[January 9, 1964]
[Malmstrom AFB, Great Falls, Montana - Morning]
“Honey! Do you want your heavier coat in the duffel bag, or on the back seat?” Bill called quietly into the bathroom. Molly was still in there washing up.
“Just put it on the back seat. We may need to get out for some reason and I don’t want to go digging for it.”
“Okay.” He set it aside.
They were packing for the next portion of their honeymoon. Whenever they got the camper bus packed they’d say their goodbyes and head down the road. The eventual destination was sunny California. They would be traveling through Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada. Bill had been trundling bags and boxes of stuff down and fitting them into the various nooks and crannies of the bus for an hour. There were a lot of those spots too. Open a little inside door and you could stuff things way back along the skin of the camper. If you used clothing, it was just like insulation – and they’d need that while they were still in colder areas.
Finally, Molly came out and pulled on her blouse. “Are you all right?” Bill asked with concern. She looked a bit ashen and had a look of tiredness about her eyes. “Do you still want to go? We don’t have to do this right now. It can wait.”
“Sure I do, my love. I’m just a little tired I guess. I’ll be fine.” She tugged a light sweater over her blouse and picked up her string bag that Bill had given her last night.
“Well, okay. But you let me know if you’re not up to it.”
She gave him a wan smile and kissed him as she passed. “I’ll be fine.” She repeated.
* * *
‘What in the world is wrong with me? I feel terrible. I hope I am not getting sick. That wouldn’t be very good right now. I want us to have such a wonderful time on this trip. Except for those few days in Montreal, we’ve never really been alone. Now we have two weeks of solitude to look forward to. I will not be sick!’
* * *
When the last parcel was stowed, and familial chatter around the kitchen table slowed to an occasional sentence or two, Bill decided it was time to go. He stood and put his hands on Molly’s shoulders as she sat in front of him. “Well, Honey. Are you ready to go?”
Paula took Molly’s hands in hers. “Have a great trip, Molly. Have tons of fun and take lots of pictures.”
“I will, Paula. Be good.”
Bill’s brother and father came over and they all shook hands. Bill hugged them both. “We’ll be fine. Don’t worry. Back before you know it.”
Beth kissed Molly on the cheek and hugged her. She turned her head to her son. “Take care of her, Son. Drive carefully.”
“We will. Goodbye all.” Bill swept across them with a wave and put his hand in the small of Molly’s back. She went through the door he held for her and together they walked out to the camper. Everyone else remained inside the house looking either through the kitchen window or the glass door. Bill and Molly waved, the family waved back. The travelers settled down in their seats for the trip. Bill was driving.
After waiting a moment, ostensibly for the bus to warm up, Bill surreptitiously dried his eyes a little. He put the bus in gear and backed down the driveway. They were off the base in two minutes. Molly was engaged in rearranging all the stuff Bill had put in the glove compartment and the small rack that was below it. It seemed like busy work to him, but he figured it kept her mind busy. She looked up at her husband and smiled. “Here we are again. On our own. Starting on another grand adventure.”
“Yup. But this time we’re doing it as a real couple, not faking it. I just wish you felt better.”
“I am feeling better right now. I had a glass of milk and some toast for breakfast. It went down nicely.”
“Is your throat sore or anything like that?” He had noticed that she didn’t seem to have a cough.
“Nope. I’ve just got some sort of … something, I guess. I’ll get over it.”
“I hope so. I hate to see you this way.” He said with concern.
She reached over and patted his arm. “I’ll be just fine, my love.”
[January 9, 1964]
[US 87, South of Great Falls, Montana]
Scenery passed. The day wore on. They were headed down U.S. Highway 87 towards Billings. Bill thought that they might get a bit further, but since this was winter, daylight failed early in the evening. He didn’t particularly want to drive much at night since they would have to find a motel. There was no way they could sleep in the bus until the evenings got a bit warmer.
