Saturday, March 31, 2012

Road Trip-Part 6: Objects Sharing a Quantum State and their Identical Natures

I think I meant a version of myself from a different dimension once...
Klang.  Klang.
Hard to tell since it happened in the middle of the night.
Klang...  Klang...  KLANG!!
I jumped up.  I looked around with post-nightmare certainty that danger is close at hand and I had only a moment to find it.  
Then I remembered.  I was in Russell, Kansas.  My car broke down, for the second time, on my road trip to get to my folks' house.  I was sleeping in my car because I was almost out of money.  
Ok...  Got it.  I lay back down in the passenger seat of my Chevette.  I snuggled in my sleeping bag.  I took a deep breath and hoped I'd drift quickly back to...
I jumped up again.  There had been a noise...
Klang.  Klang.  
Yeah.  That one.  
I lifted my head peeked over the edge of my car door.    
A car was there.  It hadn't been there before.  Its dome light was on.  I could see a woman in the passenger seat.
Klang.  Klang.  Klang.  
She wasn't making the noise.  She was holding a baby.  Normal babies didn't make loud, metallic banging sounds when you bounced them.
Klang.  Klang.  
I saw that the driver's side door open.  The driver's seat was empty.  
Klang.  Klang.  
Women with babies weren't dangerous. People whacking things with heavy metal objects were.  Was safe to go back to sleep?  How long before I had to get up?
Klang.  Klang.  
I reached over to grab my key, still inserted in the ignition.  I turned it just enough to get power to the radio and its little clock.  
I blinked.  
I rubbed my eyes.  
I turned the power off.  I looked at the darkness outside.  I decided it looked like three in the morning.  Something must be wrong with the radio, or the battery or something to make the numbers all blurry like that.  
Klang.  Klang.  Klang.  
I reached up and flipped the switch to keep the light from coming on when I opened the door.  I pulled the key from the ignition.  I unlocked the door and pulled back on the handle...
And felt the cold air bite into me like some hungry feral dog.  Reality could go screw itself.  I tried to pull the door back closed.  But I'd have to slam it hard...
Klang.  Klang.  
And I didn't yet want to attract the attention of whoever it was banging out there.  I took another breath and stepped out into darkness.  
The cold you feel at three in the morning is like a giant bully that grabs you by the neck, slaps you around and rubs your nose in the fact that if you REALLY had any choice in the matter you'd be someplace safe and quiet and warm and INSIDE.  It makes you pay just because it can.
I reached back inside and grabbed my army jacket.  I pushed the passenger door until it was sort of closed.  
I stood there and examined the car that hadn't been parked there when I'd fallen asleep.  
Klang.  Klang-klang.  Klang.  
It Chevy Citation.  I had almost bought a Citation.  Glad I hadn't.  It was dark blue, like my Chevette.  I approached it from the rear.  
There was a bundle in the back seat.  I counted three heads and a jumble arms and legs poking out from under a blanket.  Evidence of a grisly crime or a collection of young kids, about three at a guess, snuggled together like kittens from the same litter.  
I tip-toed to the far side of the car.  A guy was kneeling before the open driver's side door.  A tire was on its side before him.  He was pushing down on the tire with all his weight, using both hands, like he was giving it CPR.  Then he reached to the side, lifted a tire-iron into view, and brought it down.
Klang.  Klang.  Klang.  
OK.  The tire was probably flat from the way it flexed when he pushed down on it.  I could have gone back to my car at this point.  Instead...  
Startled, the guy raised the tire-iron, turning it from from tool into potential weapon.  I opened my hands to show him I had no such weapon myself.  
"Hey, there."  He nodded back.  
"Having trouble?"  
"Tire's flat.  Turned out the spare was flat, too."  He nodded his head toward me.  I looked down.  The left rear tire was pancaked.  
"Oh."  I pointed out my Chevette.  "My car broke down."  It felt like I was trying to one-up him in a game of automobile problems.  "I was sleeping in it when I heard you."  
"Ah..."  He lifted his head back in a big nod.  "I didn't see you when I pulled up."  
"I was sleeping."  Gestured with my hands to show a seat being made flat.  "I had the seat down."  
"Ah..."  He lowered the tire-iron to his waist.  He waited. 
"I, uh...  Was traveling across the country..."  I didn't tell him the whole story.  Just the highlights to show him that I was like him and he was like me.  
"That's pretty tough," he agreed at the end.  The tire-iron was still in his hand, but now it was hanging by his side.  "We were on our way back home, in Hays, when I caught a nail on the freeway."  
