An unlikely road trip with an unlikely pair.
See what happens when humor blogger Millie Noe and poet, Vol Lindsey end up in the same dream.
THE BIG DIPPER
“We rolled into Williams Arizona….”
“Vol ever loving Lindsey, is that really you?”
“Millie, did you get too much sun? Do you need a drink of water?”
“Vol, I don’t mean to be rude, but you are interrupting my dream and I need to get some things straightened out before my alarm goes off. Plus, I could use some more beauty sleep. Send me an email tomorrow, okay?”
“Um, pardon me little lady, exactly which dream are you talking about?”
“No, this one.”
“Millie, what in the hell are you dreaming about?”
“I am dreaming about the matrix that I may or may not have uploaded at work yesterday and whether or not I attached that price adder to that model in the right place and if the formula I put on the one inch aluminum mini blinds was supposed to be with a thirty-two percent margin or a thirty-five percent margin.”
“Why, what are you dreaming about?”
“I'm on a cross country motorcycle trip. And I'm about to have a conversation with that guy, sitting over there, because he looks really interesting.”
“That guy right over there?” I whispered.
“Can I meet him?”
“Don’t you have to get back to your formula?”
“I hate those damn things. I’d rather hangout with you.”
“Well, it’s fine with me. You’ve already come this far. But what about your sweet Sven? I don’t want him mad at me because his wife up and left him.”
“Sven? Oh, he’s asleep. He won’t mind, as long as I don’t spend too much money and I get back before the alarm goes off and he notices that I was missing.”
“It’s your call, Millie.”
“I’m in. But, I’m going to want to grab a few things first.”
“You’re fine. You have short term selective dream memory. You already tried packing a lot of crap. Don’t you remember sifting through it all and putting most of it back?”
“No. What did I have to put back?”
“Um, something you called your work station, three suitcases, five pairs of shoes, four magazines, a bag of art supplies and a set of encyclopedias.”
“I don’t have my WORKSTATION?!”
“You had to downsize. But I saw a hair dryer and some lipstick. It’s not that much fun on a motorcycle when you are towing a UHaul.”
“Jesus. Do I have my coconut earrings?”
“You are wearing them.”
“Do I have my kindle?”
“I think so.”
“I don’t have ANY art supplies?”
“Well, you don’t have your easel.”
“That’s okay. I haven’t used that for a long time.”
“I think you’ll survive.”
“Can I wear one of those cool bandannas instead of a helmet?”
“It’s your head, Millie.”
“Okay, I pick cool bandanna.”
“What if we crash?”
“Oh, not a problem. I usually wake up just before I die. I fell out of a car once and the last thing I saw before sitting straight up in bed was the shoulder gravel coming to meet my face at warp speed.”
“You usually wake up before you die?”
“Yes. Usually. Hey, I interrupted you, Vol. What were you saying when I got here?”
“Well, I was trying to tell these folks my story….
“Oh, go right ahead. Don’t let me stop you.”
Vol cleared his throat and he began again.
We rolled into Williams Arizona on a hot July third, and they didn’t know what to do with us.
“You and me, Millie. Are you going to let me talk?”
Motorcycle campers in an RV-park-mobile-retirement-community with no place for tents and bikers seemed to confuse them. Sardonic eyes followed us up the stairs to the office where they pointed out a place two hundred feet away from everybody else. We were a little nervous that they wouldn’t tell us how much they charge. And that’s when I first saw him under a dusty hat, wearing a grizzled grin at the top of his beard.
You meet all kinds of folks out there, but almost all of them fade to not even a single shade of gray a few minutes after they are gone. But then there are the ones like Buck Humanic In Myakka City, Florida, who told me if the insurance I sold him didn’t pay off, “I’ll break your leg.” His handlebar mustache loomed about three inches above the top of my head; he was 6’6” and all muscle, I did not doubt his word. He also told me the unfiltered Pall Malls I was smoking would kill me as he lit up a flavorless Merit. He died of lung cancer about a year later. Or my high school best friend, Claudia, beautiful in heart, mind, soul, and all over the outside too. We did our first acid together, smoked a lot of weed. She played guitar and could sing like Janis, or Karen Carpenter if that was the mood. She went on to drive race cars, ride motorcycles, and write books about how to alter the world as we see it, I guess I’ve always loved her. Or Terry. He was a real thing modern cowboy and my best friend who could chase wild Texas cattle from deep in the mesquite, build saddles, farrier, write songs to play on his guitar, whose big hands never found a thing they could not do. It was probably all the chemical dust in the miles-wide feedlots that gave him lymphoma. Miss that guy. I knew these folks from a couple of hours to over fifty years, but they will always slide in and out of my mind and make me sigh. So, I’m always on the look-out for another misfit to slide into the lineup of characters to play a part in my personal sound and fury.
