Chapter Five


      Then Ms. Root Beer came back and slept for three days.   When she finally awoke, she was alone in the motel room.  She was in the bed, naked under the covers.  Somebody had been sleeping beside her.  Eternity, she presumed.

      She kicked the covers off and stood up beside the bed ~ wobbly ~ like a butterfly fresh out of its cocoon.  She spread her wings ~ or arms ~ and stretched.

     Then she spotted her clothes, clean and folded, on the drainboard.  On top of them, in a brown paper bag, she found a new hair brush and a new tooth brush and a quarter used-up tube of toothpaste.  Eternity.

     In a waxed-paper bucket in the sink, she found two cans of root beer and ice ~ mostly melted.  Terribly thirsty, Ruthie drank up both root beers ~ and shivered in the air-conditioned room.

     She put on her clothes and brushed her hair, her teeth, threw water on her face.  As she walked out the dooor, she discovered ten one-hundred-dollar bills in the pocket of her jeans.  Eternity?

     In the motel office, the manager told Ruthie her bill had already been paid by the feller who wore the grey cap ~ and gave her back a lot of change.

     "Wow," murmured Ruthie, impressed, as she walked up the "business loop" of Camp Verde.  She murmured, "Eternity, Eternity, where do you roam?"

     A couple cars and a pick-up rumbled by.  It was 10 a.m. and another hot slap-in-the-face day in Arizona.

     Ruthie rubbed her belly so sensuously displayed, immaculately gorgeous, magnificently hungry ~ and entered a small cafe called nothing but, "EAT".  Inside she happily found Eternity seated at a table drinking coffee.

     But there was something about him that wasn't the same ~ something that Ruthie just couldn't place.  So underneath her surely greeting was a hint of ~ of doubt ~ doubt about nothing less than reality itself.

     It didn't help matters that, when she sat down in front of him, he spit up his coffee like so much buckshot into her face.

     "Ack!" exclaimed the Road Princess.

     Eternity unintentionally slammed down his cup, and more coffee spilled across the table.  He choked and coughed and wiped his nose and mouth with the palm of his hand.  "You're up!"

     Ruthie pulled a napkin out of the napkin despencer on the table and wiped off her face.  "So?  What's the big deal?"

     "You been asleep for three days."

     "You're kidding."

     "Nope.  I'm not kidding."

     Ruthie's mouth fell open.

     The waitress lanquidly strolled up and tossed a menu down in front of her.  "Coffee?"

     "Yes," said Ruthie.  "It's coffee ~ all over my face!"

     "Would you like some more?" said the waitress, smiling.  "This time in a cup?"

     "Yes, please," said Ruthie.

     The waitress left.

     Ruthie looked aghast ~ at Eternity.  "Three days?"

     Eternity nodded.  He pulled more napkins out of the despenser and wiped off the spilled coffee on the table.  "You were one worn-out girl when I found you."

     "Guess I was."

     "You was, alright.  You were seeing things and talking crazy.  I just went along with it."





     Suddenly Ruthie could see.  She could actually see what she could see.  Must've been all that sleep that made it possible again.  And what she could see was exactly what was in front of her.  No visions.  No hero.  And especially, no long locks of legend flowing out from under this guy's sweat-stained, crummy, baseball cap.  Oh, he was a long hair.  But it just went a little past his scruffy work-shirt collar.  That's all.  The hair on his head certainly didn't flow down his back like a roller-coaster for lady bugs and brush against his boot heels.  That's for damn sure!  And in order to make sure, Ruthie got up and walked around this guy, took a real good look at the back of his head and sat back down.

     He groaned, "You're the strangest damn woman I've ever met.  Now what are ya doin'?"

     "Sheeeeeeeit," said Ruthie.  "Your name's not Eternity, is it?"

     "Hell no!  I just told you that to keep you going.  My name's Chance.  Slim Chance."  He smiled idiotically.

     Ruthie's pert nose wrinkled-up into a knot of disdain.  "Slim Chance?"

     "That's the truth."

     She rolled her eyeballs ~ and sipped at the delicious hot coffee (in a cup) that the waitress had snuck onto the table while they'd been conversing.  "I don't know what to believe anymore," said she.

     "Just believe what you see," said he ~ and he raised both hands in supplication.  "Do I look like Eternity?"

     "No," she admitted.  "You look like Slim Chance."

     "There you go."  He grinned.  "I think your rest did you a lot of good."

     "Want to order?" said the waitress, who had been standing there for some time.

     Ruthie ordered the "Bronc Buster Special."  Eternity, oops, I mean Slim Chance, had already eaten.

     The waitress left.

     Ruthie stared real hard at this feller ~ and saw in his eyes no blooming galaxies, no cracking planets, no volcanos, no dinosaurs.  She sipped her coffee and mumbled, "But I went to heaven."


     "But I went to heaven!"  This little message flew out her mouth a bit louder than she intended.  She looked around, aimed a steady fusilade of proud, ice-blue, eye bullets at a couple of cafe patrons staring at her.  They ducked and continued eating.

     "You did?"


     "What was, uh, heaven like?"

     "Nothing like you would expect," said Ruthie.  "It was the inside of a bunk-house."

     Slim snickered.

     "I don't expect anybody to believe this," admitted Ruthie with a shrug and a sip.  "I scarcely believe it myself."

     Slim sipped from his own cup, which the waitress had refilled.  "Describe it."

     "Why should I?"

     "Because it may have been my Samson tongue that was your launching pad, so to speak.  And I feel just a little responsible for this ~ this amazing phenomena."

     "Well," said Ruthie ~ and she noted without too much regard a little cluster of cold-sores near the corner of Slim's mouth.  She swallowed a sizable drought of coffee.  So did Slim.  And for a long moment silence reigned.

     Slim said, "Take your time.  I'm in no hurry.  I was just about to rob the town bank.  That's all."

     Ruthie laughed.  "Oh!  So you are an outlaw!"

     Slim ducked his head, put a finger to his lips to encourage quietude.  He gritted in a whisper, "Shhhhhhh!  You want somebody to call the sheriff?"

     "Are you serious?"

     A slap in the face would have been easier to handle than the look Slim leveled at her.

     "Sorry," said Ruthie, almost meek, but not quite.  "I thought you were kidding about that too.  You know, like your name was Eternity yesterday."

     "You mean three days ago."

     "Yes.  Three days ago."

     "I guess you have a good reason for being a bit confused," considered Slim.  "You've been through quite a bit, to say the least.  So let me level with you."  He leaned over the table a little bit and lowered his voice.  "I was a draft-dodger but I served my time.  Two years.  Now I rob banks.  Oh, I've done a lot of physical labor in between the lines of a sad tale of outlawry, and I've read so many books my brown eyes have turned blue.  But one thing just led to another, beginning with the war and the draft.  Now I take from those who have, especially those who have sponsored Vietnam, like banks, and I give to those who have nothing, like fellow road bums, and I stash the rest.  That's what I was doing on that dirt road ~ burying loot ~ loot from the seven banks I robbed in Phoenix last week."

     "That's more than one a day, considering banking hours," said Ruthie, a hint of disbelief in her voice, her eyes.

     Slim shrugged.  "You don't mind if I exaggerate my story a little bit, do you?  I mean, pocket money is pocket money."

     "You mean the money in my pocket ~ "

     "That's right."  Slim leaned further over the table and kissed Ruthie...


(Copyright 1990, 2010)






 background photograph

courtesy of

The Cochise County Tourism Council