Present Tense – #12

Another one from the travel archives, replete with dated cultural references…

We were driving back from Santa Fe when it all went to hell, very quickly.

I was in the driver’s seat, as it was my “turn”. We had been tag-teaming it every few hours or so since we left Pecos, thousands of miles behind us. This was a relationship-saving plan, as opposed to our journey to Pecos, wherein I had stupidly driven the entire way. I don’t know what I was thinking when I willfully chose to navigate for 11 straight hours. Perhaps I was finally atoning for some of my college sins, as opposed to that asshole Kavanaugh who is currently lying his way through those nationally-embarrassing Supreme Court confirmation hearings.

Yes, I just said “asshole” on this otherwise pristine and angelic blog. If the shoe fits…

Anyway, I’m driving, and it’s been a rather stellar day, weather-wise. We’ve had sunshine and chirping birds since we crossed the New Mexico/Texas state line hours ago. (At least I think the birds were chirping, whipping past us as quickly as they did. They might have been screaming. After all, Texas is a red state.) I’m singing along to the radio because my partner and I have been together since Madonna was a child and we are way over the comfort threshold. Right in the midst of an exuberantly-peppy dance tune, circa 1986, I suddenly realize that the sky directly in front of us (you know, the place where we are heading and cannot avoid) is immensely dark and speaks of Satan.

“Is it supposed to rain today?” queries me.

“I don’t think those are the right lyrics for this song,” says Partner, whipping out his cell phone in order to fact-check, because proving each other wrong replaced sex in our relationship around the time Madonna divorced Guy Ritchie. These things happen, but our love is still river deep, mountain high.

“No, really, look at the sky. I smell Toto in the air.”

Then BAM, the heavens opened up and every single angel, even the lazy ones, threw out their bath water with a vindictiveness that would be openly discussed at the next church social. Wait, that doesn’t quite do the scene justice. Let’s just say that a hurricane suddenly appeared where it shouldn’t, one that hadn’t been named because there had been layoffs at the National Weather Service. (The Trump Administration doesn’t believe in climate change, unlike the rest of the world, so funds had been diverted to Cheeto’s reelection campaign.)

I was not impressed.

Neither was my car. The traction warning light was blinking, letting me know that the tires were essentially no longer touching the pavement, swimming upstream in this twisted tribute to salmon trying to mate in an Alaskan river where kayakers disappear repeatedly, despite the advisements that one shouldn’t kayak when horny fish are involved. It took every ounce of my (admittedly questionable) driving skills to keep the car on the road and moving forward. The speedometer dropped down to roughly 30 mph and stayed there, bitching the entire time.

Several of the cars in our temporary entourage (you know what I mean, the cluster of unrelated vehicles on road trips who end up travelling together for long stretches because you’re all driving the same speed and headed in the same direction) cried uncle and pulled off to the side of the road. Some of the drivers pulled out rosaries. Others cracked open a can of beer. We all have different ways of dealing with adversity.

I dealt with it by continuing to plow forward, determined. We had roughly 150 miles to go at this point (out of roughly 700), and there was no way in hell that I was pulling over for anything. We had been on the road for months (okay, eight-ish hours) and my brain could not process an intermission at this point.

Thirty minutes later, I didn’t have a brain, reduced to a quivering mass of jelly that only vaguely responded to stimuli, my pale hands in full rigor mortis on the steering wheel.

Thirty-one minutes later, the rain stopped. Apparently, the angels grew bored with the inundation and went off to play Red Rover with the demons. (“Red Rover, Red Rover, send that soul over.”)

I turned off the windshield wipers and said to my partner: “Can you text me that photo?”

Partner: “What the hell are you talking about?” (Translation: “I was contentedly playing Candy Crush on my phone until your mind burp interrupted my solitude. Why can’t we just listen to music and be happy?”)

Me: “The photo I asked you to take of the weird truck we saw with the bears.”

Partner: “Why would I want to do that?” (Translation: “I’m kind of busy right now playing a level that I have been trying to beat since we left that gas station in Tucumcari, New Mexico.”)