"That's too, bad."  It was my turn to commiserate.  "On your way someplace for the holiday?"  
"On our way back, actually.  Spent the last week at her mother's.  Kids go back to school next week."  He gestured toward his sleeping children in the back seat.  "Found out the spare was flat when I pulled it out.  Came here, but they were closed."  
"Yeah," I said, confirming the obvious.  
"Yeah," he replied, confirming my confirmation that the station was obviously closed.  "I've got a patch kit in the trunk, but I can't seem to get the tire off the wheel."  
"Ah..."  I borrowed that from him.  It was remarkable how well it fit.  I hadn't really thought much about why he was whacking on his wheel with a tire-iron, at HE:HEE in the morning.  One's curiosity only extends to the very obvious at that hour.  
From some impulse I couldn't name, I closed the distance between us and extended my hand.  I stopped when I was even with the rear passenger door of his Citation.  
"My name's Erick."  
"Mine's Derrick."  He switched the tire-iron to his left hand and reached over the tire to take my hand.  He had a strong grip.  Gritty feeling, like old oil.  "That's Susan in there.  Elizabeth is in her arms."  The wife leaned to her side to give me a wave.  "Charles, Richard and Kathleen are in the back."  
"You're not doing that right, you know."  He looked a lot like me.  Same height.  Curly hair.  A bit heavier through the middle.  My age.  I could feel that by shaking hands and exchanging names I had taken on a role.  Being an actor at the time, I could tell that curtain had gone up and I had made my entrance.  
"Huh."  He crossed his arms, tire-iron stuck under his left arm pit.  His "huh" meant, "Yeah, I know that, but I can't yet admit I have no idea as to what I need to do to get my tire fixed."  
"Yeah..."  I said, which meant, "I know you knew that, but I won't point it out to you in front of your wife and kids."
I walked toward the closed door of the garage.  "Here..."  I pointed at one of the windows in the door.  "They should have one...  There!  Come look."
Derrick joined me by the garage door.  I pointed at a machine through the window.  It was one of those air-powered devices they used to pull tires off of their rims.  
"You have to do it the same way.  Push down on the tire, then pry it up over the rim."  I gestured down with both hands.
"Yeah, yeah..."  He was nodding his head.  "Too bad we can't just use that one."  
"Yeah, too bad.  But..."  I pointed back at his tire on the ground.  "Together we can do something similar..."
We used his tire-iron in place of the hook on the machine.  He forced it under the tire's edge.  I used a screw driver to pull it along the wheel's circumference.  Once the tire-iron nearly whacked me in the side of the head when the tire popped back.  With a lot of pushing and pulling, though, the tire finally popped off.  
"Got it!"  He used the back of his hand to wipe the sweat from his brow.  "I can take it from here, I think."  
"Good."  I was sweating inside my jacket.  "When you fill it up with air, it should pop right back."  
"Yeah, it should."  He made a tire shape with his two hands.  "Pop right back."  
"Yup.  Pop right back."  I made a quick tire shaped gesture of my, though I didn't hold it as long.  It was his tire, after all.  
"Yep."  He met my eyes and nodded.  I nodded back.  He nodded again, then said, "You said something was wrong with your car...?"  
We walked over to my Chevette.  We stood together facing its hood.  
"Nearly bought a Chevette," he said to himself.  "Wish I had."  He crossed his arms over his chest. 
"It...  Was spitting up oil."  I displayed my helplessness with a shrug.  "Might have thrown a rod."
"Yeah.  Might have."  He extended one of his hands toward me.  "If your lucky, it might have just blown a gasket or something."  
"IF I'm lucky."  
"Yeah...  If you're lucky."  
We gave each other a tight-lipped nod at that point.  We could hear each other's unspoken certainty that it would turn out to be the worst possible prospect.  
"What are you gonna do?"  Derrick added a shrug at the end.  
"Don't know."  I returned his shrug.  "Can't afford to fix it.  Can't just leave it sitting here."  
"Well, hey...  I can help you with that." It turned out he owned a auto junk yard.  He offered to come back once the holiday was over and haul my fatally wounded car back to his junk yard.  
I wrote his contact information in my three-ring notebook. I tore out a page and gave him my parents' address and phone number.   
We shook hands.  He had to get his tire fixed and get his family home.  I wished him luck.  He did the same for me.  He stepped over the heavy guard rail and walked back to his car.  
I looked up at the night sky.  Even through the glare of the security light I could see it was filled with stars.  It was quiet.  It was peaceful.  
"You see?"  I said to the universe at large.  "That's how you do it."  I waited to see if the universe got my point, that it should send someone to help me, even if it was only a little bit.  
