3. Peaceful Drive
I ripped open the door to my truck and slammed it shut behind me. I sat there for a second just trying to erase all of the conversation I had with Dad from my memory but it wasn't working as well as I had hoped. As usual my expectations of a smooth encounter with Dad went awry and here I am in my truck just staring at the dash wondering what's next. All I wanted to do was ride off in my truck with a smile on my face; now all I want to do is sit here for the remaining hours of the day. I turned the key on without igniting it which caused the MPH and RPM gauges to flip to the highest number, then after a pause they fell back to their resting positions. My thoughts still circulated around the encounter that never should have taken place until a sweet sound flowed through to my ear drums. Instantly, my mouth split open and I was grinning from ear to ear. I almost couldn't believe that something so simple could save my day in such a quick fashion. Party in the USA swayed gently out of my speakers and flowed in a sea of tranquility to my ears; it suddenly calmed me and gave me the chill outlook I've been searching for. Normally this wouldn't be playing in my pickup but since Aliya decided to give me a mixed cd I can't stop listening to it. Man, she's changing me.
This feeling had to be interrupted while I started my pickup and for that split second I could feel the happiness drain from my body. But once that sound returned, I felt a rush of energy flow throughout my body like a sugar high. I backed out slowly, careful to avoid the grill that Dad had conveniently decided not to put away last night. The sunlight slammed my face the instant I pulled out of the bat cave that my pickup was hibernating in. Without even thinking about it I threw my hand to the center consul to retrieve my sunglasses.
I began my lengthy trek towards my dreadful red brick high school. Once I reached the gravel road that linked our house to the highway, I realized it was rather sandier than normal as my tires slid from side to side. The cackle of miniature pebbles dinging off my Ford was all I could hear along with the music of an overhyped, under talented Miley Cyrus. I may like Party in the USA, but too much Miley reminds me of her talentless father's failed attempt at country music with Achy Breaky Heart. To be truthful even though not many of the songs on this cd flow to my appeasement, they still gave me that same warm feeling that I have when I'm around her. I suppose that's why I listen to it more than Hank Jr. anymore.
I peeled up the road at a pretty decent pace and as I did I searched over the vast horizons to examine every little beautiful piece of nature in the area. The country never seemed to fail me in times of need. All the rolling hills littered with trees, winding creeks, and who knows what kind of animals are in the forest across the road. Lately, nature has been taking a more sour turn though. The weather is a bit shaky which is causing many farmers to be rather fearful of what's to come. But then again it wouldn't be the first time that farmers fear the worst; it's not like you can blame them after the 80's Farm Crisis and the Flood of 93'. These farming families have been torn apart head to toe so it's nothing short of a miracle that only a few marriages have survived those rough times. Hell, that's what ended Dad and Mom's marriage. It's pretty near impossible to manage your way through an agricultural depression when you have one kid to take care of and a wife at college. I know I may not get along with my Dad as much as I should, but he'll never lose my respect that he gained for those years. He's a tougher man than I could ever hope to be.
Finally, I reached the paved highway that I had been searching for. Glancing left and right I could see no presence of life anywhere which isn't unusual for this rather hidden highway. My tires spun for a second in the muddy gravel until they eventually caught traction and hopped up onto the pavement. Once I had straightened myself out on the road, I began surveying nature again but not for anything in particular. I just like looking out across these hazy yellowish fields to see no sort of human existence, minus the crops of course. No buildings, no cars, nothing but these sweet and pure hills of nature.
I pulled up into Kearny on a path I've taken a few too many times. I knew every single pothole, crack or divot in the pavement as I swung around a looping curve that entered the town from the southwest side. At first glance, no one would think twice about this town while passing through. To me though Kearny has always given me a reason to ponder its existence. This town never gave me a feeling of depression, but rather oppression. It's as if a virus travels by air affecting all citizens to fall into its divine dark wishes. Maybe it's just me, but even on the prettiest day in this town people still meander around without a purpose and with a gloomy overcast that ranges within city limits.
