Chapter Three


     Ruthie Root Beer was a banana peel lying on a railroad track.  It was reincarnation.  She was sure of it.

     She was wilting away in the sun, waiting to get run over by a train.  If a passing bum stepped on her, he might slip and break his neck.  If she lay there long enough drying up, becoming lighter and lighter, the wind might blow her away.  That would be great, since she didn't particularly want to be stepped on by a bum or get run over by a train.

     Flies buzzed.

     There lay Ruthie Root Beer, the discarded peel of a nutritious delight, on the steel rail.  Maybe ants would eat her up.  It seemed no matter what happened, the prospects for a banana peel were not very encouraging.  The best that could happen was the wind...




     Ruthie's eyes opened.  Her hand lay in the gravel in front of her face.  Her fingers twitched, slid through the gravel, became coated with white dust.  She blinked.  Interesting gravel.  Interesting dust.

     Ruthie raised the palm of her hand in front of her face ~ studied its lines.  She made a fist ~ and opened it.  She wasn't a banana peel!

     Ruthie sat up.

     Her mouth was dry ~ like chalk.  When she tried to swallow, an auto accident seemed to occur in her throat.  She groaned.

     Her head was pounding.  With the palms of her hands she massaged her temples.  She did this for quite a while.  She was massaging her eye sockets with her finger tips when she remembered what had happened.  Abruptly, her fingers ceased moving.  And the nerves up and down her spine reacted to the harsh memory like a string of exploding firecrackers.

     Ruthie peeked between her finger tips.  She was sitting in the middle of a dirt road.  Her last memories were of the shotgun going off ~ the shotgun that was aimed at her head ~ and of herself falling backwards.  She must have fallen out of the van.  Yes, she remembered falling, tumbling, the flashing sky, lots of branches.  Yes, here they were, broken branches lying all around her on the dirt road.

     Ruthie stood up ~ staggered around in a circle and soaked up the scenery.  She was standing on the edge of a mini-Grand Canyon.  The dirt road wound around down into it.  A couple cars zoomed by ~ but not on the dirt road.  They were ~ they were on the highway ~ above the bank she had tumbled down!

     Ruthie stretched out her arms to either side of herself and looked down at her body.  Same old, low-riding, hip-hugging, blue jeans.  Same old, high-riding, turquoise T-shirt.  And the same old, tan, smooth, curvaceous belly ablaze with mouth-drooling beauty and nose-tweeking miracles!

     Ruthie Root Beer, the Road Princess of America, was grimy, dusty, and alive.  No bullet wounds.  Not a scratch.  Without thinking much about where she was headed, she began a trek down the dirt road in the same manner she strutted across many a go-go bar ramp:  pussy forward, hip swinging, and sassy!

     A squadron of swift-flying birds dove down in salute to her ~ passed within a couple feet of her head with a swoosh.  The wind played her its best concerto.  The canyon was enchanting ~ its colors, its depth, the solitude.

     After several miles of walking, though, the road princess calmed down considerably.  Her plight was not an envious one.  She didn't have a toothbrush ~ for everything she owned was in her pirate chest ~ which was carried away in Curly's (or was it Larry's?) rickety old van.  Also, there were no motels out here.  Not even an abandoned shack with an old cot in it.

     The sun was sinking.

     The pink cliffs in the distance, on the other side of the canyon, had turned deep purple.  Ruthie stopped in her tracks.  It was going to be dark soon.  She looked around somewhat dubiously for a place to retire for the evening.

     All she aspied was a rock.

     It was located about 60 yards up the slope above the road.  Ruthie had to backtrack a bit before leaving the road to get to it.  When she stepped off the road, she found the terrain harsh and jagged ~ and she had to watch out for thorny little cactus plants.

     The rock was shaped like an altar.  It was about four-feet high and flat on top.  It's steep sides, Ruthie figured, would discourage rattlesnakes and other creepy crawlers from climbing up it.  She climbed atop it and, with her legs crossed Indian style, sat still and quiet as the rock itself ~ as if she were waiting to be sacrificed to God upon it.

