before the white picket fence
|You had to look hard to see beyond the chains binding America together. Big chains they were. McDonald’s golden arches claimed eye space fusing with monolithic Walmarts. “Everyplace looks the same.” Dick told Jane, handing her their plastic bottle.
“Cheers,” She saluted him before chuck-a-lugging gulps of the same water recycled since the time of the dinosaurs. People just didn’t know what they bought fresh, cool, and sanitized was only a label of what gave life to the distant past.
Dick held the cardboard road sign asking for a ride but it was used for shade. The side of the road promised none. It was baked in concrete and tar, stretching the same as always from where they’d been to where they wanted to go. “Salude.” He replied in the careless lingo of travelers picking up cultural artifacts of language that stuck to them from place to place.
A white cabbage butterfly landed next to them, newly winged for travel, it would explore the air in search of a mate and die within seven days. Jane watched it flutter and tickle where it landed on her husband’s hand. “Quit flirting with Dick, little beauty. He’s mine,” She teased, pouting her soft wet lips into a kiss.
Tiger 'Monarch' butterflies make the trip from Mexico up through the northern states and can live for years. Dragon flies, common visitors to each of Dick and Jane's rest stops had the same mode of travel they'd had for millions of years.
The couple enjoyed their brief respites in nature. You lost the sound of birds when encapsulated within a car. The hum of engines and tires whining about everything was the same wherever you would go. It went along with the hum of conversation from drivers who picked them up. “Where you headed?”
“Everywhere. Nowhere. Seeing the sights.” had given way to “Taking a road trip across the country.” It gave purpose to their year long honeymoon before they settled down, if they ever could.
Spot, a homeless breed mix had joined them a week ago, complicating things. Having a dog slowed them down more than they thought it would. Strangers slowed down, liking the lines and curves of Jane planted by the wayside. She was a pretty thing, healthy, filled with the promise of many a manly dream. “Need a ride?”
Dick, well trained by the habits of the road, sat a bit distant and apart, coming up to join her as the driver reached over to open his car door. “Thanks,” Dick would say, clambering aboard with her, “Appreciate it.”
“Uh. Sorry. No dogs.” was often followed by “Good luck,” when that open door policy closed and shut.
Spot cost extra when they stayed overnight to freshen up at a motel. Dick and Jane were honest with themselves, each other, and those they came into contact with. It just felt better. When “Need a ride?” worked out, they didn’t discuss politics or religion. They lived it, helping drive, change flat tires and pay for gas.
Those are the rules of the road. That thumbs up means “Hey, glad to see you, thanks for helping us get on our way.” Sometimes strangers became instant friends, coloring life with a depth of feeling only the glue of common bonds can provide.
Stories would be shared along with laughter and wise nods. Sometimes an overnight home became theirs, less often an offer of a job. Most people were friendly once you got to know them and the road made that happen quickly. “Keep in touch.”
The surprising thing was they did. Dick and Jane sent postcards, old fashioned but doubly appreciated in an electronic world where road trips were as foreign as tomorrow. Dick and Jane with Spot along for the ride, lived in today.
Being homeless was desperation for others they met. Cities seemed to grow that type in larger numbers than the road did. “Ready?” Jane asked her dusty partners, one with a waggily tail.
“Always.” barked Dick’s husky reply along with Spot’s more canine brand. He picked up the trash bag he'd been collecting. Empty beer and pop cans, even glass and sometimes plastic could be sold at recycle centers. It was their way of paying back while traveling, sometimes by foot, maybe car. Most often?
Mother nature had given the three butterfly wings of their own.