Scene 4 On The Road
On the Road
Su awakens before the sun comes up and goes through her normal morning routine with the exception of going to work. She can’t wait to get to Sanibel.
” Finally!” she says as she sits on the edge of the bed mentally preparing herself for the busy day ahead.
Knowing John’s forgetfulness, Su makes a pot of coffee, mindful that he will forget to make coffee for the long trip and get grumpy if he doesn’t have any when heading out. He may get grumpy even if he does.
She heads into the kitchen and looks at a refrigerator magnet that has a picture of a fat man sleeping in a chair that reads ” Sometimes I wake up grumpy and sometimes I let him sleep”. She chuckles a little, and her eye wanders to a sand dollar seashell magnet from Sanibel that someone gave her as a gift. She reaches up and gently runs her finger over it. She can’t wait to pick shells from the sands of Sanibel once again.
” We’ll let’em sleep a little longer, huh Lucky?” she says, looking at Lucky as he sits in the dining room waiting for a treat.
Su takes Lucky out for his morning pee and feeds him, then starts lugging luggage she can carry and packs it into the car.
She knows John would get mad at her because she’s doing all this heavy lifting and moving things around. He doesn’t want her to do any more than she has to because of her back. He is concerned she will hurt herself. But she’s in a hurry and has to do something to keep from going stir crazy until he gets up.
Back and forth she goes, toting things from the house to the car. Little by little, the mound of bags near the front door gets smaller.
Working up a sweat, she decides to take a break inside. She grabs her soda, takes a few sips, ties her hair back into a little pony tail and points her face towards the ceiling fan.
” Whew, it’s hot out there,” she says, as she waves the cool air at herself.
She lifts her shirt and points her breasts at the fan , cooling them off. This cools her off quicker.
” It’s about time he gets up, I can’t stand it,” she says to Lucky who looks at her with one ear pointed straight up while the other one is flipped backwards, and starts to pant.
Su giggles, ” You silly boy. You look silly. Let’s fix that. Don’t want you getting cauliflower ear again, huh pups?”
Su smiles at him cocking her head to the side, just as he does for a moment. She rubs his face briskly while fixing his ear. She doesn’t want another infected ear episode. He got cauliflower ear once that he had to have fixed twice because he likes to rub his ears on the ground. The abrasions bruised his ear where it folds over backwards, and it got infected.
” There you go, all done! Yeah all done!” she says in her cutsie voice.
Giving Lucky kisses, he gets excited, thumping his tail against the ground and rubbing his face with his paws, then licks them in a similar fashion of how a cat cleans its head and face.
Su makes her way to the side of the bed and gently rubs John’s feet. She knows not to abruptly wake him up and be in close proximity at the same time, he gets scared in his sleep and lashes out.
” John? … Wake up baby … John,” she whispers.
John stops snoring and grunts and groans a bit, pulls the pillow in closer to him to support his shoulder, then opens one eye.
” It’s time huh?” he asks
Su smiles and wiggles his foot again knowing he’ll go back to sleep if she doesn’t keep on him this one last time. She also knows not to press the issue and keep shaking him when he does finally wake up. A scenario they haven’t quite mastered yet.
” Yep, come on baby, we gotta get going,” Su replies.
” I’m up, coffee?” John asks.
Su sits on the bedside and he puts his arm around her waist. “Yes, everything is ready, just have to pack a few more things into the car and we’ll be on our way to Sanibel, for 10 whole days! … Come on, get up! …”
“Yeah, yeah, I’m up.”
John gets up, throws on a pair of navy blue shorts that have a lot of pockets on them for stuffing shells into and a gray t-shirt. He washes his face and brushes his teeth , then heads out to the kitchen to get his morning coffee.
Standing at the coffee pot he flips open the lid to his homemade coffee topper, gives it a couple of tamps, pushing the powdered sugar and cocoa powder mix into his coffee. He takes a few sips and gives Su her morning kiss.
