Wednesday, January 29, 2014
Chapter 5, The Cardboard Box........................property of Diane Ogden
My luck had changed. There I was cruising US Highway 66 just outside Springfield, Illinois, all gassed up with one large coffee to keep me awake all night. Seemed those truckers weren't kidding. They wouldn't be stopping for anything but a serious case of "I have to pee and NOW!" And so it went... Springfield to Litchfield through Mt. Olive, onto Staunton, then Hamel, Edwardsville, and finally Mitchell. Actually I was wondering who those towns were named after. Obviously Mitchell and Edward somebody. Then there it was. The big Wooden border sign saying we had entered the State of Missouri. And next were signs stating the mileage onto St. Louis.
I was tired already and we had only driven a few hours. I knew there was no stopping at any of those nice motels I passed. But safety was foremost on my mind and therefore no way was I going to jump off that safe truckers carousel ride. Nope I was in for the long haul. So I cranked up the radio and sang myself awake.
That is when I saw the bridge. Not just any bridge but a monster bridge. The kind that could kill me like storms did. I had no choice so I took several deep breaths as I followed Becker's rig directly onto the huge metal structure that resembled Tyrannosaurus Rex looking down at me through my weak glass windshield. I was then hyperventilating while searching for a paper bag to regain any source of help for my heaving diaphragm. I had always carried a small brown bag for bridges and storm fears. It was under the seat and reachable. I was driving, heave breathing, and holding a bag over my nose and mouth all at the same time. You see that particular bridge, called the Chain of Rocks Bridge had been the basis for all my fears. Well most anyway.
I was a very young child traveling with my family from upper Wisconsin to Texas when we came upon that very bridge. My father was driving and I recall the sudden loud blasts of many car horns, as well as flashing lights on the right side and above us on the bridge. I was riding in the back seat when turned around to see a huge bigger than life semi truck bearing down on our car. The driver held down the long string that sounded his horn as he passed us on that two lane bridge. It sounded like a thousand tuba's echoing through my brain. He cut in front of our old Chevy and stopped us "dead." You see, the drawbridge was lifting for a boat or barge to pass through. We didn't know it and would have driven directly off the open edge into the Mississippi River and died. Because not my Father or Mother or brother or myself could swim. And even if we could I doubt we would have survived the drop.
So there I was reliving my death that never happened on the Chain of Rocks Bridge. All those years in my imagination I had finished the story with death instead of survival. That particular imagination of death birthed fear so deep inside my subconscious I couldn't breath whenever I was near water. And there I was again. I saw no flashing red or yellow warning lights. I heard not one or ten blasting car or semi horns. I was safe. Breath. Inhale, One - Two - Three - Four - Five. Exhale, One - Two - Three - Four.
Elvis was singing "Teddy Bear," on the radio while I took about four large gulps of cold coffee. I hated cold coffee but that time I didn't have a choice. It was over. We came out the other side of the bridge and I was not dead, I was alive and singing with The Beatles this time. God I loved those guys.
Becker was Springfield Missouri bound and he wasn't wasting any time. He had his pedal to the medal and I only hoped my beautiful Pink Cadi could keep up all the way. First city outside St. Louis was Eureka, then Pacific. Who would name their city Pacific in the middle of the United States? Next was Gray Summit and St. Clair. God I was so tired my eyes were closing. I turned the radio up louder and opened the car windows for the cold night air in hopes of revival. And I had to pee. All that coffee inside my body felt like a huge balloon and someone was standing close by with a sharp needle about to poke it. I couldn't pee myself. That was not an option. Time for three headlight flash signals. I knew Becker would know what was up because he had drank the same amount of Joe I had. But he didn't. He kept driving. I thought I would die from the pain. I figured I would have to exit our traveling wagon train next chance I saw as I had no choice. And there it was. The sign read Sullivan, next right. Food - Gas - Motel. At that same moment I saw Becker's right turning signal come on. Dang him anyway. He shouldn't have made me wait that long. Next time I flashed before I needed to go so badly it hurt. Typical man. At least that was an opportunity to meet the trucker that had been following me for the past several hours, I thought. I parked directly in front of the small store and nearly crawled to the bathroom only to find a locked door. I just stood there frozen. No way could I walk back to the front of the store and then back to the locked bathroom door without crouching my body in half exposing my situation to all in sight. I was about to be the most embarrassed person on the planet when Becker's hand reached out with a key in it. He actually unlocked the door for me, handed me the key and walked away. I couldn't scream I was in so much pain not to mention angry. And then relief. I was exhausted and wasn't sure I could keep up with the big boys and their long haul road manners.
Becker was no where in sight so I bought myself a couple Hostess Snowballs and a Coca Cola. I had just about reached the door when out of the corner of my eye I saw Roger. I almost shouted to him until I realized someone had a hold of him very tightly and was walking him towards, oh my God, towards the truck that had been following me. What was going on. I have to find Becker and tell him. Stop. Think. I continued to watch as they walked Roger around to the back of the truck. They turned out to be Becker and his buddy. I was so freaked out I thought I should have to find my little brown paper bag again. I couldn't let Becker know I saw them. What in the name of God were they up to. Becker knew Roger had been riding with me. Becker knew all along where Roger was. I had to run from this situation as fast as I could. But what about Roger. Who were these men and why did they want Roger. And what about me? Were we in danger?