Part 2 of my cross country journey picks up after I left Philadelphia on my coast to coast trek. I drove all through the night to get to Indianapolis to see Karen, the girl I’ll love forever. Even if she is gay and I’m not exactly her “type.” She had called me to say that she had broken up with her girlfriend Cheryl and was shutting down the Café in downtown Indy. I thought I might get lucky and catch her before she headed east to Richmond to her new life.
I arrived in the outskirts of Indianapolis at 6am, and stopped the Ice Cream truck to get some gas. Diesel fuel only. What a joy it was to drive this vehicle, which had no radio or CD player, no cruise control, and had a governor on the engine that prevented it from going over 60mph. To add to my driving pleasure, periodically the speakers on top of the truck would start blaring LONDON BRIDGES, and wouldn’t stop until they were good and ready. The controls inside the truck were obviously hooked up wrong, or some kind of haywire thing.
While I was pumping gas, a proud Black man with a huge Afro cut and wearing a purple suit (like the Joker on BATMAN) walked up and smiled at me broadly. I could see his top two front teeth were missing. “Hello to you, sir.”
“Yes sir, and what a fine mornin’ it is. I see you are a fine gentleman, and wondered how you’d feel about giving me some cash money. I am very hungry about now.”
“All I have is my company gas credit card. I have to cash a check later today, I’ve got nothing.” I held up the credit card for him to see.
The man stared at the card and asked, “Now can you get some cash off of that card?”
“No, just gas.”
“But all I need is $1.50”
This was again one of “Bill’s people,” the uniquely strange people who pop up all over the USA as I travel. I chose to be proactive. “I will say a prayer for you.”
“I will pray for you.”
“Pray that God is gonna put some cash in my pocket?”
“Pray for your life, for your soul, for your happiness.”
The man suddenly became rigid and devout. “Yes Lord!”
“God loves you.”
“Yes he does!”
“Jesus loves you.”
“I know he does!”
“For God so loved the world—“
He interrupted, “that he begat us a son to die for our sins.”
“Whosover believeth in him—“
“Lives forever and ever in Heaven and walks the streets of gold! Hallelujah!” At this point, the man seemed so jazzed he was bouncing back and forth from foot to foot. “Praise God!”
“God bless you,” I said, and hung the gas nozzle back on the pump.
“Say, you think you might just have 50 cent for me?”
I pulled my pockets inside out. “I got nothing.”
“OK.” He hung his head sadly and walked slowly away. “Have a blessed day.”
I drove on to the Café in the middle of downtown and parked on the street. No one was there yet, but I saw a bunch of packed boxes sitting in the middle of the Café through the front picture window. I waited an hour, and then Karen entered through the back door. When she saw me standing out front, she lit up like sunshine on a fresh summer day. She ran to the door and unlocked it, then jumped into my arms and hugged me very tightly.
“Good to see you, too,” I said, smiling.
“Boy did I need to see you.” She pulled back and looked into my eyes. “You always know the perfect time to show up. And on my last day here, tomorrow I leave for Richmond.”
“My lucky day.”
“Where are you headed?”
“What are you driving?” she asked, and I pointed at the Ice Cream truck. “You’re teasing me, right?”
“Dead serious.” Then as if on cue, LONDON BRIDGES started to play.
“How did you do that?” she asked me.
“The truck did it all by itself.”
“Oh boy, you’ve got a fun ride ahead.”
“You have no idea.”
Karen hugged me again and then stroked her knuckles against my cheek. It felt real good. “I am so incredibly glad to see you. Do you know how much you mean to me?” She leaned in and gave me a quick kiss on the lips.
At that very moment, the back door opened and Cheryl walked in. I had met her briefly once, and to say she was not fond of me would be severe understatement. From across the room, I could see her mouth silently form the words “Oh no.”
Karen turned and was surprised to see Cheryl. “What brings you here?”
“Just wanted to take one last look at the place.”
“Well get an eyeful, because after today its over.”
“I think it was over a long time ago.” There was a bitterness in Cheryl’s voice. She looked at me but spoke to Karen. “What’s he doing here?”
“He was passing through town and wanted to stop and say hello.”
“Well isn’t that just peachy keen, aren’t you lucky having a chubby buddy like this to follow you around like a lost puppy.”
I tried to be nice. “Hello, Cheryl.”
Her eyes were daggers. “She’s gay, you know. You’ll never have a chance with her. Can you get that through your thick skull?” There was a touch of venom in her voice. Karen quickly grabbed her by the arm and led her back into the kitchen area. Their voices raised, and I was uncomfortable about all the shouting. I stepped out the front door into the street. Ten minutes later, Karen came out to join me.
“Sorry about that,” she said. “Things are… well…”
“You don’t have to explain anything. I thought you might be having a bad day, and just maybe I could brighten it.”
“You did.” She took in a deep breath. “You always do. I really do love you. Can you hang out for a while?”
“I’ve got a long way to go and a short time to get there.”
“You’re westbound, Mr. Bandit.” An idea struck Karen. “Wait here for a second.” She ran back into the Café. I walked over to the Ice Cream truck and opened the passenger door. A minute later, Karen came out carrying a stack of boxes. “Does your freezer in the back work.”
“Sure, I guess so. Why?”
“Open the back door.” I did so, and she climbed in and opened the freezer box door. She unloaded the boxes into the freezer, then shut the lid and turned on the power switch.
“What are you doing?”
“Loading you up with ice cream sandwiches, Eskimo pies, fudgesicles, and drumsticks cones. I was gonna throw them away, so you might as well take them with you.”
“And do what?”
“It’s a long drive to California, you may get hungry.”
I shrugged and nodded. “Guess I better get on down the road.”
She took my hand and squeezed it tightly, walking with me around to the driver’s side door. “Hey, I’ve got a name for my new Café in Richmond.”
“I thought it was Karen’s Natural Café.”
“I decided I like the previous owner’s name for it better: The Garden of Eat’n. What do you think?”
I laughed and nodded. “Sounds good. Easy to remember.” I stared into her eyes. “And you, girlfriend, are easy on the eyes.”
She began to tear up, then quickly wiped the tears from her face. “Wow, I guess I needed to hear that right now. And by the way Mister, when are you going to make some money from these Blogs you are writing? Someone should turn them into a TV show.”
“Someone is actually interested. I’m meeting with them when I get to California.”
She lit up again. “That’s wonderful. You’re gonna succeed, I know you will. And when you get your first big check, you come and find me. I will show you a night that you will never ever forget.”
My eyes got wide. “Would that include toasting marshmallows and making smores?” She responded by grabbing me and kissing me passionately on the lips for what seemed like several minutes. When she pulled back from me, I felt dizzy and the top of my head tingled. I stumbled into the truck and started it up. She chuckled as she watched me drive off, and then LONDON BRIDGES began to play. Again.