She hugs him and says ” Mmm, tastes good. I love you … this is going to be such a wonderful time … Sanibel, us, the kids, Lucky. Ohh, I can’t wait!”
” Not a mean question, but can you wait ’til my eyes are open?” he asks with a little smile.
” I’ve been waiting for you all morning,” she replies in a playful, moany tone.
” Mhmm and you’re the first one up on Christmas too. And you’re Santa,” John says pointing his cup at her.
Su balls her little fist up at him jokingly. He smiles letting out a quick deep chuckle.
” Imma comin’,” he says as he watches her go around the corner of the hall, back towards the bedroom.
John finishes his coffee quicker than he normally would and carries the heavier things like the coolers full of ice and snacks to the car and situates them in the back seat to create a bed-like situation for Lucky.
When they ran from the hurricanes a few years back and had Lucky with them, Lucky kept falling from the seat to the floorboard in the back seat. Worried about him getting hurt in the car, they figured out a good way to make him more comfortable and safer.
Now they pack the floorboard in the backseat with their travel bags and place blankets and Lucky’s humping pillow on top. That expands the area making a lumpy bed in the backseat where he can sit up and look out the window or lay down if he wants and it’s pretty easy to get things from the bags or cooler when they stop at the rest areas.
Heading back inside, he looks for his sunglasses and hat.
Su sees John looking from room to room for something and knows right away what it is. Picking them up from the barstool, Su holds out his sunglasses and hat and says, ” I got them here.” He smiles and takes them from her.
” Thank ya baby. Coffee?” he asks.
” Got the thermos already made up,” she says, waiting for the next question.
” Guitar?” he asks. ” You’re not gonna take that, are you?” she asks with a confused look on her face.
” Oh yes,” he says with a tone of happiness in his voice.
John goes into the office, grabs the guitar, his fishing pole and fag-bag with fishing gear in it.
John steps out of the office, ” ok, ready?”
Su looks at him, “since I got up.”
He puts his things into the cart with the rest of everything else that is to go into the trunk. Su helps Lucky down the stoop and out the door handing him off by the leash to John and goes back inside, sets the alarm, runs back out and locks the door.
” Linda got the key?” John asks. “Yes, gave it to her a few days ago.”
John hands the leash back to Su and starts pushing the cart down the walkway to the car parking lot.
” Wait…here, take Lucky while I lock the gate.”
John stops abruptly and backtracks a little grabbing the leash. Su locks up and they make their way to the car, where John loads the rest of their belongings into the trunk as Su tries to get Lucky in the back seat.
Having a hard time with Lucky, Su says, ” His poor hips, John, help him out.”
Closing the trunk of the car, he walks over to where Lucky is sitting, between the open car door and the backseat, gently scratches the top of Lucky’s head letting him know he is there, ” come on buddy, you can make it.” Lucky stands up looking inside the car and John gently gooses him. Lucky tucks his butt in and hops a little getting his front paws up on the backseat, he wobbles and his hind legs shake.
With Lucky’s back legs still outside the car, John grabs him by his thighs and butt area , gently lifting him just enough to where Lucky can pull himself into the car and he goes in, laying across the lumpy bed they built for him.
A sharp pain runs down John’s legs and through his lower back. He grabs at his back. ” You ok?” Su asks. ” Oh, yeah, I’ll be ok,” he says as he stretches trying to get the spasm to stop. ” Bunch ‘o gimps,” he says and laughs. Su smiles and nods her head.
” You drivin’?” John asks. ” Yeah, you haven’t had your coffee yet. Maybe when we get closer. If my back is bothering me, you can take over then.”
” Ok,” he says, as he limps over to the passenger side, slowly getting in , situating himself and puts on his seat belt. Man, I hate being a gimp.
John pulls down the visor looking into the built-in mirror to see how well he can see Lucky so he can check on him without having to chance wrenching his back by turning around.
