a short novel





Chapter One


     Ruthie Root Beer, coyly standing on the highway side, stuck her thumb out for a ride.

     It was the year of '73.

     She stood outfitted in snug blue jeans that hung far too low on her hips and a turquoise T-shirt that ended two or three inches above her navel.  Her tummy, thus, was generously naked.  It was a tummy baked and seasoned by lots of exposure ~ tawny brown and smooth like a pinon nut.  Also, it had the kind of curvy plumpness before which men dreamed of genuflecting.  And kissing.  She always traveled with her belly exposed to the weather, if the weather was right.  On the edge of the Sonoran Desert, some miles outside of Phoenix, Arizona, the weather was blazingly right.

     Of course, it was summertime.

     Ruthie Root Beer, surrounded by cacti, rocks, and rattlesnakes under a high noon sun, stuck her thumb out by her hip.

     As she languorously stuck it into the hot desert wind, she thought, as she often did, about her last ride.  A fortune teller had picked her up ~ a little wrinkled raisin peering over the big steering wheel of a '52 Dodge...




     "It's a fine day today," said the little old lady, as her passenger settled down into the passenger's side of the seat.

     "Fine as can be," said Ruthie, smiling.  She was glad to be moving again.  And her chauffeur seemed cheerful enough ~ wrapped in a dress a gypsy might wear.

     "It's a fine day today," repeated the old lady.  With a sly wink she ominously added, "For having your fortune told."

     "Fortune?" said Ruthie.

     "That's right," said the old lady.  "Whatever it is that awaits you in the future."  Her hair was gray and braided.  Long sparkling earrings danced and dangled from her earlobes.

     "I haven't thought about my future for a lonnnnnnng time," sighed Ruthie.  Her hair, long and brown and tousled by the wind, fluttered around her placid young face.  The car-door windows, of course, were rolled down.

     "Shame on you," scolded the old lady.  "You should think about your future."

     "What for?"

     The old lady beamed.  "Because you have a ride with a fortune teller.  My name is Madam Time."

     "I'm Ruthie Root Beer.  Glad to meet you."

     Flat land, blue sky, telephone poles slipped by.  The sun was on the rise.  There was about one drop of morning dew left on the surrounding scrub.  The vintage automobile clipped along at about 45 miles an hour in the slow lane.  Madam Time rubbed her gnarly chin.  "You say your name is ~ what?"

     "Root Beer."

     "Root Beer?"

     "Root Beer.  Ruthie Root Beer."

     Madam Time studied her passenger from out the corner of her eye.  "You must be a sweet, refreshing thing."

     "I am."

     A few more miles of desert passed by.  The old lady said, "I bet you would be a real good read."



     "You mean like a good book to read?"

     "No," said Madam Time.  Her old cracked voice became ominous again.  "I mean like a good fortune to read.  It's only five bucks a throw."

     Ruthie laughed.

     "Whadda yuh say?" coaxed the old lady.

     "Sorry, Madam Time.  I live for today."  Ruthie looked around at the desert tripping by.  "Where're we headed?"

     "The future."

     "I mean where's this highway headed?"

     "Phoenix.  But I'm just passing through."

     "So am I."




     Yes, Ruthie Root Beer stood on the side of the highway, thinking about her last ride.  The wind died.  A trickle of sweat rode down the graceful curve of Ruthie's naked belly.  She yawned and stretched, stuck her thumb out again down by her hip for a ride.

     Next to her sitting in the dirt was a small chest with a padlock on it.  It was maybe a foot and a few inches long ~ looked kind of like an old pirate's chest.  Inside it were her dancing outfits.

     When Ruthie needed the money, she go-go-ed.  She go-go-ed in go-go bars all over the nation ~ was the best dancer around.

     As she stood on the side of the highway with her thumb out, surrounded by cacti, rocks, and rattlesnakes under the high noon sun, she continued to think about her last ride ~ the ride with the fortune teller...




     Madam Time's old Dodge (t'was cream colored) rolled along.  The sun climbed higher into the sky.  And Ruthie's head tipped over into the old lady's lap.

     Ruthie hadn't slept for days.

     "Tired.  So tired," said Madam Time to the world at large.  With her fingers she stroked Ruthie's wind-lashed hair.  The sleeping maiden had a face that could turn smoking trains into whimpering puppies.

     She dreamed.

     She dreamed the same old dream she'd been dreaming for a few years now, ever since the night, incidently, before she hit the road (of which you can read in the story, How Ruthie Root Beer Became A Road Princess, which can be found in the book, Wild Women In The Borderlands Of My Mind, by yours truly).  She dreamed she was a child again, dragging her tired little feet down an endless dirt road, running away from home, surrounded by endless fields and sunshine.  Alongside the dirt road ran a ditch.  As she trudged along she continuously peered into this ditch ~ looking for her older brother.

     Ruthie once had an older brother.  But he died before she was born.  So actually she never had an older brother.  But as a child on her tipsy daddy's poor farm outside Wichita, Kansas, was always looking for one.