Somehow, I knew immediately that this scruffy old coot was somebody to check out. It was then I thought I noticed he was paying a great deal of attention to us, but I was mistaken; his eyes were having a party with Millie while she was smiling at the vista. I mean I can’t blame him, she’s definitely a looker, and all. I did think l could tell he was probably harmless. I hoped.
Inside the camp store, Millie elbowed my ribs and said, “I’m going to find out where I can pee” and wandered down a dark hallway. I picked up a few granola bars, cheese crackers, a six pack of beer and asked who the guy with the slouch hat might be.
“You mean ole No Load? He lives here full time, does this Mountain Man re-enaction thing.” I took the sack and followed my dream around the corner and into the darkness to get some of the same kind of relief. The bathrooms were huge with their multiple shower facilities and benches. Six hours on a motorcycle in the desert leaves you dehydrated, your back achy, and your ass sore. Time spent under hot, streaming water sounded delicious, and the framed pin-up posters were inviting too.
Hey, whose dream is this anyway?
“Millie, I am still talking.”
Back in the shade of the porch, I took a deep breath and looked around, said “nice day” then turned to see if he’d noticed. He didn’t. I pretended to look around some more, and asked “mind if I sit down”.
He pulled his eyes off Millie’s uh, well, Millie and said “nope… you drink that new-fangled beer?”
(Hey, I like a good IPA.) I said ”Ya want one?”
“Nope, but I could sure use a cold Dr. Pepper….”
I squinted down and into those smiling eyes. “Sure nuff,” and I got him one. After three gulps he drew a large flask out of his pocket and filled it back up.
“What’s your name?”
I said, “Vol, what’s yours?”
I stared across the way at the Grand Canyon Railroad. I think he was impressed that I didn’t say a damn thing. Didn’t ask anything either.
“Where ya from?”
I told him Tennessee, but that we’d been down to Florida, across through Mobile, Biloxi, to Dallas, up through Amarillo, and Albuquerque and now here. “Hey Millie, come ‘ere. This is No Load. No Load, Millie.” She shook his hand but turned her head to search my eyes. I could tell she was bothered I didn’t explain. He stood up, took his hat off and clutched it to his chest while he shook her hand and said all disarming and stuff, “Nicetameetcha, ma’am.” I opened a beer for her when she sat down to roll a cigarette.
“But, I don’t even smoke.”
“Sorry, it’s your dream. Go on.”
“Where you from?”
“Been here my whole life.” But he was looking at her.
“Hear you do some reenacting? Been at it long?” That got him to turn toward me, and a few seconds later, his eyes followed.
“Yup, been at that a long time, it’s how I got my name. Come on down to my house, I’ll show ya something.”
His house was a twenty-two foot Mallard camper with a plastic picket fence, some coolers, and folding lawn chairs. I could tell it had been there at least as long as the park. We went inside to a bachelor-neat interior where he reached for the most beautiful piece of artillery I’ve ever laid eyes on. A classic, tiger Maple muzzle-loader, balanced like eight of my cousins and fat aunt Delmer on either end of a see-saw. It was perfect. We went back outside and I drew down on a telephone pole about a quarter mile out there. I’m telling the truth, once I got it in my sights, it would have been harder to pull away and miss than to put one dead center. I’ve been shooting my whole life, and never had anything like that happen before.
He looked at me and said, “she’s like my daughter, name’s Lucille. But let me tell ya, if you are ever in a competition, no matter how sweet your rifle, you forget to drop a ball down the barrel, it can change your life.” He looked wistfully at something in the distance.
“Yeah, about six years ago, I was feeling like a fake, so I got me up some supplies, took Lucy, and hiked on up into the mountains and lived under a tarp out there for two full years. Didn’t see nobody, didn’t talk to nobody, shot my meat and picked or dug everything else. Something like that changes your life, too. Millie your wife? I don’t see no rings.”
“In my dreams.”
“Excuse me, Vol, I don’t mean to interrupt again, but did I hear you just say that we have been down to Florida, across Mobile, Biloxi, up through Albuquerque and now here?”