” We gonna use that “Lost Star” thing?”
Su starts the car and adjusts the air conditioning, “ no, I know exactly where I’m going.”
John smirkily says, ” it’ll probably just get us lost again. Remember that time it told you to go down the road two miles to get to the entrance of the restaurant and we were sitting in the restaurant’s parking lot?”
Su thinks for a brief moment, ” Mhm and the time I had a doctor appointment and it gave me directions to an abandoned hotel.” She shakes her head. ” If we lose track of where we are, we’ll use it. It’s pretty much just straight across the state and up a little bit through the Everglades to the west coast, into Ft. Meyers, then over the bridge to Sanibel!”
” Yah, I know, we been there together, before, remember?” John says with a hint of aggravation in his voice.
Su turns her head looking over her shoulder at John, ” Please don’t get like that. I was just telling you because the last time you wanted to go north, then across the state and I told you it was faster to go this way, even though we had to go south quite a ways and you didn’t believe me.”
John stifles himself, ” Yeah, Ok. So long as we get there, that’s all. We’ve got ten days.”
Su raises her eyebrows playfully, ” and I don’t want to spend all that time trying to get there.”
” Good point, just be careful.” John says, as he sips coffee from his stainless steel coffee mug.
” And don’t be a back seat driver,” she says.
” If I see you about to hit something, I’m gonna letcha know.”
” That’s ok, but you know what I’m talking about.”
” Yep, I’ll be good,” he says.
Su smiles and makes her way out of the complex to the highway, driving south in heavy traffic for a while where they change highways and start heading west across the state.
The traffic is light on this stretch of road and they start making good time. The city disappears pretty quickly out here in these here parts, John thinks to himself.
John scans the banks of the canals for alligators and tries to make mental notes of good potential fishing areas. South Florida is a hotbed of exotic non-native wildlife and the fish are not excluded in that. It is very diverse here for many reasons; people letting their pets go in the wild; the hurricanes didn’t help either, they destroyed warehouses with pythons in them and they made it into the wild. John remembers reading on the internet that there is a small population of Snakehead fish that are expanding north from the canals here too.
John thinks back to when he was going to become a nuisance iguana trapper, but that got shot down after he did some investigating of it. He found out about some people who were really taking a hard stance against the methods of removal, even going as far as attacking people who did it for a living. He understands some people in that field kill the iguanas with malicious intent, but many don’t, many euthanize them properly and humanely, even eat them or make them their pets. This conflict made John step away from it.
Staring at the vast fields of sugarcane, farther than the eye can see at car window level, he says, ” that’s what we need, right there. If I could just borrow one little piece of that land, I could grow enough basil to make a living.”
Su nods her head and keeps her eyes on the road.
” How long you reckon?” John asks.
Su says, ” Light me a cigarette, would ya babe? How long for what?”
John lights one for her, wedging it between her fingers that are on the steering wheel and lights one for himself, cracking the window about halfway down, letting the hot, dusty air into the car. The change in air pressure and sound of the wind blowing through the window hurts their ears. Su looks over at John and says, ” not so far down, it’s too loud.” John agrees, saying, ” yeah, it is kinda loud,” then rolls the window up some more.
” How long til we get there? Are we there yet, Ma?” he says in a joking manner. Su shoots him a quick funny look, knowing he knows exactly where they are at. In a voice that sounds like someone talking to a child, she says, ” Almost!” John laughs knowing she is just messing with him.
A large fruit truck passing them suddenly blows a tire.
The large blast startles Su and she yells, ” oh my god!” then slows down pulling off to the side of the road.
John looks over at Su and asks, ” You ok!?” Su shakes her head yes and is poking at her ears. “ Why did you pull over?” “ It scared the shit out of me, my ears are ringing.” “ Yeah, it was pretty loud. Are you sure you’re ok?” She nods and looks in the backseat to check on Lucky. Lucky is shaking like crazy. ” You ok buddy?”
