A new travel trailer sits in the sand behind my homestead cabin. Its white and blue stripes mirror the storm less skies behind the creosote covered hills surrounding the valley where my property stands. The trailer is new to me; however, it has seen many roads.
I touch its aluminum siding in hopes of hearing the laughter of the children who first saw it pull into their driveway in some suburb closer to Los Angeles. Only silence as I touch the metal door knob; Children’s’ laughter long gone. I turn the knob, which sticks a bit. I give it a yank. The door opens; I step inside.
I look at its wood paneling in hopes of seeing pictures of the places it has been on the road. Did its blue and white stripes travel on the black pavement of Route 66 before Highway 40 wiped it away in 1970, a year before I was born? Had there been pictures of children having hamburgers at the Amboy diner and picnicking somewhere near the ghost town of Calico? I see nothing on the walls except fake wood and dust.
I stand on its floor strewn with pillows patterned in a funky orange and red floral design that scream the sixties. I feel happy I bought it as I scan the leaves, food wrappers, dust and sand this trailer has gathered along the road. This trailer is like me; It is not new.
I bought the trailer from a friend of mine, a fellow West Coast friend, a traveler too. He bought it a few years back and pulled it with a Ford Truck to the lava steaming ground in Lassen county to the pastel hills of Death Valley to other places as well. He fell in love with an East Coast girl along the way. They married this past spring in Washington DC. His friends, like me, flew there to celebrate with them. The trailer sat in a driveway at another friend’s house in the suburbs near Los Angeles, gathering dust as toys often do when their owner has found something else. I asked him if he wanted to sell it; he said he did and gave me a good price, so here the trailer sits today in the sand behind my house, the closest pavement twenty minutes away.
My friend brought the trailer to my house about a month ago when he returned to the West Coast for a visit. I met him at an overpriced coffee shop in Yucca Valley. We sat on the patio overlooking along Highway 62, a stretch once barren with cars, now crowded with traffic jams. We used loud voices to catch up over a cup of coffee. The sounds of the highway wearing us thin. We paid up and I pulled my Mitsubishi Mirage in front of his truck and trailer for him to follow me to my house, impossible to find anyway else.
We wound down the gray ribbon of Old Woman Springs Road leading out of Yucca Valley’s crowds, glad to be back on the road with a little less humanity. I listened to no music as I led the way, letting the silences fill me back up. I watched the sky as the sun hit the West’s horizon, dusk. Our wheels left the pavement and wobbled onto the gravel and rocks of a sometimes county-maintained road. I watched as the trailer fish tailed, so I could see its sides from my rear-view mirror. I mentioned with my hands to my friend if I should be concerned. He waved me on to keep going. I did. The Mitsubishi, the Ford and the trailer rolling onto the gravel outside my cabin twenty minutes later; orange lighting up where the sky and hills met to the West.
I got an urge. I had to go to the bathroom. I jumped out of the Mirage and told my friend I’d be right back to help him park the trailer and to wait. I, then, used the keys to open the fence and the door to get inside the cabin for a moment of relief.
The cabin was dark. I turned on the light and ran to the back of the house where the toilet was in a bathroom with a half-tiled shower. Forever DIY, the name of my décor. The bathroom’s window open to the setting sky. I was watching the sky as I zipped up my fly when I heard my friend through the window say,
I forgot about washing my hands and out my front door to the back of my house where my friend stood looking at a lopsided truck and the trailer in the shadows hills now outlines with the purples, blues, oranges and reds resulting from the sun and smog of California’s atmosphere. His tires dug into the sand by at least six inches.
I repeated his sentiment.
“But that’s okay,” my friend said, “I know how I am and that’s why I have Triple A Premier.”
Shit turned to laughter.
“Let us hope,” I said. I had heard rumors about people getting stuck with hundreds of dollars in tow fees for getting stuck in the sand around the campfires of my neighbors who came up here on weeks to drive their off-road vehicles. I didn’t tell my friend this instead I set him on Skype to call Triple A. I prayed as my friend spoke to the person on the other end of the phone. My friend ended the call with no concern.
I, stunned, asked, “Is that it? They are coming out here?”
“Yeah,” he shrugged, “I think so.”
The Skype app made a false phone ring. I clicked on the icon to answer.
“Is this 1234 Somewhere Avenue?” an angry voice said.
“Yes,” I said.
“Well, this is the Triple A driver. I have been referred to this call.”
“You’re awesome!” I said, trying to butter him up for the journey he had been called do at 7pm on a Tuesday night. .
“No, I am not,” the voice said agitated, “Where are you exactly?”
“You can’t find it on Google Maps,” I said and offered to meet him at a corner everyone in the area knew to led him in. I heard an audible growl.
“Are you there?” I asked, suspecting he may have been attacked by a pit bull considering the sound just made.
“WHERE EXACTLY ARE YOU?” he pronounced each word as crisp as burnt toast on a hangover morning.
“Where are you?” I asked back.
He again pronounced every word in the next sentence he said.
The way he said it made me envision an overweight man with his King of the Hammer 2016 Championship t-shirt crawling up his belly while sitting in an Archie Bunker chair with a Pabst Blue Ribbon waiting for Survivor’s next season.
I felt like such a bitch. I had an idea.
