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Chapter Three


     The soles of her feet were frying.  The calves of her legs had become hard like stones.  Her knee joints threatened to snap.  Her thighs might as well have been Jello.  And her hips were cracking like some knuckles can do.  Yet her belly, so exposed, strong, plump and tan, singed the landscape with wonderment ~ and her faded, low-riding, blue jeans began to slip down.  Some curly little pubic hairs, crackling with electricity, peeked out the top of her blue jeans to see what was going on.

     Beyond the bluff, the road at last leveled out, even tilted down a rolling hill ~ but up a higher one ~ damn it!  Ruthie was tired of climbing higher and higher.  She was ready to fall down.

     Also, she had never been so thirsty in her entire life.  She no longer perspired.  She was too dehydrated.  When the girl came upon a pond to the left, she left the road to check it out.  Hoof-prints and the putrid grunt of absent cattle surrounded it.  The water was too nasty to drink.  What had appeared to be a water faucet sticking out of the ground turned out to be a stick in the mud.  Ruthie returned to the road, which led her over the next higher hill, beyond which was, alas, a still higher hill!

     "Jesus," moaned Ruthie.

     Between each hill the road passed over, there was always a gully, in one of which, at last, presided cool clear water.  Ruthie found tiny, wiggly, parasite-looking creatures in the still water and left it alone.  She began to closely scrutinize the empty beer cans along the side of the road as she plodded onward.

     "Jesus loves you!"

     This phrase, like cheap jewelry exalted as diamonds, had been delivered to Ruthie by gooey-eyed waifs of the street, upon occasion throughout her travels ~ but never had a beer can said it to her.

     "Jesus loves you!

      Jesus loves you!

      Jesus loves you!"

     Ruthie picked up the smart-aleck beer can.  It was a bright and shiney Budweiser can.  She noted the two little eagles entangled in the two little capital "A"s on the front.  She read the long-winded note in fine print about this particular beer's "smoothness and drinkability."  She peered into the hole on the top, shook the can, heard backwash.  She poured the backwash into the palm of her hand.  Nothing alive appeared to be in the amber liquid.  So she sipped it up out of her palm.  It tasted okay ~ as far as warm stale beer goes.  She tossed the can.  In mid-air it once more proclaimed ~

     "Jesus loves you!"

     "And I love Jesus," sighed Ruthie.  She took a few more stepts up the road ~ and stopped.  The road princess turned around, squinted suspiciously at the can she'd tossed, lying on the ground a few yards away, glinting in the sun like a diamond.  "Lizards don't sing.  Beer cans don't talk," said she out loud to herself.  "What the fuck is going on around here?"

     Ruthie was nuts ~ over the edge ~ a long-gone lover of sanity ~ a drop of rain in the gaudy rainbow of unreality.  Too much road had ricocheted off her naked navel.  Without enough sleep, lost under the heartless sun, exhausted, she laughed it off and staggered onward ~ picked up another beer can.  A Coors.  A dry one.  She tossed it.

     "Jesus loves you!

      Jesus loves you!

      Jesus loves you!"

     ~ chortled another one.  She picked up the noisy can.  This one was Old Milwaukee.  A mouth full of sun detoxed liquid sloshed around inside.  She gulped it down.

     After a while, as she shuffled onward, it became apparant that the only beer cans with smooth drinkable backwash in them were the ones that talked.  So, after a while, those were the only ones the road princess picked up.

     "Jesus loves you!"

     "Jesus loves you!"

     "Jesus loves you!"

     So, patient and enduring reader, we might surmise that Ruthie was undergoing a mystical experience.  On the other hand, maybe the more recently discarded cans that lay along the roadside, those with as yet unevaporated beer in them, because their appearance was not so faded by the Arizona sun, triggered the occurance of the illusion ~ the illusion of having the ability to talk ~ in the ever increasingly airy head of the road princess.

     Who knows?




     Ruthie Root Beer stood in the middle of the dirt road, upon the ridge of the highest hill, gazing down into a wind-burnished plain.  Way out yonder, buried in the pale distance, she discerned a tiny line of trees, which signified, hopefully, a river.  Onward, forever onward, her frying feet in their light hiking boots, which concealed her blade, kicked up the dust.

     Later ~

     Ruthie climbed up a bank upon an S-curve of the road and sat beneath a twisted little tree that had not one leaf on it.  She untied her shoes and basked under the shade that wasn't there.

     Time for a rest.

     About five minutes later, a vehicle finally passed.  Ruthie, sitting on top of the bank above the road, was not within eye-shot of the driver, and thus was not exactly situated where it was to her advantage to stick out her thumb for a ride.  So she just watched the vehicle, a big red pickup, a Chevy, very dirty, pass beneath her aching feet and churn up the dust around her.

     But the truck didn't keep going.  Not too far away it stopped.  A lone, big-bellied driver stepped out of the truck, looked around, unslung his middle-aged dong and took a piss ~  a real ant drowner.  When he had looked around, it was real perplexing to Ruthie, because he had looked directly at her like she wasn't there.  Or maybe he just didn't give a damn.

     Then he reached into his pick-up, pulled out a moisture-dripping can of cold beer and popped it open ~ drank heartily.  Ruthie blinked once or twice, and he was in the driver's seat, driving away.