Lucky is panting hard, his ears back with his head and shoulders hunched down like he is ducking from something.
” Awe, is he ok? He’s shaking bad.”
John asks, ” Are you ok?”
Loudly, Su says, ” Yeah, pretty sure.”
John opens the door, steps out of the car and gives a quick look down the dusty highway at the tractor trailer that is pulled off on one of the dirt roads that lead to the sugarcane refineries about 100 yards in front of them and can barely see a man in a white collared shirt get out to inspect the blown-out tire.
John quickly turns his attention back to Lucky. Opening the door, he looks at him and asks, ” you ok buddy? You hurt, huh?” Lucky stays crouched down and gives a nervous yawn. John inspects him to see that he is alright.
” I don’t see no blood, the door and window are ok, those damn steel belts in the tire will shred the shit out of a car if the tire blows out on those trucks just right. I think it just scared the shit out of him though.” Su says, ” you think?” John says, ” yeah, I’m still looking, I don’t see nothin’. I’m pretty sure he’s ok … His ears are probably ringing like yours though … you sure you ok?” Shaking her head, Su says, ” my ears are ringing. My window was up, I think I’m ok.”
John looks her over from the backseat just to make sure and doesn’t see any blood or anything else that would indicate she was hurt. Sliding back into the backseat he pats Lucky, then steps back outside closing the door and as quick as he can, he looks in from the front passenger side at Su, but still can’t see if she is really alright or not.
John says, ” hey! Look at me.” Su looks at John with a grimace. He looks her over still looking for any signs he might have missed that she might be hurt, but can’t see anything.
John asks, ” Can you get out and move around? Su looks at him like he’s crazy and says, ” I’m not getting out here, not after that! I’m ok, really. A little shaken up, but ok. I’ll be fine in just a minute. God that was loud!”
“… Yeah …” John replies.
They sit there for a few minutes until the ringing in her ears goes away. Su reaches back between the seats and pets Lucky on his nose.
Pushing himself up against the back of the seat, Lucky leans hard into the back of the driver’s seat trying to get as close as possible to them for comfort, panting and drooling. Lucky licks her hand.
Su asks, ” You ok buddy?” Lucky drools on her, licking her hand again and still panting hard. John reaches over, scratches him on his head, both trying to comfort him.
Su says, ” He’s so scared. I bet he’s got to pee or poop.”
John steps out of the car again, opens the backdoor and grabs the leash. Lucky hears the leash jingle with his tag on it, a sound he knows means he gets to go outside. Lucky pulls himself towards the open door, shaking and making clacking sounds with his tongue, but doesn’t want to get out of the car.
” You wanna come out here buddy? Gotta pee ?… poo …?” Still afraid, Lucky lowers his head , then backs away from the door.
John looks over at Su and says, ” nah, I don’t think so babe, I think he’s too freaked out. You ok?”
Su looks at John, then to Lucky, then back at John and replies, ” Poor guy … Yes, I’m ok … Let’s get the hell out of here.”
John motions to her to hang on. ” Hang on a sec.”
John closes Lucky’s door and walks around the car looking to see if there is any damage and can’t find anything. He inspects both Su’s and Lucky’s doors again and doesn’t see even a scratch, then gets back in the car thinking to himself, strange.
John looks at Su and says, ” I think we lucked out on that one. You want me to drive?”
Su grips the steering wheel tight and replies, ” I think you’re right. That was a close one. Think we ought to check on the guy in the truck?” John rubs her knee and says, ” yeah, let’s take a look.”
” Light me a cigarette,” she says as she puts the car into gear , checking for traffic then pulls back onto the road.
John looks at the dirt road and says, ” that’s weird.” Su asks, ” What?”
John lights them both a cigarette and hands her hers. Driving down the highway, John points to the dirt road where he saw the truck pulled off. ” The truck isn’t there.”
” The one that blew the tire?” Su asks.