     She dreamed.  Sometimes he appeared.  Sometimes he didn't.  This time, there he was, her older brother.  He was tall, strong, standing by the ditch on the endless dirt road surrounded by endless fields and sunshine.  His eyes, as usual, were merry and full of love and looking at her.  She wearily trudged up to him, jumped up into his arms, as usual, and cuddled there like a little doll.

     "Say good-bye to Pa!" he said ~ stuck his tongue in her ear and laughed.  This was the first time Ruthie's dead brother had ever said or done anything except hold her.  And it was the first time he'd ever laughed!

     The dreamer awoke.

     Ruthie was alone in the car, sprawled out on the front seat.  She sat up, groaned, rubbed her eyes with her knuckles.  The old creamy Dodge was parked in the shade of a tree in a grocery store parking lot in the middle of a city.  Phoenix.

     "I must look like hell," growled Ruthie.

     She arched her back, peered at her reflection in the rear-view mirror and shuddered.  "My God, Mickey talked to me," she whispered.  She gingerly touched her ear.

     Then she tousled her already tousled hair.  She leaned over the back of the front seat, unlocked her pirate chest, which was sitting in the back seat.  Ruthie dragged out a brush and brushed her hair.

      Madam Time walked up carrying a big green watermelon.  "Bought us a watermelon," she announced through the rolled-down window.  She got into the car, placed the clumsy fruit between her and Ruthie.

     "A real feast," said Ruthie.  And she meant it.  As Ruthie brushed her hair, Madam Time fired up the old Dodge and they hit the traffic.

     "What do you know about dreams?" said Ruthie.

     "Sometimes they're windows into the future," said Madam Time.

     After quietly brushing her hair at three red traffic lights in a row, Ruthie said, "Well, I just had a real dandy."

     "Dandy what?"



     "Well what?"

     "Well, talk about it!"

     Ruthie did.  She told Madam Time all about being a little girl on her tipsy daddy's poor farm near Wichita, how she had an older brother, but didn't have an older brother, and how she often met him in her dreams, and how, after she nodded off, she often cuddled up in his arms.

     "You always meet him on a dirt road?"


     "And he never says anything?"


     "Except this time?"


     "And what did he say?"

     Ruthie gulped.  "'Say good-bye to Pa.'  Then he stuck his tongue in my ear."

     "He did that?"

     "Yes.  Then laughed."

     "What a naughty brother you have."


     "Well what?"

     "Well, what do you think?"

     Madam Time rubbed her gnarly chin.  "I think you should have your fortune read.  It's only five bucks.  And ~ "  She thumped the watermelon next to her.  "You can have half of this for free!"

     "I swear, Madam Time, you have a one track mind," sighed Ruthie.  She tossed her hair brush into the back seat and held the palm of her hand out in front of the old lady's face.

     "Whoa, girl, whoa!" delightfully chortled the fortune teller.  She batted Ruthie's hand out of the way of her vision.  "Let me stop the car first!"  And she swerved it over to the curb.  It was plain to see that the old lady was pretty excited.  A new light in her eyes was snapping like crocodiles as she stepped out, scuttled around the car, and held the door open for her new client.

     "Do we have to do it out there?" complained Ruthie.

     "C'mon, lassie, your fortune isn't on the palm of your hand!  It's on your tummy!  I can't read it while you're sitting down!"

     "My tummy!"

     Madam Time grabbed Ruthie's hand and pulled her out of the car.  On a sidewalk of Camelback Road, a main drag of Phoenix, the fortune teller kneeled down and peered thru a giant magnifying glass at the resplendent hill and dale of tremulous womb so generously displayed by the road princess.  The old lady brushed the smooth skin with her trembling fingers.  "Oh yes, oh yes, I see, I see!" she cried.

     "You see what?" said Ruthie with her hand on her hip.  A long haired feller in a passing van leaned his shaggy head way out and howled like a wolf with a hurricane in his throat, at the young beauty who was having her belly examined by the old lady kneeling in front of her.  Another feller under a soiled cowboy hat in a pick-up truck heading in the opposite direction howled also, in approximately the same manner, at the dubious scene.  Ruthie didn't blush.  She didn't panic.  "Are you done yet?" said she to Madam Time.

     "Patience, Miss Root Beer, have patience," said the fortune teller.  Ruthie wondered where the old lady had gotten the magnifying glass.  The younger woman shifted her petite impatience from one foot to the other.

     A moment later ~

     Madam Time blew a bit of desert dust out of Ruthie's delectable navel and creaked back onto her feet.  The fortune teller smiled like an old lady who had just received communion and seen a vision.  "Time to go," she said.

     In the car, as Phoenix receded into the waves of heat behind them, Madam Time told Ruthie, "You have nothing to worry about.  You are going to heaven."

     "Is that all?"

     "Is that all?  What more could you want?"

     Ruthie thought that over for a moment, slipped a small dangerous blade out of her boot, stuck the blade into the big fruit between them.  She said, "How about some watermelon?"


 (Copyright 1990, 2010)



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