I had been dead or so I thought for at the least forever. Of course I had no idea anyone would even suspect the fact I might have needed help considering I was in the middle of the State of Illinois on a dark highway in the middle of the night, or close to that time anyway. No, it was not nighttime. It was dark from a thousand storm clouds that descended on me like the death I thought I already had. Anyone who knew me knew I was terrified of storms. And beyond terrified of water, but who kept track of such things when they were dead.
I woke to the smell of something horrible as well as the sight of something equally horrible. The scary faced trucker. Turns out the old scary faced trucker couldn't sleep for the worry of the young woman who drove off alone straight into "Ghost Alley." He knew personally what could happen out there. He had been hit head on by the Ghost of these parts himself. Yup, that Ghost came right through his windshield and into his sleeper. Foggy white freezing mist covered every cell of his body. He relayed his story to me later and added that he'd never been so scared in all his life. That is why Duke now travels with him on every run that goes through Central Illinois. Who could he tell of such craziness? No one would have believed him, except me of course.
His name was Becker. The trucker that is. He carried a first aid kit with him at all times even though he'd never used it. When he came up behind the Pink Cadillac sitting dead still in the middle of the road he knew just what had transpired. Becker pulled up as close to the rear end of the Cadi and onto the side of the road as he could. He hit the flashers, grabbed the smelling salts from the kit and that is when I came back to that horrible smell and the scary face.
I was confused and then terrified. Becker calmed me down carefully by speaking in a gentle manner telling me everything would be fine. He had not ask me what happened. If he had I did not recall. And I did not tell him I thought I had died. Rather I believed I had experienced traumatic amnesia and that was just fine with me. I was already embarrassed to the ninth degree within my own mind. I had picked up a stranger who stole from me and disappeared, I had been scared out of my wits, or my proper senses by a rugged trucker, a terrible storm, the tales of "The Ghost of the Outer Edge," and I thought I had died from the combination of those stresses. I wasn't about to tell anyone anything.
Tuned out the Cadi stopped because her battery cables were loosened. Tools in hand Becker cleaned off the posts and connectors, then tightened everything back up and bingo she started right up. He later told me he couldn't work fast enough to get us out of that territory. Even Duke was on high alert. I was still wondering why my old friend Oliver, back home at the Mobil station didn't catch the battery issue when he checked the Cadi before I left town. Or did "The Ghost" loosen my cables?
Becker instructed me to keep driving straight ahead onto Elkhart and then onto Williamsville. I told him I would not move one foot from that spot alone. He assured me he would be right behind me all the way. There was a truck stop about an hour or so just before Springfield in Williamsville. Not to fret, and so it was, he stayed with me all the way.
We pulled into the Truck Stop far from the "Ghost of the Outer Edge." I was never so relieved except for the time in the Judges office when I decided not to marry Harper. Then again that sounded like a much safer bet then what I had come out of that night.
Becker took Duke for a walk and then escorted me with his umbrella in hand, into the restaurant area. I couldn't believe I had not packed my umbrella. Becker certainly was a life saver in many areas that day. We sat in a bright red shiny booth and ordered hot coffee, the deluxe hamburger and fries, and apple pie. I didn't realize how hungry I was. It was still storming outside but as long as Becker was there I didn't seem to be as afraid. There I was again leaning on a man. And still secretly wondering if "The Ghost of the Outer Edge" had messed with my battery cables.
I asked Becker what his story was. He just looked at me in silence for a minute and then asked me what my story was. I told him about Harper and wanting to go where the city lights turned my mind to a state of perpetual happiness. He laughed at me. I said, "Excuse me Mr. Becker, what is so funny sir?"
"Well my little friend, in one day I have seen you get robbed, lost, broken down in the middle of a State Highway, passed out from fear of a storm, and scared of a fictional ghost story. And you are not even half way to your destination city lights."
"I will beg your pardon. You sir, probably peed yourself when that fictional ghost hit your windshield. So don't you be making any fun of me."
As for the rest of his comments I had no comment. I made it to my destination. The only thing missing when I arrived was my boom box." And so after that there was silence. For what else was there to say?
I waited out the storm and was ready to head out when Becker told me he and another trucker would be keeping me sandwiched between there trucks as far as Oklahoma City and then I would be on my own again. We were to gas up now and keep in touch by using the blinker-light system. When I needed to pull over I was to flash my lights three times. But it was not to be too often and better be for a good reason. Becker informed me they were long haul drivers so get comfortable and be prepared not to stop before Oklahoma City unless it was a near emergency. Somehow that reminded me of the days traveling with my father. We nearly peed our pants before he would stop that car. Guess that was a man thing. I did have one good memory of our family trips that my brother and I puecked the entire trip due to severe car sickness. It was those Burma-Shave signs. My brother and I would read those, pueck, then count telephone poles all the way to Texas and back home. And there I was again, traveling the same Route 66 and reading Burma-Shave signs. With the exception of a drunken ghost and a hitchhiking thief. Surely it would be smooth sailing from now on out, I thought.