Supper was at a local place called Ron’s Steakhouse. I only remember a couple of details about the place, It was noisy, every dish clanked, all the ice tinkled, every time a knife or fork hit a plate, it pinged, every voice carried. The gum smacking waitresses swished attractively in short blue dresses with red and white, checkered aprons pausing only to flirt with the locals in cowboy hats. The food smelled greasy.
Millie said, “I’m hungry for a chicken fried steak.”
I looked at the menu, and the only vegetables listed were potatoes and peppers of varying placements on the Scoville scale. Another thing about long riding is the need for fiber. Oh, well.
“Excuse me Vol, since I am having a chicken fried steak, could I have an order of fries and some tartar sauce too?”
“For the fries. And I'll buy.”
“Are you sure about that, Millie? You bought breakfast.”
“Oh. Who bought lunch?”
“We didn’t have lunch.”
“We didn’t stop for lunch? No wonder I am freaking starved. Do you want to split a shake?”
No Load was waiting on the porch where we’d left him, working on another sweaty Dr Pepper. “There you are”, he said, “Just wanted to tell you ’bout the Fourth. They’re gonna cook breakfast, scrambled eggs and sausage but get up early if you want some. Burgers and dogs later on. All free for the holiday. There’s music, too! Soon as it gets dark, the city’s doing fireworks. See ya then.”
“I thought a dry heat wasn't supposed to be so hot.”
“It could be worse, Millie.”
“Well, I’m going to take a shower. I’ll see you back at camp.”
“Do you even know where camp is?”
“I’ll find it.”
After rinsing the shampoo sample out of my hair and drying it under the hand dryer, next to the sink, I pulled on the same dusty jeans and t-shirt I’d walked into the dream with.
I went to the store and purchased a load of firewood and took advantage of the little red wagon parked next to it.
Hmmm. What did he say again? It was something about they didn’t know what to do with us and they sent us two hundred feet away from everybody else.
“Hey pretty lady.”
I spun around.
Ole No Load, was standing there in the middle of the path.
“Oh, hi, No Load. Hey, you don’t happen to know where our campsite is, do ya?”
“Nope. It could be anywhere. You might as well come back to my place and stay with me. I got plenty of room. I’ll show you my arrow head.”
“Well, thanks, but I was going to have a campfire with Vol. Look, what I found in my pocket. You want to join us?”
“I don’t partake in those funny cigarettes, ma’am.”
“You want to come anyway? You can partake if you want to. This is just a dream.”
“Don’t feel like no dream to me,” he says. “I live here full time.”
“Suit yourself,” I said. And Ole No Load turned and walked away, looking dejected.
My little red wagon and I went east. Then we went west. Then we went north. Then we went south.
And then we were back where we’d started, standing in front of the store.
“Well, son of a bitch.”
“Hey. Millie, what are you doing?” says a familiar voice.
“Oh, Jesus Vol, there you are. I guess I don’t exactly know where camp is.”
Vol led me down a dark and twisted path, where a silhouette of a cactus looked monster like. He took a turn to the left. Then he took another turn to the right.
“Are we getting close?”
“It’s the last site right over there, the one way on the end,” he points.
A lantern was lighting a picnic table.
“What’s the matter?” he says.
“I only see one tent. I guess I still have to put mine up, huh? Not that it will be a problem. I can put up a tent with one eye poked out and one arm tied behind my back.”
“Well, we don’t have another tent, so that will be difficult.”
“Shut the front door.”
“There is no front door. It’s just a zipper.”
“Well, this is going to be a big problem. You see, Sven is sweet. Sven is kind. Sven is supportive.
“I feel a but coming,” says Vol.
“But, if there is one thing that pisses Sven off, it is his wife sleeping in a tent with a poet.”
“Well, you slept just fine all the other nights.”
“Hey, wait a second. I can’t fall asleep when I am already asleep. What if I have a dream while I am already dreaming and end up fucking up everything for future dreams? I could change the destiny of my dream life and the dream lives of all the people I am dreaming about.”
“Millie, you do know that you have said the same damn thing every night, don’t you? Is this Groundhog Night, the sequel? It’s always the same. You climb into your sleeping bag, you zip it tight up to your chin and you say, “Vol Lindsey, you cross this line and I will kill you.”
“Well that’s not very neighborly like.”
“No, it really isn’t. So, do you want to have a campfire with that wood you bought or not?”
“Yes. And by the way, look what I found in my pocket.”
“Well, pardon me little lady, but I don’t partake in that anymore.”
“Really? I don’t either. And neither does No Load.”