They stopped at a diner outside of Harlowton and ate a really awful sandwich. Molly didn’t finish hers but Bill wrapped it up and took it with him when they left. Molly did have a malted milk that seemed to agree with her. She perked up a bit once the sun popped out from behind a cloud and lit up the Great Plains. There was virtually nothing as far as you could see except an occasional house or barn and the mountains to their right. She seemed fascinated at the sheer size of the outdoors.
“Are we still in Montana?” She asked.
“Sure. We might make it into Wyoming by tonight, but probably not. We have all the time we need for this trip, Lover. Nice and slow. That’s the way to enjoy it.” She smiled back at him and then looked down the road.
* * *
‘This country is so large! We have been driving a good part of the day and we are still in Montana. Canada is very wide, for sure; but this country is wide in all directions!’
* * *
As the sun touched the mountains and shadows lengthened, they turned off at Levina onto a little shortcut to Billings. Bill pulled up to a gas station in Broadview to top off. In winter, he told Molly, it was always wise to keep your tank filled at night because water condensation could freeze in the tank and melt in the morning.
“You know all kinds of things like that, Bill. I would never have known that. Oh, look!” She pointed out the side window. “Tiny little cabins at that motel. Is it time to stop yet?”
He looked over to where she pointed and, sure enough, the motel across the street had little log cabins arranged in a circle around a central grassy spot. A perfect place for their first night. Bill paid the gas station clerk and then pulled across the street to the parking spot in front of the motel office. They had pretty much the pick of the cabins since it was a little early so he chose one back away from the street. After paying some pretty stiff prices in European hotels Bill didn’t think that twenty nine dollars was outrageous at all. Molly was incredulous.
“Twenty nine dollars! Is that all? How can they make money?”
Motels are very inexpensive here in the States, Molly. They have a lot of turnover and room maintenance comes cheap. Mostly, they hire Indians to work as maids. I don’t like the way some of them are treated, so I leave a good tip where they’ll see it first, before the owner.”
[January 9, 1964]
[Antler Motel, Broadview, Montana – late afternoon]
They carried in what they would need for the night and relaxed. The television only had three channels – all very snowy – so Bill turned it back off. Molly seemed her old self now. She was humming a tune as she moved about the cabin which, after a bit, Bill recognized as the tune she was singing in the tub way back when they were in Paris.
“Feeling better now, my love?” He asked, holding out his hand to her as he lay back on the bed.
“Much better.” She took a knee next to him, making the bed sink deeply. “Move over a bit.”
He shifted over and put his arms over his head, motioning Molly to put her cheek on his chest. She did. Then he wrapped his hand around her shoulder and hugged her tightly. “I’m happy.”
* * *
‘I wonder if this is the time to tell him what I’ve suspected for three days now. It could hardly come as a shock, after all the lovemaking we’ve done. Still, maybe I should wait for a bit. No, maybe not. Oh, putain! Je ne sais pas quoi faire!’
* * *
Decision finally made, Molly cleared her throat and put her lips on Bill’s in a tender kiss. “I have a secret,” she whispered.
“And what’s that, Honey?”
“I think we’re about to become a family.”
Bill’s heart seemed to stop; then it revved into double-time. “A f-family? Your morning sickness!” He finally got it! Molly was pregnant! Son of a bitch!
He hugged her tightly and began kissing everything within reach. Her nose, her eyelids, her cheeks, and finally her lips. She began giggling when she felt his fingers sliding down her waist to land on her tummy.
“No, silly. You can’t feel anything right now, but I am sure I am pregnant. I will have maybe a week of morning sickness and then it should go away.
“But…but, shouldn’t we go back now. Shouldn’t you take things easy?”
“For a guy who knows lots of stuff, you have a lot to learn. I’ll be fine. We can still make love any time we want. I can be just as active as I want to be until about the seventh month; then we will have to take it easy. Oh! I’m SO HAPPY!” She wrapped her arms around Bill’s chest and hugged him tightly.
