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11 months ago

Reflections

Selected Writings & Artwork by Harriett Copeland Lillard

A Journey not Measured

A Journey not Measured in Miles - Rash had no shoe. Instinctively, as if to blank out the scene, he turned off the flashlight, and sat there in the cold darkness. He tried to think what to do. He could not reach the car without endangering himself. He had no way of knowing how deep the water was. Besides it seemed obvious that the man was dead. On the road at this hour of the night, the wreck could have been there three minutes or three hours. Regardless of that, the impact had probably killed the driver. The concrete looked like it had been dynamited. Behind him in the darkness, he heard the cattle moving in the truck, stamping and beginning to bellow, impatient to meet their own appointment AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA with death. He remembered he was supposed to be at the meat packers in Ft. Worth by daybreak. He would call the highway patrol from the next little town. Turning the flashlight back on, he looked again at the wreck and satisfied himself there was nothing more he could do. He turned and scrambled up the slippery bank. His legs and butt were caked in mud. Regaining the highway, he walked out onto the bridge. Not a car had passed, nor did he hear any approaching sounds in the night, just his restless load of cattle. He walked to the boot and picked it up. It was beautifully made, heavily stitched, the bottom part made from some expensive, exotic skin. He looked down at his own plain boots, caked with cowshit and now with mud, and holding the boot to his chest over his heart, he thought how we are all equal in the end – cows, rich men, and poor truckers. Equally dead. Turning and leaning over the bridge rail, he vomited into the cold, dark water below. ˜ “A ribbon of moonlight!” Yes, that was it. The Highwayman. De-da, de-da, de-da. “I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light; Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day. Then look for me by moonlight, Watch for me by moonlight. I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.” He was talking out loud to himself. Scraps of poetry floated through his mind and out his lips. “Of all sad words of tongue or pen the saddest are these: ‘it might have been!’” He thought of her. “The moving finger having writ, moves on, nor all your piety and wit can erase one jot of it.” He thought of himself. A quick euphoria gripped him as he thought of Invictus, “It matters not how strait the gate, How charged with punishments the scroll, I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” Perhaps it was not too late for him, perhaps life could be good and gentle again. As it had been when he could remember his mother’s cool, tender hands. Oh, but that was so long ago and she dead for so many years. He thought of what resolute assholes he and his brothers had become and he was glad she had been spared that knowledge by an early death. But not to think of those old sad refrains – not now, not while he was on the verge of resolution! The patchy fog had become one dense thick pall. He suddenly realized he did not know where he was. He was in an alien land. Exhilarated by this new excitement, he pressed the Cadillac to its limit. Nothing could touch him. He felt as if he had found the secret. The secret. What was it? He 37

A Journey not Measured in Miles - Rash couldn’t say it, but he felt it. It suffused him with joy. He forgot the pain in his guts. He forgot that he was drunk. He was omnipotent, invincible. The fog suspended all sense of time and space, encased him between the real and the spirit. It was soft, sensual like a woman’s smooth breast. He felt dematerialized, ethereal, transfigured, transmuted. He gave himself up to the pure pleasure of it. Jesus, he thought, this is better than a good fuck – maybe this is a spiritual fuck! The blasphemous connotations of his thoughts struck him as funny and he laughed out loud. A deep laugh that rolled upward from somewhere deep inside, from a place that hadn’t laughed in a long time. He was laughing uproariously, uncontrollably. That was it! That was the secret! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA Simultaneously with the great white hot pain he felt in his head, he saw the bridge railing. He thought his head was exploding and he grabbed for his temples with both hands. A quick turn of the steering wheel to the left would have avoided the squat concrete piling. But it was too late. He was frozen with pain. The heavy Cadillac hit the concrete full speed. Great chunks flew about like mud clods. The impact threw Rash forward into the window; the engine and steering column, forced backwards at the same time, caught him in the chest pinning him to the seat, as a child pins a helpless moth in an insect collection. But no matter, Rash was already dead. The window had smashed the pain in his head, stilling the erupting vessel in a mass of traumatized brain tissue. Both doors popped open as the big car left the ground, turned over and arched through the cottony fog before hitting the water. It floated for a few minutes and then softly settled into the water with a sigh. It was over at last. The hopes and fears, the longings and sadness, the hated bank notes and hidden liquor bottles, the dreams and realities, the loneliness and helplessness, the pain in his stomach and the knot about his heart. He was free. What had it all been, anyway? Just a puff of smoke, a passing cloud on the horizon of reality. ˜ By eight o’clock the next morning, the town was alive with talk of Rash’s death. The trucker had stopped at Tobe Fuller’s café. It being the only thing open at 5 am. The café was full of local ranchers coming in for coffee, catching up on the latest talk, waiting for the first light so they could start the day’s work. He had gone straight to Tobe standing behind the cash register and asked him to call the highway patrol. There had been an accident on the road at the bridge over the East Fork, he explained. Seeing Tobe looking at the boot which he was still clutching to his chest, he told him that he had picked it up off the bridge. Tobe took the boot and slowly examined it. There could be no mistake; this boot belonged to Rash Barrett. No one else in these parts could afford such expensive boots. There was an audible intake of breath in the room, then silence. The café began to empty, as men hurriedly scraped back their chairs and made for their vehicles. By the time the highway patrol and the wrecker arrived at the bridge thirty minutes later, cars and pick-ups lined both sides of the road around the bridge. Men stood along the creek banks shivering in the cold damp air, irresolute, with their hands in their pockets, their bodies silhouetted in the fog by the lights of their cars. Strangely 38