Picture this scene: Three guys, crammed into a car. And Keith keeps whining, “Are we lost? Where are we, guys? We’re lost, aren’t we?”
And I heave a sigh and sink lower in my seat. And D.J. rolls down the window and thrusts a hand into the wind, and says in a booming voice, “Not till we are lost do we begin to find ourselves, and realize where we are and the infinite extent of our relations!”
Now multiply this scene by two days of driving, and throw in a lack of showers and nothing to eat but convenience store chili dogs, and well…now I understand why Thoreau wanted to live in solitude.
The only thing that saved us was D.J.’s good taste in music. When Keith’s whining went on like a broken record, we turned up the radio and drowned him out with electric guitars.
One morning, at the crack of dawn, we rolled into a town. It wasn’t much different from a lot of the other towns we’d stopped in to fill up the tank or check the map. Quaint, shabby houses, tree-lined roads, and trim gardens. A ring of sloping mountains embraced the town like guards keeping something from getting in. Or maybe out. Who knew?
D.J. passed the gas stations and shuttered stores, winding around streets as though he knew where he was going. “Where is this place?” I asked him. D.J. responded by pulling into the driveway of a large Victorian house and turning off the car.
“Boys,” he said, “welcome to Asteria.”
The house, as it turned out, belonged to D.J.’s Great Aunt Mabel, who went to live in a resting home and had to abandon her huge house. “Don’t worry, it’s legit,” said D.J. “When I called my mom, she suggested we move in and take care of the place. Keep out the riff-raff.”
“Aren’t we the riff-raff?” I asked.
D.J. grinned. “Only on weekends.”
And that’s how we came to live in a big old drafty house. It had, like, a hundred rooms (okay, maybe that’s a stretch), some of which had locked doors which we couldn’t open. We discovered this cool electric train set in the attic and had a blast setting it up and watching it go. There was also a huge piano. D.J. sat down and, to our surprise, began to play. I mean, seriously play. Like Beethoven and Mozart and whoever else composes classical music. Keith and I stared in amazement.
D.J. just shrugged. “What? My parents made me take lessons ‘till I was sixteen.”
When we grew bored of exploring the house, we began to explore the town. Like I said, it seemed pretty normal, as far as towns go. People didn’t smile much, and looked away quickly when we tried to catch their eye. D.J. said that people are more suspicious of strangers in these small towns “out in the boonies,” as he put it. At the edge of town, there was more nature than I had seen since my days in Ethiopia. The woods were alive with birds and rabbits. Deer, startled by our presence, darted into the brush. If only you could see it, Tadi. Standing there, away from civilization, hearing only the wind whispering in the treetops and the trickling of water from a nearby creek, I had another true Thoreau moment, my mind spinning with his words about the tonic of wildness, and never having enough of nature.
But it ended too soon. The sad reality hit us that we were running out of money. And though we had this great house to stay in, no money meant no food. And so, we scoured the town for any menial work we could find. And menial work is, indeed, what we found. I am embarrassed to tell you the truth. I have become an ice cream man.
Yes, really. I drive up and down the streets, blaring music and dishing out cold treats. I also work in the local ice cream shop. It’s not my dream job, but it does help to put food on the table. And hey – it comes with some sweet perks.
Keith found a job, too, working as a graveyard shift security guard at – you’ll never guess – the graveyard. Haha! I think the job is beginning to get to him, though. He comes home every morning looking pale, convinced that he’d seen actual ghosts and zombies wandering around the tombstones. Maybe he’s watched Michael Jackson’s new Thriller video one too many times.
As for D.J., well, I don’t know. He says that he found a way to make money. But so far, he has yet to produce a single dime. He won’t even tell us where he’s been supposedly working each day. I’m beginning to suspect that he’s not being truthful. But I’m hesitant to say anything, since this is technically his house, and his car is my only ride out of town should things go south. So for now, I’m keeping my lips zipped.
Your small town ice-cream-serving friend,