     Life on the road is the greatest adventure, thought Ruthie as she watched day sneek into night in this mini-Grand Canyon into which she had accidently tripped.  On the road she had handed herself over to fate with faith in her karma and seen her world grow.  She had marveled at how tall she felt while all alone on the side of an empty highway in the middle of no where; had acquired a deepening relationship with the sky, mountains and desert; had rode into cities a lonely stranger and, a month or three later, left these cities filled to the brim with tried and true friends.  And, alas, she had learned how to look a scoundrel in the eye and brutally cut him down to size.

     "The road," declared Ruthie out loud.  "New faces, new places, deuces and aces around every bend."

     As if in reply to the road princess, the "Cahhhhhhh!" of a drifting bird somewhere in the deepening blackness ricocheted off the canyon walls.

     Ruthie looked forward to the sky revealing a zillion stars, but only a few became visible.  Must be a mist about, she thought ~ and layed back and waited for sleep instead.

     Sleep didn't come either.

     What did come were more thoughts, like spinning wheels that refused to cease moving.  And thirst.  But it was all bearable because the night was a warm one.  And of all the thoughts spinning in Ruthie's mind, the most dominant was that the greatest of greatest adventures, for her, was about to unfold.

     She was going to heaven.

     Madam Time's tricky prophecy was just the introduction.  Blue smoke swirling out the end of a shotgun barrel aimed at Ruthie's head ~ that had tipped her off.  So did surviving without a scratch the fall out of that God-forsaken van while it was on the move ~ a downright miracle.  And the fact that right now she lay atop an altar hewn by the indomitable ax of nature ~ it all gave her a feeling ~ a feeling that could not be denied.

     Ruthie Root Beer, lonely little Kansas girl, ramp goddess, road ruffian ~ was going going gone, bare belly bounteous with bubonic poetry, to heaven ~ whether she liked it or not.  Lying on a rock in the middle of nowhere, staring up into the misty night at nothing, she suddenly shivered ~ because the only way to pass throught the pearly gates was to die.





     Come dawn, after another night without sleep, the road princess was on the road again ~ afoot, stiff, thirsty, hungry.

     Plump red pears sitting like crowns on cacti growing along side the dirt road, beckoned her blade.  She cut off one of the little fruits ~ bit into it.  It was sweet and juicy.  She ate several.

     At the bottom of the canyon she came across a creek.  She dunked her head into the cold bubbling water ~ and drank.  Although she was already somewhat chilled from her long night in the open air, she discarded her clothes and nimbly stepped in ~ submerged herself in a nature sculptured tub of rock and sand.  The water was agonizingly cold, and a moment later, blissfully refreshing.

     Ruthie bathed.

     She noticed a crawdad, its beady little eyes sticking up out of the water, spying on her.  With a deft hand she picked up a rock and, quick as a bullet, smashed in the crawdad's head.  She broke apart with her teeth the little lobster-clawed carcass and ate the mouthful of raw meat within.

     Ruthie stepped out of the tub.  She sparkled like a flower with morning dew ~ and covered with goose bumps.  The creamy-white shadow of a tiny bikini accented her summer tan.  She shivered.  If a vehicle had passed at this time, the occupants, if lucky enough to be glancing in the right direction, would have glimpsed a completely revealed piece of ~ of living grace.  But no vehicle passed.  Ruthie donned her clothes and footwear, combed her fingers through the long wet strands of her hair.  Revived and reckless and ready to die, the young lioness of the road hit the road with a familiar bounce in her step ~ and with droplets of water evaporating on her naked belly.

     Three hours later her feet were dragging.  Her heart was pounding.  She was dripping, instead of with creek water, with sweat.  Lizards scampered into the brush along the beer-can strewn roadside as she passed.  Dust arose in little puffs of woe behind her heels.

     The road was now ascending without respite ~ mile after mile.  The gravitational pull was not nice.  The lack of shade was not nice either.  The sun was so hot that poor sojourner Ruthie felt as if she were ploddding along beneath 50 electric blankets ~ turned on ~ high!