Looking around the broken road I could see a few shacks that people call homes. I don't look down on these people though because our large house is owned mostly by the bank, not us. So it's not like I can walk through town with my head held high belittling people that I deem inferior to me. Yet people still go about their day in this rural slum and don't put a second thought into it, which is the main reason why this town bothers me. I lay my eyes on the bar that will open in a few hours; to be honest that's the only sort of entertainment that this town will ever have, and it's the only entertainment people desire to have here. Getting drunk is probably the only way to forget the sorrow that plagues this town I guess, so I really can't judge them.
Right across the street from the City, or village, Hall was the Williams' who are the type of people that you would compare to Hannibal Lector. They were a very curious couple in that they kept to themselves mainly. But even when they mixed with the other people of the town you could just tell that they just preferred to be alone. Rumors roam around about how they're drug users due to their personalities and their abnormal obsession with numerous cats that saunter inside and outside the house. As for me, I don't think they're anything of that sort. I believe they're just a couple with a broken down life and find a sniff of happiness in each other's company, and I can't doubt them for that. When I passed by, the husband walked around the back of the house; he eyed me for a moment, then waved politely without a smile.
I continued through what was left of this so called town which was more shacks and trailers mainly. The bank sat on the corner of Main Street a few blocks from the bar. This wasn't the bank that we debated to get our loans though, that was in a much more civilized town called Densberry. The measly old bank that we have isn't run down so to say, but it wasn't in tip top shape either. It had a musty smell to it that prevented me from wanting to cash my checks there, and the lady who works the desk isn't the best of company. There is a coffee shop next to it though that old farmers like to stop by every morning to complain about how the change in Agriculture isn't for the better. If it was up to them we'd still be running the phone lines bush to bush, but I always did like to hear their input however outdated it may be.
As I turned I could see no soul was outside at this early hour, even though it's already 8:40. I accelerated right through the stop sign that was on the top part of a T-intersection, based on the fact that it's a dumb place to put a stop sign. I continued speeding through town just to escape it's tight grasp around my tailgate. It finally relinquished me out into the wild rural rolling hills that make up this portion of Iowa. I can't help but breathe a gasp of rejuvenation to finally have liberated myself from Kearny for a short while.
My truck didn't even look back at what was still in sight, which it commonly did especially when Aliya follows me. Now, nothing sat between me and her that would slow me down. Well, minus stop signs considering that Wellington had cops who actually enforced the law unlike Kearny. I'm confident that I won't receive a ticket if pulled over though since the sheriff Ed Schoeler is a good family friend who I've known all my life. He's been on the job for longer than I know; so long that he probably doesn't even know. Hell his gray hairs on his head would frighten most people due to their erect, frizzy format if it all wasn't hidden beneath his hat most hours of the day. I've been lucky enough to be one of the few to see him with his hat off; that occurred at a dinner party at his place one time when I was a kid. Not the typical lawman that's for sure and I value him more for that. Never once has he acted disrespectful to me or anyone around me that I've seen which is quite a feat considering that Wellington is full of boastful bigots that pride themselves in the fact that they weren't born in Kearny.
But just as my thoughts were drifting me away from this desolate highway, my attention immediately snapped back to me as I caught a speeding pickup off in the distance. It appeared to be a silver glow coming from the reflection of the sun off its surface. And as it gained speed we got closer by the second yet I couldn't figure out the exact make of the truck. Then, my wishes failed me as I knew who was racing towards me. Exactly what I feared, a silver 1987 Dodge Ram with a thin maroon stripe down its side.
It was none other than the Wilson family. They all lived within walking distance of each other on Highway 34 that headed south out of Kearny. To be honest, it was rather difficult to be in their presence and hold a conversation. Their nature is unlike any other I've ever met; I don't know if it's the way the words roll off their tongues or if it's just the words themselves. Although they attempt to hide their desires, the greed that stains their eyes is often evident in any occasional encounter with one of them. I speak of them as if they are creatures of some sort, but I can't say that it's completely off base.
There are four in their immediate family: the three brothers Gary, Dale, Jared and Jared's son Christopher. Out of all the Wilson's, Christopher is actually the most tolerable. Unlike his father or his uncles, he didn't inherit much of their passionate lust for power and wealth considering that they already had attained both. He is a medium sized kid who graduated only a couple years before me, with brown hair and uncharacteristically hazel eyes that blended in with whatever scenery that surrounded him. With Christopher, we would always help out by mowing their alfalfa or square baling when they needed it. If it were any of the other three who asked we wouldn't even consider it; thankfully though, the brothers rarely asked.