Me: “Because you love me. And because we should have known, when we saw that mess, that something was not right about this road. People need to know about the danger, Will Robinson.”

He eventually sent it.

And I eventually wrote this post.

If you see something like this beside you on the nation’s highways, brace yourself. Something wicked this way comes. So, grab your beer and your beads and hope you make it upriver. And avoid the salmon. Because they don’t play nice.

Previously published, some changes made. And Kavanaugh is still an asshole, but now he’s wearing robes and casting Supreme Court votes that are disenfranchising millions. Something wicked that way came.

Later that night…

Goldilocks: “I understand that you guys went on a little road trip. And who is that fourth bear? You know I don’t appreciate people in my house that I don’t know.”

Papa Bear: “Well, that’s rich, considering you moved into our house and never left.”

Goldilocks: “You have the original Craftsman oak floors. Once I saw that mess, it was a done deal.”

Mama Bear: “But your hair products, dear. You leave them all over the house and they smell like porridge.”

Goldilocks: “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. But since we’re on the subject, have you ever thought about a good waxing?”

Baby Bear: “Okay, fine, stop badgering me. The fourth bear is my same-sex lover. Papa, Mama, Golda, I’m gay.”

Papa Bear: “We’ve always known, son. Ever since you went downstream during the salmon spawning.”

Mama Bear: “But we will always love you, Dolly Whitney.”

Golda: “My ear tells me that I’m losing the focus in this scene, and you know I don’t do well when I’m not in the spotlight.”

Baby Gay Bear: “How about we settle this with a rousing game of Red Rover?”

Golda: “I really don’t see the point in that, especially since so many folks reading this post have no idea what ‘Red Rover’ might be, despite the writer’s insistence on repeated reference to such.”

Baby Gay Bear: “There’s nothing like being able to break through the chains of people who are trying to hold you back. Somebody, somewhere is really going to appreciate that image. And that makes this whole convoluted post worth it.”

Mama Bear: “Cheers.”

40 replies »

    • If I hadn’t been driving all day, I probably WOULD have tailgated that trailer just to see where they were going. And it wouldn’t have surprised me to learn that they were headed to the Republican state convention in Austin…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Highway copulating bears in Texas may become my new mantra. It is an image I may have to scrub to remove from my brain. So for a while I’m just going to enjoy it. Glad you survived your swim upriver.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. The beginning sounds like another twister movie. And that is very brave, almost reckless brave, of you, Brian. I thought of you more like a cautious intelligent nerdy type. You can never know a person until a tornado comes by and the person shows his true color.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Well, I AM a cautious intelligent nerdy type. But I’m also determined. I just wanted to get back to Bonnywood after that immensely-long drive, so I wasn’t going to let giant bears and typhoons get in my way… 😉


  3. I remember the picture of those bears@ I have been in one of those little summer squalls. I’ve also been in a hail storm. I thought young son was kicking the back window of the car, and I yelled at him to stop. Wah. That probably scarred him for life.
    And…I never heard of any of those games. I just remember dodgeball. It was girls against the boys. and being a quick little shit, I always won. One day, one of the boys just couldn’t take it anymore, so after the game, he threw the ball at me and broke my leg. 😦

    Liked by 3 people

    • We just had a hail storm the other night. The weather here is crazy, as I’m sure you remember, but this time it was pretty intense. It sounded like buffalo were running across the roof, and those damn hail stones were the size of a Buick. At one point, the yard was so covered in stones that it looked like snow. Not fun.

      When I was in junior high (we called it “middle school”), we had a very lazy Phys Ed teacher. He couldn’t be bothered to actually devise any kind of agenda, so we basically played dodgeball every other day. I hated that game. I was pretty chubby then, so I didn’t have the grace or skill to get out of the way. And since it was boys vs boys, and young-teen boys can be jerks, they always targeted my slow ass. Suffice it to say that I had no love for that damn coach.

      Now, this broken leg thing? Did you ever get any revenge on that nimrod? I suspect that you did. Spill… 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      • I went to “Jr. High School” as well.
        I was ten years old when the guy, (I still remember his name) hit me square in the shin and POP went the leg. I didn’t get revenge. I was a pretty good little girl, and really didn’t know much about revenge…then. Boy…did I ever learn about it alter. 🙂
        I had already broken the same leg when I was six, and would continue to break it twice more. When I had to fill out the basic health page for the doctor, I had to list any broken bones. Hmmm. How much time do you have?

