It seemed we traveled long and far before we spun into a parking lot and slammed to a halt right in front of the kitchen door. Shirley offered me cold cereal and a taste of fresh coffee. She was my fast moving road angel for the day. Shortly several coal trucks parked, their drivers came inside and got breakfast before going out and hauling their loads over roads Shirley blazed. I left determined to get to West Virginia. It would take nearly all day to cover those few miles. My fast start slowed down. Though it was not raining, a solid mist permeated the air and thick dew covered everything, making for a damp hike. Wanting to preserve my sandals from getting soaked, I removed them and proceeded onward barefooted. Although soggy it was comfortably warm. It was probably afternoon before I caught a ride. Eric was heading into town to his bootlegger. I would get to see the urban way of plying that trade.
We pulled into a gas station that seemed to have a thriving business. The pump jockey came and took our order. In the few moments it took to fill it, several other vehicles came and went, none getting any gas. This bootlegger seemed to conduct only drive in service. Eric purchased a bottle of whiskey and offered to take me to the other side of town before returning back from where we came. On the way, Eric made his pitch. He claimed to be a retired career Marine drill instructor. He revealed he liked that work because of his attraction to men. He had that same attraction toward me. I reflected back to several months previous when I was traveling south through West Virginia when a late night driver offered a ride in exchange for a sexual encounter. Here I already had the ride but the offer was on the table. Eric wanted to give me oral sex. I decided to let him try. He was quick and professional. I closed my eyes and thought of women. We quickly got finished and Eric let me go on my way. He seemed satisfied with our encounter. It did not leave me with a feeling of wanting to seek that type of sex again.
I resumed by barefoot journey on dampened roads. After school was out a carload of boys offered me a lift across the border into West Virginia. We climbed a hill and they let me out in front of a field full of rusty coal hauling equipment. They quickly headed off while I looked over the gear for any that might be large enough to offer me shelter from the damp and a place to lay down my bedroll. It was then I realized my sandals were not with me. I had left then with the carload of teenage boys. I wondered what lay ahead. Today’s journey had been a long strange trip but did not cover many miles. Two blond headed young girls approached me from across the road. They looked to be sisters if not twins. One chimed. “Our mama sent us over to get you. She wants to know if you need something to eat.” When I nodded, “Yes,” she sweetly commanded, “Come with us.” I followed them over to meet mama.
Brenda was straight forward and it did not seem I would get away without at least a meal. She did not explain herself but made it clear, I could get a meal and showed me a couch on the open porch that overlooked a creek running behind her house. “That’s where you can sleep. I saw you looking over those trucks. You don’t want to get caught over there. I got plenty of kids to help with chores, so don’t expect you have to do any dishes or anything else. You just eat some my chicken and taters, then get your rest. You look like you could use it.” She made it sound like I could not refuse. I did not. After a fine meal I enjoyed telling stories to some of the kids. I was not sure there were even all hers. There was no television only music, talk and laughter we made. Before going to sleep I noticed the effects of swollen creek. The limbs of trees held much debris and personal articles that most likely came from far upstream. I was amazed at the combination of simple poverty, open friendliness, and charitable spirit comfortably squatting next to a creek that could rise and wash it all away.