Jared on the other hand is a 180 degree turn from his son. His obesity is easily recognizable from a great distance, along with his crunched face. When he laughs his nose crinkles causing him to snarl in an odd manner. Not only was he different all together, but he's extremely obnoxious in a sense that his own son tends to steer away from him. Hell if you compared him to his brother Dale, not many tourists would be able to pair them as brothers. The only thing the two had in common was their typical dark flashing eyes, and their contradictory personalities somehow blended together perfectly. Dale is a lean man; very fit for his age that I assume is either his late thirties or early forties. Smoking kept his body in a slender format which was very befitting for his sly personality. He's more of a quiet man, though he speaks up to say quite controversial things. Overall, I'd say he's just another Wilson.
Gary is the head of the farming operation. He's the eldest brother; therefore he inherited most of the family wealth from his parents' successful farm management. Gary is an average upper forties man with about a 5 foot ten height and a slight receding hairline. His gray hair was matted to his skull, and his forehead gleamed in his own self absorption. I can't remember any encounter with him that he didn't mention something about money, or how poorly the outlook on the next growing season will be though we all know that he'll do just fine. It's because of him that there is tension between our family and theirs; I wouldn't exactly call us Hatfield and McCoy's, but we still have our tense confrontations. We always tried to be respectful to them, but at harsh times respect is not something they deserved. Their cruel nature still mystifies me; I'm not quite sure what they are capable of, yet I do not wish to find out. As their truck passes by I spotted that it was only Gary and Jared in the vehicle; I nodded and they did the same. Thankfully, the tension swooped out of my body just as hastily as it had entered. My eyes crept from the left hand lane back to my own lane.
I decided to try to get the Wilson's out of my head along with everything else that was distracting me from Aliya. I kept my eyes on the solid yellow lines that mimicked the tight curve up ahead. Taking that curve, I could see the small to medium size town of Wellington that stretched across my dashboard. As I was pulling up to the town's entrance I couldn't stop thinking about how great of a day this is going to be. It feels as if not a damn thing can knock me down today; here I am a complete, strong minded man who is pursuing his dreams for the first time in eighteen years of existence. God willing I will obtain my desires.
The mirror above the dash had a small sticker that caught my attention in a way that I hadn't even remembered it being there. It was a plain black and yellow sticker that said J.D. Gaines #54. We had them specially ordered for football my junior year and I rather liked my placement of it. It wasn't flashy, sparkly, or anything of that sort; just a modest sticker for a low budget high school. I actually began to ponder my name that was slapped on there, which I commonly did considering its mystique. Most would associate the name J.D. with John David, and respectively so since it is a rather customary nickname. Either that or John Dorian, which is the main character in Scrubs. But mine took a rather different approach; my parents always did love odd names for children and stuck by their goal to make my name the only one in our class. J.D. actually stands for John Declan; they were correct in assuming that no one else would be named John Declan Gaines, and yet I don't mind it. Though it is out of the ordinary, it separates me from the other kids to assist me in considering myself to be special. I guess it worked while I was a kid, though now it has dulled down.
Finally, I entered town at a pace of 40 mph in a 25 zone but I didn't mind. Come pull me over Ed, I thought daringly, because there isn't any price on a ticket that will dampen my spirits today. I searched throughout the town to see a couple walking their dog together and on the other side of the street a couple of freshman girls, tremendously late for their morning class, texting while walking at a slow pace towards the high school. Maybe I should have some fun; just as I rolled up parallel to them I lit up the tires making them burn on the pavement. The squealing sound caused the girls to jump in slight shock, and once I passed them I peeked at my mirrors to see one girl leaning to the other whispering something with a smile across her face. Mission accomplished, I smile to myself.
My pickup skipped into the parking lot over the speed bump causing my springs to jolt under pressure. I lurched forward in my seat, catching myself before my chest rammed into the steering wheel. Wheeling my Ford through the scanty parking lot filled with sporadic potholes that have the potential to pop tires I couldn't find a single space to park in this undersized lot. My seat is already higher than most of the cars here, yet I still can't spot a space to slip into. Eventually my mind began pondering a way to invent a spot for the time being, and my impatience agreed with that thought. I swung the wheel up to the curb that bordered the parking lot and ramped it causing my right side to leap onto the barrier and into the grass that lined the sidewalk. A sense of accomplishment rushed through my body and into my lungs as I overlooked my work with the deepest feeling of refreshment consumed me.
