Chapter 17 -- you can't go home again [but you CAN go to someone else's home]
Jack peered over the dashboard of Brendan’s car and watched the two men who had been arguing in the gas station get into their car and pull away. Their car was a rental, splattered with mud and covered in dust,
and Jack could see the men arguing with each other about turning left or right out of the parking lot. Thankfully, there were no signs of any raccoons.
The parking lot was quiet again as Brendan returned to the car with two cans of soda pop
and a couple of big sandwiches in plastic wrap. “Here, take your pick,” said Brendan, and he handed it all to Jack as he got back in the car.
“All I have is 99¢ and I should help pay for gas,” said Jack as he stared at the feast.
“Don’t worry about it,” said Brendan. “I was making this trip anyway, so I’ll take care of gas. As far as the food, you can pay me back later or buy me a meal sometime.” Then, with a wink he added, “I love barbeque ribs.”
Jack mumbled a thank you and handed Brendan a can of soda pop and one of the sandwiches as they pulled back onto the interstate. The miles passed by quickly and before lunch was over they had passed from Iowa into Nebraska.
Hour after hour Brendan and Jack cruised over flat roads that curved gently along the Platte River. Brendan’s Chrysler 300 raced the sun to the west, but even though the sun seemed to hang motionless in the sky, it somehow managed to gradually pull ahead of them. They finally had to use the sun visors, and Brendan put on his sunglasses to cut the glare. Nebraska seemed to go on forever.
A brief stop at a gas station in the little town of Cozad broke the monotony, especially for Jack, who was on high alert because he still wasn’t sure that he was safe. But thankfully, no raccoons appeared and they were soon on their way again, with more sandwiches and drinks, compliments of Brendan.
The sun was hanging low in the sky when Brendan and Jack finally crossed into Colorado. The scenery hadn’t changed much, but it seemed to Jack that the uphills outnumbered the downhills as they drove along. The land felt like it was tilted up toward the mountains just over the horizon. The sun may have won the race to the west, but it was now sinking lower as Brendan’s car climbed above it over the top of each hill.
A sign by the side of the road showed that Denver was 180 miles away, and Jack realized that he hadn’t yet followed up on asking Brendan about Kelby. Just two days ago, Sister Kim had told Jack to find Kelby in the great mountains to the west, but Jack didn’t know who Kelby was or where to find him. Then earlier this afternoon, Brendan had mentioned knowing Kelby when they stopped for gas in the town of Shelby, Iowa.
Jack tried to ask in a casual way, “So, what’s Kelby been up to these days?”
It turned out to be the perfect opening. Brendan answered, “He’s a doctor out in Fort Collins now. Riding and racing his bike, same as ever.”
“That’s cool,” said Jack, as he considered his next move. The bike comments were a sure sign that this was the Kelby he was supposed to find. “Have you seen him lately?”
“Not in Fort Collins,” said Brendan, “But we’ve met up in Boulder a few times. We’ve done a few rides and had a few beers.”
“Are you headed there this time?” asked Jack hopefully.
“Nope,” said Brendan, shaking his head. “I’m going to see my parents this weekend, and I’ve got to take care of a few things downtown, but then I have to get back to Iowa City by Monday for classes.”
“Oh,” said Jack. He dropped the subject. It was enough to know that Kelby was a doctor in Fort Collins, but Jack would have to find his own way there.
They stopped once more for gas just before sunset and reached the outskirts of Denver before continuing on to Brendan’s parents in the nearby city of Arvada. They pulled into the driveway just before ten o’clock that night, nearly a thousand miles away from Jack’s troubles of the last few days.
Brendan’s parents welcomed them both, and they were soon sitting down to a late-night meal of leftover spaghetti and homemade sauce, garlic bread and a big pile of chocolate chip cookies. After supper, Jack was shown to the guest room. It didn’t take long for him to fall fast asleep, partly because of the exhausting last two days and partly due to the food-induced coma brought on by eating too much.
to be continued...
[a serial by little orphan dbax]