cities in the nation, according to the Connecticut State University study done each year. This year, it is twenty-seventh nationally. Just forty-five minutes south, in Berea, over one hundred and fifty years ago, abolitionists set up a college for Appalachian students of any color and anyone in the county can attend free. The Dalai Lama spoke at Berea College in 1994.
The land is beautiful in a way which is beyond description, the east being a land of high natural bridges and mountains which appear as though a child-god created the mountains of mudpies and left the land between. It is a place I have hunted moonshine, hiked to mountain-top potters and saw moonbows in Cumberland Falls.
Kentucky has beer cheese. Beer-cheese grows as you eat it. It is the only food I have ever experienced where there may be more of it when the meal is done than before it starts. It is simple, beer mixed with cheese. Sometimes Cheese Whiz. Eat fast. They also have hotbrowns. A hotbrown is both a cause of and a reason to chance a heart attack. Kentucky is not known for slim residents.
Lisa took me to a small restaurant on a small river with a cable ferry – a raft that holds a car and is pulled by a motor and a cable from a tower on either shore – to enjoy these. Once is enough.
Kentucky is full of Ale-8. It is bottled in Winchester. I have visited the bottling plant and was given a tour. It is much more interesting than one might think. It really is quite an experience. Soda tastes different fresh. You an see the formula being made, tested, refined but don’t ask what’s in it.
Kentucky is also full of bluegrass music and arts fairs beyond par. It is also full of dry counties where alcohol cannot be bought. Three-fourths of the counties are dry in a state with one of the highest rates of alcoholism.
Now, Lisa is trying to come home. Friends down the street moved from Kentucky because they feel people should be sincere. Their grown daughter just moved from there as well with not a positive thing to say. I know others who have left Kentucky. Apparently so did this person about to ask me for money.
“and now we’re stuck, bro. What we need is some, hey, you need some fence work? Man, I can do fence…”
I moved this fence panel onto the truck this morning. I picked it up from a freecycler. It took four of us because I had help. I could have done this on my own but accepting help is a blessing, allowing others to help is a blessing. Forget the fact it was full of nails and I was a bit concerned it would be pushed, dropped, nudged or otherwise worried into me, as there was a nail between my legs, groin height, pointed toward me, threatening to make an unpleasant contact. Evanne was on one end and hers was the one set of hands that did not worry me. She wants Lee to be happy and would make sure I was kept intact.
The other two ladies had no such motivation.
Once home, I moved it from the truck into place.
“work if you need some.” I declined. “We’re stuck and got no money for gas. We came down here with these two girls and, bro, you know how women are, they”
I cut him off, “No, I don’t know how women are to you. I don’t know how you are to them. I know how they are to me. I know my wife more than twenty-five years. She is smart and honorable. The other women I know are kind, compassionate and honorable. If I meet one who isn’t, why would I hang around her? Why would you?”
He stares at me, “Twenty-five years? You aren’t old enough.” In fact, I am.
“A good woman keeps me young. Good friends keep me young. Not following strange women across the country keeps my stress down.”
His jaw opens a bit, “Can I have two dollars?”
I tell him “No thank you.” He processes what seems to be an answer wrong in every way. I have declined him and thanked him. He walks away. Across his back is a tattoo. Scrolled across one shoulder-blade to the next is the word “DEATH” in dark, unfriendly letters.