“Do you know Tex?” I said. Tex was my neighbor and, for some reason, the most popular man on the valley floor. The locals all knew him, which I learned a decade ago when I moved here.
Again, a growl.
“I DON’T KNOW TEX!!!”
Then, there was silence, a break.
His voice sounded softer than before.
“But I do know a woman with a horse,” he said.
I knew a woman with a horse too; she lived behind Tex. it was true she had a horse; her personality had been stepped on by a horse as well. A doppelgänger for Frau Blücher from Young Frankenstein. I got shivers every time her horse made its sound. I wondered how the driver knew Frau Blücher but felt it best not to ask.
“YES!” I exclaimed, “I am near the woman with the horse.”
A horse whinnied in the distance; then, dead air.
“Are you there?” I asked the computer screen.
The voice now soft.
“I think you don’t understand,” it said, “I’ve been through some things.”
He sounded like Brando’s Colonel Kurtz from Apocalypse Now in the scene where he explains how the snail needs to learn how to crawl on the razor’s edge.
I didn’t want to ask about the things he had seen, but he volunteered.
“I’ve driven out there to you people out there and I have found you in all sorts of places like on tops of boulders and five feet in a hole!”
I felt like a three-year old in a Catholic mass. It wasn’t me; it wasn’t me- I wanted to say, but the driver kept on and on. He had seen some things. I listened, then, like a priest in a confession stall; his tone softened. Just another Triple A driver in need of a hug. He ended his soliloquy with-
“YOU NEED TO SWEAR TO THE GOOD LORD JESUS CHRIST THAT YOU ARE NOT ON A BOULDER!!!”
I swore to Jesus I was not on top of a boulder. The Skype app announced the call had ended when I said this.
“Is he on his way?” my friend asked.
I shrugged; I did not know.
We sat on the patio, drinking wine and watching the light unpolluted Milky Way when the silence was broken by the sounds of wheels on the gravel leading to the cabin. I slid my headlamp on my forehead, turned its light on and went out of the gate of my front yard. I made a sound when the light of my headlamp landed on Triple A logo on the side of the truck. The man in the truck did not share my excitement.
“Where is the mess?” he said in monotone.
I used a flashlight to show him where the truck and trailer were trapped.
The driver got out of the truck, but left the motor running in. He walked up the driveway to get a better look. He, then, groaned when he saw the truck was a few feet off the cleared earth that acted as the driveway.
“THIS TRUCK IS NOT IN THE DRIVEWAY,” he screamed like a man about to snap.
“THIS TRUCK IS OFFICIALLY IN THE DESERT!” he screamed even more. My friend and I hiding in the shadows like the cockroaches we were.
The driver continued to tantrum, yelling every single obscenity in the book. He ended this soliloquy with-
“THIS IS GOING TO COST YOU $200 DOLLARS AN HOUR AND THAT HOUR STARTED WHEN I PUT MY UNDERWEAR TO COME HERE!”
I didn’t need the visual; I felt bad enough. I looked over my friend who was not visible in the dark. Like Sheen’s ’s Captain Willard from Apocalypse Now in the scene when he emerges from the swamp, a painted warrior, sneaking up on Kurtz, my friend made a silent motion with a hand as if to say-
Don’t make a move, don’t make a sound, what is ahead is not good
The driver walked back in his truck, cussing the entire way.
“I think we’re safer in the house,” my friend whispered. I nodded. We walked like defeated soldiers with no words back to the patio We went back to drinking wine. We drank for different reasons this time.
Two hundred dollars an hour from the time he put on his underwear.
This is what the wind seemed to whisper while the tow truck and its driver beeped, clanked and yanked in the black night. My friend and I heard a thunk. My friend ran to behind the house to see what the thunk was. I stayed on the patio, too petrified to look.
Silence returned and lasted until Frau Bruher’s horse made its sound in the distance. I shivered and looked to the stars above. I hoped to the stars this would not cost us a thousand bucks. I thought about ways to raise the cash, we could sell a horse.
These thoughts were interrupted when I heard the wheels of the tow truck roll out of my driveway and into the night. My friend appeared at my fence with a smile on his face.
“You don’t look like a guy who just put a couple hundred on a credit card,” I said.
“Looks like the guy had a heart in the end, “ My friend said, “just a case of PTSD he wants to make contagious.”
We laughed as this. The stories the desert Triple A drivers could tell. We made some stories up and we went back to drinking wine and laughing. My friend left the next morning, went back to the East Coast to be with his new wife, his new life far away.
I survey the interior of the trailer my friend left behind. I grab a broom slouching in the corner and sweep. All of what had settled dismantled; all the who’s, what’s and why’s this trailer has seen swept back into the air in chaos. I imagine children growing taller and more interested in Ford Mustangs than trailer trips with Mom and Dad. I see the trailer being pulled out of the driveway in that suburb near Los Angeles, sold dimes to the dollar to another family with another dream of road. No one waving it goodbye. How many others have had a moment here, I think as I Febreeze the red and white gingham curtains that smell of moth balls and bad beer. The moment when something old becomes new again. I have work to do to make something this old look new again. My job, however, pales in the light to the toils of the Mojave desert Triple A tow truck drivers. I think of him, smile and say for him a little prayer.