I looked up at my overhead mirror for a second time, this time to just look straight into my own dark blue eyes. These oceans of mystery have finally led me to this day, this day that is filled with excitement and wonder. Though I do not know what is ahead for me, I do know that this feeling can be seen everywhere throughout my body especially in my smiling blue eyes. My mouth had decided to follow suit as well by resembling my eyes.
Well, I realize it's about time that I head into school to officially start my day. Since I have late arrival, I report to school a period after most students which is the reason why I felt detached from society in this empty parking lot. Initially I still have that feeling of happiness in my body yet something makes me hesitate from leaving my pickup so quickly. My hesitation won't give me any dismay though since I know who is sitting within those redbrick walls just waiting to see me waltz through those glass doors. God, how I've anticipated this day for so long and I have finally reached it. I have nothing to show for it but this big moronic smile on my face, and I gladly accept it.
I pull the handle to my door and slide out from my comfortable seat to the sandy, crumbling pavement. The first thing I notice is the air is much fresher out here than inside of my condensed truck. Though the pavement is coarse nothing trips me up as I glide across it like a figure skater on a sheet of ice. Still I have yet to spot a soul in this parking lot, and frankly it feels amazing to have this moment alone before I begin my day that will become more of a turning point in my life than that spring day that I decided to attend a soccer game. I stare down at my shoes realizing that something peculiar was occurring around me.
As I paused on my walk to the door, I noticed that the wind began blowing in a mystifying way. The leaves on the pavement levitated off the ground in a lazy approach and stole glances at me as my eyes darted from one leaf to the next. All at once the leaves began circling me in a wondrous scheme that seemed to be planned ever since I woke up this morning. I stood encompassed in this amazing feat that blew me away just like the wind was doing to the leaves. They weren't dancing or anything merry, but rather they just tumbled end over end in a weary way as if these leaves were guiding me to my unknown destination. No rightful sound could be heard, not even the wind that was flowing through my ears could be sensed. All that was audible was the slight touch of gentle music playing in my imagination, which furthered my curiosity. I turned from side to side to investigate each leaf individually as they continued to embrace me through the light kiss of the wind. But just as soon as it began, the leaves halted and started descending down the uneven pavement. I was left marveling at what had just occurred and my mind couldn't resolve anything because none of it made sense. My hearing returned to my ears as I could hear the soft wind passing by through my hair and the escaping sound of leaves skidding down the pavement. I don't know how long I've been standing here, but I didn't care. I hoped that no one was watching this intently from inside yet if they were it wouldn't bother me too much either. The awe is just too powerful to overcome.
But I checked my phone to see that the time was a little past 9 so I picked up my feet and headed towards the revolving doors. My reflection hit the glass and I can almost see the happiness glowing right off my skin. It felt like the doors would open for me as to not get in my way, yet they didn't. I tore through the multiple doors to get inside and noticed a group of a few underclassmen heading my way. They looked at me like I was on a different level than them, even though we hadn't formally met. There were two girls who were both mildly cute and their faces appeared to be in awe as they eyed me; the other two were boys who I had seen on the football field prior to our encounter now. I denied acknowledging that they didn't know me so I could notice that all four couldn't take their eyes away as if they knew something inside me was different today. They nodded their heads in unison and I did the same; though we may not be friends, they showed their respect to me and I was glad for it.
I searched the lunch room ahead that held the 1st period study hall yet I knew that Aliya wasn't in there; she had Cooking class at this time. Though I did spot the second pair of eyes that I desired to see on this fine day. Darius sat talking at a table with Carrie, Mark, Luke, and Skylar. His black hair was shaved as close to his head as possible but with a thin carpet layer still matted on his skin. He had dark brown eyes that coincided with his skin, built in his lower body which enhanced his running capability, and a little goatee that stretched up to the corners of his mouth. Carrie nudged him to make him aware of my arrival, and as he turned around he whipped his hand up from underneath the table to flip me off. Our smiles matched.