     How come there were no cars on this road?  And where was this road taking her?  She shuffled around a bend in it.  Hoping to see it level out, she saw instead the ribbon of dirt curling its way up the canyon wall for at least another steep mile.  Ruthie's heart sank.  Yet her feet kept plodding forward.  She was going to walk until she died.

     Then she heard a chorus of humming.  She stopped in her tracks.  Her heart, beating hard, was actually keeping beat with the humming.  Or was the humming keeping beat with her heart?  At any rate, what seemed like a hundred baritone voices were humming what sounded like an old Civil War tune.  Where was the humming coming from?  Ruthie looked around.  She saw nobody.  So she kept walking.  But the humming wouldn't quit.  So she stopped again.  And listened.  It was definitely an old Civil War tune.

     If you recall, kind and sympathetic reader, Ruthie had had only a couple winks of sleep for many days and many nights ~ six days and six nights to be exact.  Physically, being young and strong, she was still, more or less, sound.  But mentally, she was long gone and beyond that level of normal day-to-day functioning of which we, who find nightly rejuvenation via sleep, are so familiar.  Mentally, you might say, she had sky-rocketed off the launching pad of an uninvited, undeniable, unmerciful exhaustion, into other, less familiar realms.  Now, in other words, she was nuts.  But she didn't know this.  The humming was as real as could be to her, and the lizards that had been scampering into the brush and hiding as she walked by, were now lined up, she thought, on either side of the road, doing push-ups, and humming!

     Ruthie was dumbfounded.

     Yet she smiled fondly at the prehistoric little bygones who she thought were there but weren't, and who were honoring her with what she thought was such a fine performance ~ and she continued to drag her feet up the long long road.

     With an endless row of unreal lizards to the left of her, and an endless row of unreal lizards to the right of her, all humming in brilliant chorus, Ruthie cried and smiled like rain and sunshine at the same time ~ with exhaustion, pain, joy ~ as she trudged along.  And the enchanting beauty of her inner spirit brightened the ripe femininity in her face to such an acute degree, that she was beautiful as a woman could be, but nobody was there to see.  And pretty soon, the lizards were singing:


"When Ruthie

comes marching into Heaven

Hurrah!  Hurrah!

God and his angels

will welcome her then

Hurrah!  Hurrah!"


She felt rather foolish, even blushed, and the song was terribly corny, but she couldn't help but rain and shine with a kind of exultation.  With these little baritoning ghosts of her mind to either side of her, she felt very humble and very proud.  In fact, she experienced every edifying emotion there is to feel under the sun, as they sang:


"Saint Peter

will cheer, her dead brother

will shout ~

Good gentlemen

     they will all turn out ~ "


And she even burst out with laughter, titillatingly amused, when her multitudinous entourage trumpeted:


"And we'll all

feel gay when Ruthie comes

marching home!"


The road princess straightened her shoulders and picked up her pace, as hundreds of reptilian figments of her sleep-starved, sun-stricken imagination, doing push-ups to either side of her, hummed some more and repeated again and again their song of glory to her.  She was elated.  She was sanctified.  She was full-blown nuts ~ and wiped the sweat and the dust off her brow with her slender arm and trudged on.

     She reached another bend in the ascending road ~ saw the ribbon of dirt continue its ascent up and around a distant, broad-faced bluff.

     "Jesus," she moaned ~ and trudged onward.

     The lizards, as Ruthie passed, clamped their jaws and began to scamper into the brush alongside the road again, just like normal lizards do.  Ruthie stopped, blinked, scratched her head.  The silence was mortifying.  All she could hear was her heart beat.  She turned around, backtracked around the bend she had just traversed, peered down the road.  Nothing ~ nothing but a mini-Grand Canyon and an empty road climbing up out of it.

     "Am I going nuts?  Or what?"  mumbled Ruthie.  She turned around and continued onward ~ up up up the long dirt road.




(Copyright 1990, 2010)




Photo of Fossil Creek Road by 

~ Dan Davis ~




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