Chapter IV

Chapter IV

A Chapter by Mounsell

John explores Salton.


John woke up shortly after the sun had risen.  Looking out his window, he saw that the area had yet to be lit up by day.  John pulled his body from the bed and began to prepare for the day ahead.

               John noticed that atop the dresser stood a single framed photograph.  He reached over to the lamp and turned the switch.  The light allowed John to make out the minute features this picture.  Looking closely, John quickly discovered that the two figures shown were a much younger Bill Hodge and his son.  The boy whose arm was wrapped around his father reminded John of himself.  The young man's dark stubble and rugged features were shared by John.  Each man, however, displayed much different senses of style.  John had worn the clothes issued to him by his father but this young Hodge wore the uniform of a social misfit.  Hodge's blue jeans and shoulder-length hair starkly contrasted with the work attire and close-cropped haircut John had once worn. The boisterous smile that lied across Hodge's face showed his great elation.  Drawing his attention to the older man standing next to the boy, John could see a similar smile spread across Bill's face.  The father appeared younger and much more joyous than his present self. 

               John directed his attention to the dresser itself and opened several of the drawers.              Sifting through piles of magazines and books, John was able to find several pieces of clothing that may have been considered stylish twenty years ago. 

He pulled a long-sleeved plaid shirt on and buttoned it.  A pair of jeans he picked from the pile was rather slim on his frame and he tried on a different pair.  These new jeans fit the same and he gave up trying to find a looser pair.

               While glancing at his clothing in the mirror, John noticed the distinctive aroma of home cooked food floating into his room.  He followed it across the house and finally came to the kitchen.  From across the room, he could see Mrs. Hodge busy at the stove.   From the smell that filled the room, John determined that she was cooking sausage and eggs.

               At the kitchen's small round table, Bill sat with his head hidden behind a newspaper.  Every once in a while, an arm would appear from behind the paper, grab the mug of coffee sitting on the table, and replace it a few seconds later.

               The distinctive click of John’s boots shook Bill from his position at the table.  Mr. Hodge, placing his newspaper on the table, greeted John with a hearty "Good morning!"  John smiled at this exclamation and replied similarly. 

               As Bill's spouse turned to face the visitor, John spoke. 

               "Mrs. Hodge, I presume?" 

               "Why, yes, but you can call me Martha.  Bill has told me a lot about you." 

               "Did he tell you how he saved me from the desert?" 

               Exchanging knowing glances and smiles with her husband, Martha said "He may have told me once or twice." 

               Bill chuckled and returned to his newspaper.  Even as Martha opened her mouth to speak, the sizzling in her cast-iron pan became much more frequent.

               "How about we talk more over breakfast?" asked Mrs. Hodge.

               "Sounds great." said John.

               Lifting a pan from the stove, Martha began to pile strips of bacon and pancakes on John’s plate.  He noticed the growing pile of food on his plate but did not motion for Mrs. Hodge to stop.  After some minutes, the woman stopped piling John’s plate and served Bill.  Bill noticed the mound and set his newspaper to the side.  Martha sat down at the table once she had placed some food on her plate.

               After each of the people at the table had finished their breakfasts, Martha grabbed their dishes and moved them to the sink.  She returned with two cups of coffee just as Bill began to talk with John.

               “So what brings you way out here?" Bill inquired.

               “Well,” John replied, “I’m on break, and I’ve always wanted to see this part of the country.”               Martha set the mugs in front of each man and John thanked her.

               Bill replied, after taking a sip of his coffee, “Break from school?"

               “Break from everything.”

               “Ah.”  He took another sip.

               John could tell that Bill didn’t completely understand.

               “Back home in Maryland," he explained, "my father was really strict.  He ran our household like a boot camp and treated my sisters and I like grunts.  After about eighteen years, I got completely sick of it and left."

               "And your sisters?" asked Mrs. Hodge.

               "They were enrolled in college by the time I left." 

               “So what have you-” Mr. Hodge thought long and hard about the words he wanted to say.  "What have you done since you went your own way?"

                “I’ve had a lot of jobs in the past few years: busking in Memphis, pumping gas in Tulsa, bussing tables in Amarillo.  Eventually, I scraped enough greasy plates to buy an old truck and I’ve been traveling around the country ever since.”

               John reached for the fork by his plate, but stayed his hand and looked back up at Bill. 

               “That reminds me, Bill, you don’t happen to know the number of the nearest tow company do you?  I should probably get my truck into town before I try to get it repaired."

               “Don’t worry about that.  Neil Bruner has a tow truck he can use to pull your vehicle into town.  It’ll take a few hours though.”

               "Neil Bruner?" John asked, puzzled.

               "He owns a car garage on the outskirts of town," explained Bill.  "If you're willing to stay in town for a while, he could fix your truck, too."

“That would be great, Bill,” replied John enthusiastically.

               “In the meanwhile,” Bill added, “You may want to look around town.  Salton has a few shops you might be interested in."

               Martha added, "We also have a great restaurant right in the middle of town. You'd enjoy it."

               John thanked both Bill and Martha and stood up from the table.  He walked back to his bedroom and grabbed his wallet from atop the dresser. John left through the front door and set off towards town.


© 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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