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I presume those freakish bears are some sort of carnival ride. More therapists will get rich off the trauma to wee tots that will ensue after they are forced to ride the ride. (Mama, mama I DON’T wanna sit on the green bear’s lap. He smells of disappointment and stale beer..) The mere sight of that trailer would have probably made me run into the only surviving Saguaro cactus within my parameter. I applaud your determination in driving through the wind and rain, bent on getting where you were going, and damned be to any natural occurrence that tried foiling your attempt. Tell me though, did you see any red-eyed steers and ghostly cowboys riding in the storm with you?

    (yeah I know the song reference is “Ghost Riders in the Sky” and the video is Riders on the Storm. They both fit the situation)….

    Liked by 3 people

    • I think the song is a perfect assessment of the situation, even if we have to change the references and a few details.

      And yes, those bears are creepy, and any respectable child would develop life-long issues if they were forced to be near them in any way. (Did you notice that thing on the orange bear that is presumably supposed to be a tail but looks like something else? And bears don’t even have tails? That image right there is going to keep the money rolling in for therapists for decades to come.)

      But I do know that if you and I had been traveling wherever in a car and encountered this spectacle, we would have wet ourselves laughing. It was just so surreal and absurd. (Yes, I do imagine us taking road trips. And maybe someday, we can.)


      • I hadn’t noticed the ‘hole’. It does look like the orange bear had a wardrobe malfunction and a shart occurred. Ick. I forgot, in my musical ramble, to reminisce about Red Rover. We did play that, especially in the foster hell, where there were enough kids to make up two sides. Someone was always getting squashed as a bigger kid would break the chain and fall upon the smaller one and get a little unsubtle groping for themselves. Now I know why I didn’t remember. I’ve always had excellent balance and it was hard to knock me over though. When we were released from foster hell, the neighborhood where my parents moved us had several kids and we’d play kick the can and Red Light Green Light and all sorts of games. Kick the Can after dark was really fun….no bogeymen in those days to grab a kid who wasn’t being watched. Also no schedule for the kid that kept them occupied from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with soccer games and whatever it is that keeps the children of today unable to go out and just play with their friends. I suppose today’s kids are better prepared for life, but what a price! A future road trip sounds just the thing, and we’d sing the whole way too! No tornadoes need to apply though. I’ve driven through two of them now and since Utah isn’t supposed to get those, it wasn’t pleasant. At least I didn’t shart myself like that bear… O_o

        Liked by 1 person

  5. The beginning sounds like another twister movie.
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    Liked by 1 person

  6. So scary but makes me miss road trips. My favorite highway surprise was pulling up alongside the Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile. My ungrateful travel partner refused to slow down to the 52 mph speed limit required to stay behind it to see where it was going. Unfortunately, it took me another few years (and several more road trips) before I realized I had to let him go.

    Liked by 3 people

    • True story: Many moons ago, I was on a business trip (during my decades-long internment with Verizon) in Florida, along with my boss and a few co-workers. One evening, we went out for dinner, had a few drinks (not too many, did I mention that my boss was there? you know how it goes). Boss Man only had one drink, so he was good to drive, and we eventually headed back to our hotel.

      The entrance to said hotel was kind of odd, in that you approached from the rear. As we rounded the corner of the building and got a gander of the front entrance, we spied, sitting under the canopied drive at said front doors, an Oscar Meyer Weiner mobile. (It had apparently been freshly-painted recently, as the colors were VIBRANT. Or maybe it was the two vodka gimlets I had conquered. Not sure.)

      In any case, I completely lost it, laughing hysterically. (It was just so unexpected and surreal.) I finally settled down, but it took a while.

      For the better part of the next year, my boss would call me “Oscar”, until I finally told him HE had to let it go.

      Hmm. I think this might need to be fleshed-out into a blog post. Thanks for the trigger!

      Liked by 2 people

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