” Yeah, it pulled off right there and now it’s gone.” John stares intently, pointing at the road.
John searches, looking for the truck as they drive by the place where he saw it pull off. He ignores his pain and turns his neck as they go by still trying to find it, looking in all directions. He doesn’t even see a dust trail.
Bewildered, John says, ” weird … Hmph … it was a tractor trailer, they have dual tires, maybe he just blew one of those and got up and went.”
” What should we do?” Su asks. John shakes his head saying, ” there’s nothing to do, I don’t think. They aren’t there, no one got hurt and no damage was done … other than his tire blowing out and I saw someone get out and was checking the damage. I dunno, it’s just weird, gone like that.”
Su says, ” we stayed back there for a while, if someone was gonna come, they would have already done it.”
” We’re pretty far out,” John states. Su says, ” no, I mean if there was a problem with the driver he would have wanted insurance information or something. We looked for him and now he’s not here. I think it’s ok.” ” Yeah, true,” John replies.
Still searching while driving and wondering where the truck may have gone, John keeps an eye out for it until they reach a rest stop. Once they get there he looks around for the truck and doesn’t see it. Plenty of other fruit trucks and big rigs but not one like the one that blew its tire beside them.
They both head to the restrooms to clean up. John finishes first taking Lucky for a quick walk and giving him some water and putting him back into the car, then makes his way over to the bulletin board map and stares at the large orange arrow that says ” You Are Here”, trying to figure out how much time it’ll take them to get to the cottage.
Su walks up behind him and says, ” we’re about an hour away.” Not surprised she knew what he was thinking, John looks her and asks, ” you can tell that because? … of that radio tower and that big rotting tree over there?” Slapping him on the arm she replies, ” no smart ass, it says right here, 80 miles to Ft. Myers.” John mocks her jokingly, ” 80 miles to Ft. Meyers. ” Su makes a funny mocking face back at him and they both laugh.
” Lucky been for his pee?” Nodding, he says ” yeah, water too.” ” Let’s go then.” she says. John nods again and heads in the direction of the car still looking out for the truck that blew its tire but doesn’t see it.
They spend the next hour on the road chitchatting about how they hope the kids will like it on vacation with them and things they might do while they are there.
“ Sanibel Causeway! There it is”. She exclaims.
John turns to Su and asks, ” you want me to drive over the bridge?” Su smiles and replies, ” I’m ok. .. Y’know? … It’s strange. .. I’m afraid of going over bridges, but here, here it doesn’t bother me, I don’t know why.” ” Bridge to heaven,” he says as he stares out at the bay on one side of the bridge and the Gulf of Mexico on the other side.”
John watches Su for a moment and she seems to be ok. Very calm, doing good. Then she does something out of character for her, she points to the ocean-side and asks, ” Are those dolphins?” John is caught off guard by her willingness to look around on the bridge because of her phobia of driving over bridges. Trying to stay calm, so she stays calm, he says, ” I’ll keep an eye on it.”
Pointing again, ” look, there’s the lighthouse,” Su says. John looks over towards the Gulf side of the bridge and sees the lighthouse, then replies, ” Yep. .. ever hear the story behind that lighthouse?” Su keeps her eyes on the road and says, ” Kind of, not now though, I’m concentrating.” ” You’re doing good baby , you’re doing great. You’re home.”
Su smiles, her face gets a little red and she swallows hard nodding her head.
As soon as the tires leave the bridge and hit the road on the Island, she can feel it and exclaims, ” Sanibel!”
Driving down Periwinkle Way to W. Gulf Drive they make their way to the office of their vacation cottage. Checking in surprisingly quickly, they drive by the line of smaller cottages along a shell road to the cottage on the beach. Parking in the shade beneath a large Australian Pine, they sit there quietly for a moment, taking in the picture perfect beach scene. Their slice of heaven.
Copyright © 2012 by John Edward Petersen