Another lugubrious day squished my spirits right from the moment I awakened. I slept by the side of the road the night prior, bivy in the desert sand, between brittle bushes free of leaves, with dead tumbleweeds bouncing around through the gusts of her fury. That slight chill, cooling my sunburn, erasing the touch of fire against my skin quickly vanished with the clear blue sky. That good old Texas sun snarled down at me and with each mile I tired to a plodding pace seeking refuge under any lone tree or viaduct by the I-10.
I squinted; my eyes witnessed a pull-off a few hundred feet ahead, with pavilions, a bathroom, and limited traffic. I stopped. My feet cramped from constant walking on the rough endless pavement as I cooled off in the shade, massaging my calloused feet, one toe at a time.
“Hey buddy…thought ya be further down the road by now. Doug’s still back there hustlin’ his moose story,” snickered Todd.
I guffawed, exposing my yellow teeth, as I took a drag of a cigarette I found from a nearby ashtray, offering the last few drags to Todd.
“Where’d ya come from anyway?”
“Got some miles in last night and crashed by the side of the road…figured I’d get some in while it was cool…no way was I gonna listen to fuckin’ Doug and his moose story at the Love’s for another day,” I said in a disgruntled voice.
“Yeah he’s still back there…he didn’t wanna walk this far.”
“I think we’re like 15 miles away from the next truck stop…not sure which side of the road it’s on, but anything is better than where we we’re at…there’s too many people there anyway tryin’ to all hitch the same direction.”
“Yeah I agree…you wanna get to walkin’…got a long fuckin’ day ahead of us with this sun…least we got smokes with all these butts on the side of the road. Won’t get no rides though in this fuckin’ state.”
I wiggled my feet back into my boots, tying the laces extra tight for the tedious journey ahead of us. Todd’s grim look depicted anguish and hunger. His bony jaw-line cut deep into his face beneath his pitted eyes. Sweat flowed off his balding scalp pulsating against his frontal veins as he roamed forward in a rampant progression. He fueled his body off sniped cigarettes, taco bell packets, and the little water leftover from his 20 ounce coca cola bottle.
The sun grafted its blaze into our skin leaving us as red as tomatoes. We relaxed momentarily, at each glance of potential refuge, under bridges, in viaducts and occasionally behind barren vegetation.
“Why am I here again? Oh yeah…that’s right, fuckin’ Border Patrol…I could have been on my way to Fort Worth by now, but instead I’m walkin’ in the middle of an 80 degree day while the sun pisses heat, blistering my skin,” mumbling to myself in a bilious tone.
I gazed over at Todd. “Fuck dude, Texas fuckin’ sucks man…still got like 10 miles of this shit and not a single soul has stopped to even offer us water…”
“I walked from El Paso…80 fuckin’ miles….no one is goin’ to stop…they don’t care…we’re too close to the border…they prob think we’re illegals haha…”
Our monotonous efforts dwindled to a less than desirable pace over the next 10 miles. The bones in my feet whimpered in pain below buckling knees and the only reason I kept hobbling along was to get as far away from Doug as humanly possible. My brain felt hazy through the lackluster mindless path we wandered. The sun stole our morale a bit with each footstep, stripping our probity, as we crawled like infants towards the next truck stop. Somehow through the drenching inferno we persevered, shedding a mile or two per hour, posting up in front of the family-run truck stop with little to no energy.
The truck stop lay on the westbound side of the highway, which spawned the first problem as we needed to hitch east. As we grounded ourselves in front of the building I noticed another drifter sleeping along the side wall, problem two. He lay sprawled out next to a pile of puke, a camouflage cap covered most of his face with his scruffy red beard poking through. A small piece of cardboard angled next to him against the wall with his life story scrawled across it in small-black lettering, “Stranded with no money, and food, lookin’ for a ride east…anything helps…God Bless!”
And just when I thought it could not get any worse I heard a dilapidated Honda pull up emitting plumes of smoke. A chain jingled and a four-legged canine jumped out, her tongue drooped out of her mouth flopping side-to-side. My eyes widened as I stared at…
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You are purchasing the Part I series of short stories from The Misfit 4, which includes the following titles, “The Sunset Line Meets Border Patrol,“ “Kicked in the Face By a Moose,“ “8 Thumbs and a Dog Goin’ East,“ and “Bippin’ It with the Misfit 4,“ . It consists of a 46-page PDF of my wanderings in Van Horn, TX with four other misfit travelers in the winter of 2017 where we all got stuck hitchhiking out of the same gas station all going east.