There was a beat up pickup truck, larger than average, with a flatbed area surrounded by wooden fencing made of paint chips and splinters. The bed was full of sheep. They were pressed against the wood, but not making a sound. Had I not looked up while pumping gas, I wouldn’t have seen them at all. Not even a smell preceded their arrival. And they had no idea how old that wooden fence looked. I probably could have karate chopped it to pieces without trying hard.
Tehachapi also hosted the scrawny woman with the mousy brown hair and burgundy corduroy pants. She approached our table during a short food break to give us a religious book, then asked if my son and I wanted to pray with her. Probably could have karate chopped her pretty easily. She didn’t order anything.
Barstow, driven through on the way to Arizona and slept in on the way back from Arizona, held terrors to chill the very soul. From expensive gas stations and herky-jerky stop lights, to the denizens on their bicycles who hang out in a few of the motel’s parking lots wearing very little (it was past 100 degrees at 11 p.m.) with their tattoos and desperation on view for the road weary to witness. What they did wear looked like it had been new back when Cindy Crawford still made movies. My sleepy, caffeine-fueled karate chops would have confused them at first, but then they would have kicked my ass and stole my stuff.
How can you Bruce Lee a heatwave? Mentally it’s possible. Especially from inside a car. With an air conditioner turned so on it’s like love. But that heat kills everything. My dreams of a life without becoming a crabby curmudgeon left a stain on Route 66 when it melted there years ago. But mentally, I totally kicked that 109 degree temp’s ass.
In Paso Robles, there’s always a guy who only has enough money for a soda and sits in the restaurant adorned in torn clothes he probably got from the bicycle-riding crowd in Barstow, because it was always too hot there for them to need it. That guy sits in a booth and sizes up the customers when they walk in. He makes uncomfortable eye contact. He karate chopped with his eyes and I karate chopped back. I could be him after all. I could make those who see me uncomfortable. But I don’t.
And now my eye lids are karate chopping my cheeks. And my cheeks keep karate chopping them open again. And I miss the quiet sheep.