“How do you know that?”
“I know a lot about No Load.”
The fire was crackling. I pulled a flask out of my back pocket and took a sip of some warm black licorice.
“I can’t believe you like that stuff.”
“Nobody can,” I said exhaling a cloud of blue smoke. And then I went straight into a coughing fit.
I passed the joint over to Vol. He took a hit.
I knew it.
Then we were both hacking.
“Where did you get this?” He says.
“It was in my pocket.”
The orange flames crackled and made shadows jump all around us.
“Did you hear that?”
“Hear what?” Vol says.
“That snapping sound. There, I heard it again. Did you hear it?”
“I don’t hear anything.”
Then I spotted what I thought was a shadow of a large wild animal by the tent. Then I heard another snap. And then another. And then, I let out a shrill scream. And then a black bear landed between the rusty rim of the fire pit and my bare feet.
Everyone screamed. Including the bear.
And then No Load, popped out from under a bearskin rug and he burst out laughing.
“You son of a bitch!” I yelled.
“Gotcha pretty lady!”
And just about then the herb kicked in and all of a sudden it was funnier than hell and we were all holding our stomachs and tears were running down Vol’s face, into his mustache.
No Load did not apologize.
But he did partake of the joint that I passed to him. And pretty soon, all three of us were lying on our backs, heads together and staring at the stars, protected from the hard ground by No Load’s bear, the one that he’d shot with his daughter of a gun, Lucy.
“That there is the Big Dipper,” I said with authority.
“No, shit Sherlock,” says No Load.
“There is the Little Dipper,” I continued “You see you have to go directly north from that star right there. That is how you find it. But those are the only two constellations that I ever remember. Oh, there is Venus.”
“Venus is a planet.”
“I know that.”
“You should have been an astronomer.”
“I am a Pisces.”
“What does that have to do with anything?”
“Nothing. But, I have often dreamt that I can breathe under water. I’ll teach you. All you have to do is keep your teeth locked and move your lips over to the side, like this. Then open your lips just a tiny bit and suck in a tiny bit of air, but remember to keep your teeth closed tight. You just take in the eensiest bit of oxygen at first and then pretty soon, you can start sucking in a little bit more and then a little bit more and after a little while you can out and out breathe underwater like it’s nothing.”
“Well, I can fly in my dreams,” says No Load.
“Sven can too. He calls it flying, but he is only gliding a few feet higher than the couch. I think it’s because he is Norwegian, so it’s his nature. What do you do in your dreams Vol?”
“This,” he says, staring at the fire.
“Oh, that’s right. This is your dream. Hey, what’s your middle name?”
“Your name is Vol Vol Lindsey?”
“My name is Rodney. I just go by Vol. What’s your middle name?”
“So, No Load, give it up. What’s your middle name?” says Vol.
“I don’t have no middle name.”
“Oh. that’s terrible,” I said.
“Why. Who cares?” said the man with dusty lines in his face.
“People who don’t have middle names have the highest suicide rate. It’s even higher than dentists. And if you are a dentist and you don’t have a middle name, you aren’t expected you to make it past thirty-five.”
“I never heard that.”
“It’s true. It’s because if you don’t have a middle name, it means that you were slighted right out of the womb. If your parents don’t even take a moment to write down a second name on your birth certificate, then there is little chance that they will take an extra moment to read you a book or to help you put together a puzzle or to sit down and play a game of Candy Land. And if they do play a game of Candy Land with you, they will not let you win.”
“I never did play Candy Land,” says No Load. “Why do dentists have a high suicide rate?”
“Because they are dentists,” I said. “But we can fix this. Vol, let’s give No Load a middle name.”
“Maybe I don’t want no middle name,” he grumbled.
“John,” says Vol.
“Sucks. Sounds like the guy down the street,” answers No Load.
“How about Dick?” I say.
“Don’t get me going, Millie. I already fancy you and it’s been just me and Lucy for a long time.”
“Horrendous,” says Vol. No Horrendous Load.”
“I like it,” I said.
“Or, Free,” Vol says. “No Free Load.”
“That’s good. How about just changing your last name to Ing?”
The pot was beginning to wear off, but No Load Ing caused a small ripple effect of giggles.
“I got one,” says No Load. “How about No, Who Gives a Goddamn, Load?”
And then we went back to staring at the stars.
Be sure to watch for more chapters of an unlikely dream written by an unlikely pair.
And to learn more about this unlikely pair check out Millie Meets a Poet.