We spent the night outside of Staunton, Virginia at a Days Inn for $54 including tax. The room was clean, the highway workers who occupied most of the rooms worked all night so it was quiet, and free breakfast was included.
The free breakfast choices were minimal. Yogurt, make your own waffles, white bread for toast, apples, and biscuits with gravy. I originally thought the thick white gravy was oatmeal but fortunately I had oatmeal yesterday so I didn’t go for that option. I had a yogurt, took an apple for the road and left. I missed the fight.
Walking back to my room I passed a couple walking along the path by the pool. The woman was pulling a large suitcase behind her. The man had a soft cooler over his shoulder and was walking several paces behind.
Rich came back to the room all worked up. “You missed the excitement,” he said. “First that table of three little girls started throwing apples at each other. Then a couple stopped just outside the door and the woman started yelling at the guy. He seemed to be keeping his cool. I couldn’t make out what they were saying but then she lunged at him and started strangling him.”
“Did they have their luggage with them? I think I passed them on the way back to the room.”
We got busy packing and forgot about the couple who were experiencing marital tensions on the road. I did the triple check for phone chargers, stray shoes, and toiletries in the shower. As we climbed into the truck for another day on the road, Rich said, “There they are,” pointing to the fighting couple. “They seem to have patched things up.”
The man now had a suitcase along with his cooler. The woman was walking behind him this time, her suitcase making a loud noise as it rolled over the bumpy parking lot. They kept walking out onto the road.
“They’re walking?” Rich was incredulous.. “Maybe their car broke down. No wonder tensions were running high.”
Pulling out a few minutes later, we continued to talk about them.
“Maybe we should offer them a ride, but we have no room for them.”
The back seat of the truck was full of suitcases, the bed loaded with step ladders, power tools, paint buckets, and other tools of my husband’s trade.
We saw them up ahead waiting at the ramp to the highway north. We were headed south.
“The poor guy. He probably wanted to fill that cooler with apples and biscuits. Now he didn’t even get breakfast,” Rich said.
We speculated on their circumstances for awhile. He lost his job. They lost the house, the car. They robbed a bank. We’ll never know.
“What happened to the music?” I asked.
“I like to listen to the engine in the morning.”
“Is that like the smell of napalm in the morning?” I asked. We discussed Platoon which I just watched again while we were staying in Maine.
(***Correction*** I have since been told by a reader that I have my Vietnam movies mixed up. The napalm line comes from Apocalypse Now. Conversations between husbands and wives in cars are apparently unreliable.)
We talked about Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness then moved on to Homer’s Odyssey and the movie Brother, Where Art Thou. I told Rich about a literature class I took in college with Professor Ellenbogan and how important it is to be well read. Stories repeat themselves. Some themes are universal.
On the radio, The Clash sang Charlie Don’t Surf.
“This is from Platoon,” I said. Rich got very excited. He never knew this.
The road was full of Fed-Ex tandem trailers and they were getting on my nerves. We started arguing about Rich’s driving.
“Do you want to take the wheel?” he asked.
No, I do not. The truck is large, the roof is stacked with ladders.
A song we both liked interrupted the argument. I tried to remember if it was The English Beat or The Specials.
“The Specials use more of that ska language. That shay shay shay. I think It’s them.” Rich agreed.
Leaving the Chesapeake Bay Watershed, we once again discussed the waterways of America. The Chesapeake, the Susquehanna. Ever since Rich read Michener’s Chesapeake then sailed with a friend from Portsmouth, RI to Maryland, he can discuss this topic endlessly. I listened to the stories once again although I have heard them all before.
The BareNaked Ladies were singing about Brian Wilson. “And I’m wondering if this is some kind of creative job ‘cus I’m lying in bed just like Brian Wilson did…”
Well yes, it is, if you are a writer. I stared out the window, looking at the Appalachian Mountains up ahead but ideas for a fourth book were swirling through my head.
“I’m working right now, you know,” I said.
“Oh really?” Rich asked, skeptically. He doesn’t think my writing is work because I don’t make a lot of money doing it. Yet. That’s the key word. I’m building something. Money is not everything. I’ll get there.
Marriage is difficult. It involves compromise. Sometimes you bite your tongue. Sometimes you laugh. Apparently sometimes you find it necessary to strangle him. I know husbands are annoying but I’m still laughing about yesterday’s line “I prefer a rural setting.” A sense of humor helps.