Bill was still stunned. He knew they were playing with fire every time they made love, and now all that had come to a head. His wife was pregnant! Yoweeee! He was going to be a dad!
"Does anyone else know?”
“I think your mom guessed but she wouldn’t say anything, would she?”
“I don’t think so. She would wait until you announced it. How about your folks?”
“Probably not. I wasn’t doing this back then. I think the airplane ride triggered my queasy stomach.”
“And, all this driving might keep it going. Maybe we should go back.”
“No! I want a proper honeymoon. Just the two of us – and little, tiny, junior.” She giggled. “I hope it’s a boy. He’ll grow to be straight and tall; just like his father.”
“Wait. Wait. A ‘he’? He’s already grown up? Molly, let’s slow down here a bit, okay?” Bill grinned at her. “What can we do to celebrate?”
“Go look in the icebox.”
Bill put on his shoes and coat then went out to the camper. In the icebox was a small split of very good champagne. Aha! Bill thought. Molly had known she was pregnant a while ago because this wasn’t sold in the States. She’d bought it in Montreal. God! He loved this woman – his woman - his wife.
Molly allowed herself only one small glass of champagne, telling Bill it was for the good of the baby that she had no more alcoholic drinks until after he was born. Bill agreed, and finished the quarter bottle.
They walked a short distance to a small diner and had a passable meal of grilled cheese and beef barley soup. Neither one of them was very hungry at the time. When dinner was over, they walked back and decided to just climb into bed and go to sleep for the night.
But they talked for a little while first. Still thrilled at the news, Bill jabbered about all the things he could do for their child. Eventually, he wound down and pulled the covers up to their neck. Amid visions of little pink babies dancing around his head like cherubs, Bill fell asleep.
[January 9, 1964]
[Antler Motel, Broadview, Montana – morning]
Next morning, Bill woke with Molly plastered down his whole side. She had apparently gotten a bit chilly and moved in on him. Her head was resting on his chest, which explained why he was breathing hard. She had thrown a leg over his and her knee was resting across his thighs. He cracked an eye and found another eye staring back at him. Molly was watching closely for any sign of life. “Good morning, my love.” She said. “I see your man handle has appeared.” He snickered at the use of her pet name.
Molly giggled and tossed the covers away from them both, then rolled atop Bill. She reached back and dragged the covers up over her shoulders. “Brrrr. Cold outside.” Her warm body pressed tightly against his chest and her arms locked behind his neck. “I love you so much.” She whispered in his ear. “Can we just stay like this for a couple of hours while you warm me up?”
The thought of staying in bed with Molly for two hours sounded just fine to Bill, but they had to get out of the room by eleven in the morning and it was already nine. “Would another fifteen minutes of this…” he wiggled his hips from side to side. “…and this…” he raised his hips upwards, lifting her into the air. “Do?”
“Mmmm. Just fine.” For the next fifteen minutes, they slowly made love until both were drowsy with exertion. “Ready for a new day now?” Molly asked in a soft voice.
“Absolutely!” Bill slipped out from under her and sidled towards the bathroom, hopping from one foot to the other. He’d found out that she was right! It was cold out there. Soon, he had the shower running full blast using nothing but hot water. The steam built up until it began wafting out the door. He heard her rising from the bed with a squeak, and then she appeared beside him. She did a little groping.
“Aw. Your man handle has gone soft.” She giggled.
“Molly! If you don’t stop that, we’ll never get on the road today. And, since when did you get all raunchy on me, eh?”
“It has always been inside me, my love. Now that I’m married to you, I can let it all out. Oh, look. You’re interested a little bit.”
He was too; but just a little bit. After he washed up and brushed his teeth, and left the bathroom to get dressed. Molly lingered in the warmth, and then came out and dressed also. Breakfast was next on the agenda. The little town had two diners – neither one had much outside to recommend it, so they just mentally tossed a coin. They may even have gotten the better of the two. No prizes were issued for the meal however. The eggs were runny and the toast was cold with congealed butter grease on it. Bill didn’t even want to think about the coffee, it was so bad. They paid and bugged out of there in record time.