     "Thank you, sweetheart," bitterly muttered Ruthie through chapped lips.  Her high-riding turguoise T-shirt had become extremely soiled with dust and white, dried-up, river beds of her own personal salt.  The nipples of her fresh-apple breasts were hard and poignant beneath the soiled cotton.  Her hair was tangled and tangled some more.  Her face sunburned.  And her eyes, two oceans of blue turbulence, glared at the earth around her.

     She slid down the bank and tramped onward ~

     Onward across the ragged plains, splashed with (what?) sage, and cracked with gullies ~ beneath the all-seeing, clear, blue eyeball of the sky, in the middle of which licentiously grinned the flaming sun, who was wearing a top hat and smoking his nose ~ thee eternal cigar.  The flaming grotesque bastard was hanging-out up there as if it were high noon ~ hour after hour after hour!

     Meanwhile, the road ducked around bends, dry heaved across gullies, shot forward like an arrow, wiggled like a worm!

     Ruthie, with a buzzard circling over her head, wearily, laboriously tramped onward onward onward ~ toward the little line of trees that simmered in the distance forever forever forever!

     And in Ruthie's mind, which was boiling over like a pot on the stove, you might say the real had become unreal, and the unreal ~ real!




     Ruthie spotted her pirate chest.  It was atop a low pile of rocks in front of a bigger rock.  She bolted off the road, skidded to her knees in the dust before her long lost luggage.  The lock on it was broken.  She opened the lid.  Everything seemed to be there, slightly rearranged ~ her hair brush, her toiletries, her dancing outfits.  She picked up the hair brush and began brushing her hair.  It was then when she saw that the bigger rock behind the pile of smaller rocks on which her chest was sitting, was shaped like a tombstone.  On it she saw painted in red, these words:


Ruthie Root Beer

Road Princess

born 1950

died 1973


Her mouth fell open.  She dropped her hair brush.  She stared at the inscription on the rock.

     The buzzard that had been circling over her head, swooped down and, with a loud flapping of its black wings, perched itself on the tombstone.  The big ugly bald-headed bird sleepily gazed at Ruthie with a glint of hunger satisfied in its primitive eyes and spoke, "You were a feast, my darling, a real feast."

     "What?" gasped Ruthie.

     "When I sank my talons into your warm-blooded flesh and tore out your entrails and gobbled them up," quoth the buzzard, "My God, the juicy chunks and silky shreds slid down my throat like little goddesses of tonsil delight on tobaggans, plopped into my ecstatic belly and sensuously tickled ~ "

     Ruthie picked up a rock and threw it at the fucking bird.  Missed.  She picked up another rock.  The cowardly scavenger flew off and left her alone, staring at her luggage and back-road grave.

     Ruthie dropped the intended projectile in her hand, stared at the situation for a while.  A hot breeze swooped up and fluttered her hair.  She pulled a piece of one of her skimpy dancing outfits out of the chest ~ a little g-string the same color as her eyes.  She got misty over it ~ the memories it symbolized ~ good and bad.

     "Lonely.  So lonely," she said sadly to the landscape, the sky, whatever entities presided out there in the middle of nowhere.  And she proceeded to say something like this:  "My boys.  My Johnny Yumas.  Tipping their mugs.  Puffing their smokes.  Watching my, my, uh, legs.  Eyes opened wide.  Hungering for a revealing move ~ a suggestive move ~ a move to take home with them ~ to sooth their ache, to fill their lonely souls."

     Ruthie held up the scanty panty in both her hands and beheld its essence.  "I was a saloon girl ~ pleasing the cowboys.  Oh, some of them had long hair and beads, and some even wore neckties, and some were just dumb bums, but they were all cowboys at heart.  And I ~ and I ~ the Road Princess of America ~ knew how to please them.

     "I danced.  I danced for my bread.  And, God have mercy on my soul, I was adored.  I saw flowers bloom in their eyes; vases were spun; terrible designs painted.  And the sweat rolled down my tummy into their dreams."

     Ruthie paused ~ for a heavy moment regarded the virtueless landscape and riffraff brush all around.  "Ladies and gentlemen, like it or don't, we're all cowboys and saloon girls."

     She laughed lightly.  A single tear rolled down her sunburned cheek.  She continued:  "What else was there?  I left them smiling ~ the good, the bad, and the queer.  I left them feeling good about themselves, ready to go home and make love with whatever they had there.  I did good.  I did real good."

     She paused for another moment, thought about Ma and Pa, and resumed her grave-side soliloquy:  "But I have not been a very classy lady.  My diet has not been kosher.  I don't deserve to go to heaven.  And I suppose that's why I'm kneeling in this dust right now, a ghost, doomed to walk forever on an endless dirt road through limbo."

     She let the sexy little g-string fall from her fingers.  It landed in the chest ~ half of it.  The other half dangled over the side in the thirsty weather.  Ruthie bowed her head, and trembling, fervently prayed, "Lord, oh Lord, have mercy on my soul."

     She hunched down further and in a tiny voice added, "Please."

     The road princess got up, almost fell, and with one more tear rolling down her cheek, continued walking along the long, long, so long, dirt road.




(Copyright 1990, 2010)