Chapter III

Chapter III

A Chapter by Mounsell

John learns more about his hosts.


As the sun sank ever lower, John began to concern himself with thoughts of shelter.  He knew that a night in the desert would be extremely cold and unpleasant and felt no desire to test his fortitude.  A bitter wind nipped at John’s back, and he wrapped his jacket tightly around his torso.

               Sounds that were previously smothered by the roar of his truck served to disquiet John.  With each disconcerting noise, he turned his head in the direction of its source and quickened his pace.  

               Suddenly, John heard a low rumble.  Looking ahead, John was able to spy two faint lights.  The lights grew brighter and he could make out the outline of a truck.  The driver, too, appeared aware of the man hiking alongside the road.  He pulled his truck over on the opposite side of the road.  Turning his head towards John, the driver looked the hiker over several times and saw that his appearance was atypical of the usual hitchhikers.  The stubble of the man's jaw was trimmed, the clothing he wore appeared somewhat clean, and the shock of black hair atop his head had been carefully combed away from his brow.

               The driver, upon determining that the man was not a threat, shouted out the question, "Need a lift?" 

               John looked at the driver and weighed his deal.  This decision took just seconds as a cold wind once again bit at John’s back.  John, replied in the affirmative, and ran to the passenger side of the truck. Once he had lifted his tired body into the cab, John looked around for a map of the area.  On the floor sat an atlas folded back to reveal a map of the area.  John glimpsed at it and saw that the nearest filling station was well outside walking distance.  The driver noticed that John was glancing at the atlas.

               "This isn't a museum.  Feel free to touch it."

               John grabbed it and studied his planned route.  The driver started up the truck and began to speak. 

               "I'm glad you accepted my offer.  Nights out here can get pretty cold." 

               John nodded and the driver continue speaking.

                "I'd like to know why you're out here.  I'm sure you have your reasons but I haven't seen any hitchhikers carrying nothing but a bottle of water and a wad of cash." 

               John looked down at the scarce supplies in his hands.               

               "Sure," the man continued, "a bottle of water quenches your thirst, but you can't eat cash."

               John looked at the driver and spoke.  "I know.  I've tried." 

               The man chuckled and John explained his situation. 

               "My truck broke down.  I planned on walking to the nearest filling station, but, seeing as how the nearest town is over a hundred miles away, I don't know what to do."

               "I know you probably have a tad more sense than a lot of guys who come out here.  Most of 'em don't know the land and think they can just walk across the desert with nothing but hopes and dreams.  It really pains me to see so many young men walk into the desert and disappear forever." 

               The driver finished his sentence and John could see him grow visibly upset after this statement.  John looked out the window in an attempt to not embarrass the driver.

               The driver regained his composure and apologized.  "Sorry 'bout that."

               John, now fascinated by the passing landscape, mumbled out a quiet "it's okay" and continued to look out the window.

               Suddenly struck by a thought, the driver turned to face John and spoke. 

               "I just realized.  I never told you my name.  The name's Bill Hodge but you can call me Bill.  I'm sure you'll tell me your name now that I've given you mine." 

               John turned to face Bill. 

               "My name's John, John Turner."  

               "Well, Mr. Turner…"

                "John’s fine."

               "Well, John," Bill continued, "I'm sure you'll understand my thinking when I ask: You don't have a place to sleep do you?"

               John answered, "I've enough money to rent a motel room for a few nights."

               "Now, you don't need to go off and waste your cash on some musty old motel room when I have a perfectly good home just up ahead.  Me and my wife, you can call her Mrs. Hodge, have a bedroom that's been empty for close to ten years now.  She loves having guests and you would be no exception."

               Before John could reply, Bill added, "Besides, this area doesn't have any nearby motels."

               John thanked the man and accepted his offer. 

               "Great!  We'll be coming up to the house in just a few minutes.  Just be careful when you walk in.  Mrs. Hodge turns into some kind of fiend if she ever gets woken up in the middle of the night."

               Bill laughed and began to look more intently at the road ahead.

               As the truck roared down the highway, its headlights lit up a large, rusting sign along the side of the road.  John was able to make out the name "Salton" before the truck passed it.

               The two men sat in silence for most of the drive.  Bill was absorbed by his driving and John was absorbed by the passing landscape.  After about an hour, John spotted a faint glow in the distance. 

               Bill pointed out this glow and said, "There's the house."

               John was able to make out the finer features of this house only after the truck had driven much closer.  The source of the glow, as John soon discovered, was a tall lantern standing in the middle of the yard. 

               The house appeared adequately maintained by its residents.  Bill had trimmed the bushes away from the stone path leading up to the front door and had placed a few potted plants on the porch.  These plants were unable to survive the intense summer heat despite Bill's careful watering regimen.

               Bill saw John looking at the vegetation and explained that "nothing wants to grow here."

               Drawing his attention to the house's exterior, John could tell that it had seen much better days.  The paint had begun to chip, and the windows were peppered with dust picked up by the desert wind.

               Bill parked the truck in front of the home.   Both men got out of the cab and followed a concrete path to the front door. 

               John steps up the stairs caused the wooden beams to creak.  He looked at the steps and saw that they were warped by weather and age.

               As Bill Hodge drew a key from his pocket and placed it in the lock, he turned back towards John and spoke.

               “Now I know you don’t have any other clothing with you.  There’s some in the extra bedroom’s drawers.  They're not exactly the most stylish pieces but they’ll probably fit you."

               Bill pushed open the door and John walked through the threshold.  John noted the stark contrast between the conditions of the interior and the exterior of the house.  Inside, the house appeared well maintained.  The walls were covered with a light sea green paint that matched the ornate pieces of furniture which sat throughout the home.  Old photographs of family members hung in clusters on the walls.  Gaudy porcelain figures lined the shelves.    A faint hint of peanut brittle wafted through the air.  The only light came from a dimmed lamp nestled between a sofa and an armchair in the corner farthest from John.

               Upon entering the bedroom pointed out to him by Bill, John spied a large chestnut dresser along the far wall below the sole window.            Pulling his head back from the photographs, John stifled a yawn.  He looked at a clock along the wall and saw that dawn was only a few hours away.  John fell back on the bed and slept. 

© 2012 Mounsell

Author's Note

Critiques would be greatly appreciated.

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Added on May 19, 2012
Last Updated on June 2, 2012
Tags: salt, city, sea, truck



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