When they returned to the motel cabin, they packed up the bus and drove it over to the office, leaving it at idle so it would heat up. Bill dropped the key off at the office, which had a different clerk there for the morning shift who wished them a good trip as Bill was on his way out.
[January 9, 1964]
[US 87, Southern Montana – morning]
Driving conditions were excellent and they made good time. At just under an hour, they rejoined highway eighty-seven at Billings and took it in an easterly direction until it curved south again. According to the map, Wyola, Montana was the last town of any size at all before they would reach Wyoming. They stopped at a diner crafted from a real train car there in the little hamlet and had what turned out to be an excellent lunch. Wonderful buffalo hamburgers and huge Texas French fries.
Back in the bus after lunch, they crossed the border fifteen minutes later. The time versus distance thing in Bill’s head calculated they would reach Casper in about three hours. Outside of a stop for gas, which turned out to be a little on the expensive side at sixty cents a gallon, they entertained themselves by singing along with various country music stations they found on the radio. Neither one of them was much good at it but they belted them out anyway. Molly seemed to like singing full throttle.
At Casper, Molly and Bill changed around and she drove. She showed good instincts at when to downshift descending hills but tended to leave it in the higher gear a bit too long when climbing which made the engine lug. But, by the time they reached Cheyenne, Molly was an old hand at shifting. It had been a long day and with six in the evening approaching they decided to bed down for the night.
The only place they could find was a chain motel that put them up on the second floor of an old wooden frame building which creaked and groaned in the brisk wind off the prairie. They ended up having to stuff towels around the bottom of the door and windows to keep the draft from coming through. They slept fitfully under a pile of blankets; the two of them wrapped together other all night.
[January 10, 1964]
[Best Western Motel, Cheyenne, Wyoming - Morning]
They woke up in the morning anxious to get the hell out of the place. Bill was visibly stimulated, but as soon as he fluffed the covers, the cold seeped in and his ardor vanished. Molly never even rolled over from her position facing away from him when he got up. He brushed his teeth and used a washcloth under the tepid water to clean up somewhat. Molly sleepily did the same and then he patted her on the butt and told her to hurry up and get dressed so they could leave.
One the way down to the bus, Bill stopped by the desk and told the old guy sitting there that this was the worst place he’d ever stayed in his life – and that included most of Europe. It was drafty, filthy, drab, dull, and didn’t even have hot water or towels that didn’t stink of mold. The old guy just shrugged his shoulders. On the way out, Bill grabbed about six donuts out of a bowl sitting on a table near the coffee machine. The old man yelled at him that he had to pay, but Bill just kept walking. The old man didn’t even bother to follow him to the door.
“What was he yelling at you?” Molly asked as Bill got into the driver’s seat. He didn’t answer, but instead handed her the bag with the donuts.
“I stole his donuts. They’re about the only thing warm in there.”
“I believe you are right.”
There are four ways to leave Cheyenne – the four cardinal points of the compass. Since Bill knew he’d filled out a card when they arrived last night, but he hadn’t added their bus registration; and, since they’d parked off to one side, when they left he simply used a side exit. This way, they never were in view of the front desk at any time. “Who cares?” Bill said caustically. “He hasn’t got a clue which way we went. Don’t worry about it. Hand me one of those things.”
Molly passed Bill a donut and he munched on it as he drove. She busied herself with the pull-down mirror on the visor fixing her face. Bill thought it was beautiful as it was, but she liked to touch it up a bit. The rising sun came in through my side window and painted her hair even more golden than normal. “Gosh, you’re beautiful in the morning, Molly.”
“I turn into a demanding old biddy if I don’t get coffee though. How about over there?” She pointed to yet another beanery on the side of the road.
They pulled in, shut down, and went in search of a hot breakfast.