It was then I noticed the stars were arrayed in a strange sort of constellation.  Like a giant face giving me a smug, knowing smile.  
I caught on.  Hadn't my car just been taken of?  Wasn't that one less worry I'd have tomorrow? 
"Screw you," I said to the universe.  I got back into my car, shucked off my jacket and pulled my sleeping bag over me and went back to sleep.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Road Trip-Part 5: The Psychological Impact of Interdimensional Travel

The next morning, I paced around the parking lot while Clem worked on my car.  The gravel made a wet, crunchy sound beneath my feet.  Arnold's son sat on an oil drum by the garage's opening.  For once he was quiet and respectful as he watched Clem work.  His heel tapped against the side of the oil drum, echoing a slow steady beat that I started pacing to.  
It turned out to be the starter.  For the part and the "Tool Rent," Frog-faced Arnold charged me enough to buy a new car.  For his service, Clem charged me $20.00.  
Fifteen minutes after it was fixed, I was driving past Deer Trail in my car.  I flipped the town off as I passed.  I was now officially restarting my trip.
I wasn't as worry free as I was the day before.  Breaking down in Deer Trail had cost me.  I wondered if I had enough money to buy gas to reach my parents' house in North Carolina.  I planned on sleeping at rest stops in my sleeping bag instead of motels.  I decided to eat only twice a day.  
My original plan of driving to North Carolina, see my sister get married, then heading off to start my acting career was looking more imaginary.  It been so clear the day before, like a memory of something real, except it was going to happen instead of something that already had. 
In some perfect dimension, maybe it did.  In this dimension, it was about to become pure fantasy.
It happened in Kansas.  It was sunset.  There was a red, angry glow across the flatness around me.  I was some distance east of Hays, Kansas when blotches started appearing on my windshield.  Bugs?  No... These were big splotches.  Liquidy.  Smearing up my windshield.  Coming from ... Under my hood!  
I pulled off to the side.  My car was chugging and huffing like a dog choking on a bone.  I stopped and shut off the engine.  It silenced itself with a "chunk" that rang with permanence.  
Smoke billowed out when I opened the hood.  The engine compartment was coated with a glistening layer of what had to be oil.  I checked the oil cap, thinking that maybe it had come loose, but it was still tightly screwed in place.  
In that moment, my reality shredded just a little bit more.  
Frog-faced Arnold must have done something.  All the quantum possibilities collapsed into that single truth.  Like watching a surveillance camera in my mind, I could see him sneaking under the car when no one was looking and letting the oil drain from the pan.  I have no proof this happened.  But it IS what is real to me.  
Looking east I saw an off-ramp climbing up a bridge that crossed over the highway.  North, I saw a collection of buildings.  There was nothing else around.  I started walking.
The name on the sign was Gotham, Kansas.  About halfway from the overpass bridge to the nearest building, I heard an engine roaring from behind.  A guy on a motorcycle whizzed by.  I saw him give me a look over his shoulder.  I kept walking.  
I came to a "community store."  I told the guy behind the counter my situation.  His reply gave me no room for hope.  
No, there wasn't any mechanic or garage in Gotham.  The closest one was in Hays, Kansas, or Russell farther east.  No, there wasn't anything like a motel or rest stop or anything like that.  And...  They were getting ready to close up early, on account of the long holiday.  Was there anything I wanted to get before they evened out the register?  
Not unless they could sell me a time machine that would let me go back twenty-four hours.  The guy shook his head.  No, they didn't sell anything like that.  
I walked back toward my car.  The roaring sound returned.  The guy on the motorcycle went past me again, heading toward the freeway this time.  Again, he looked back over his shoulder at me.  This time, though, he swung around.  I stopped as he pulled up toward me.  
"Hey..."  He called out to me as he let his bike idle.  He was a bit older than me, with short blonde hair.  No helmet.  He had a light blue tee-shirt on with a yellow oval in the middle of his chest.  In the middle of that oval was some black shape I couldn't recognize at first.
"Hey," I sent back.
"I saw you walking in from the highway."  He hooked his thumb in that direction.  When he twisted around on his bike, the symbol on his tee-shirt resolved itself.  It was the outline of a bat.  It was a tee-shirt for one of my favorite TV shows as a kid.  "You lost or something?"  
I explained my situation to him, pausing between reeves to keep his bike from dying.  "That's pretty tough..."  He nodded to himself.  "I know the town sheriff, where he lives..."  He reeved his bike again.  "I could take you to him."  
Either this was an offer to help, or it was the politest citizen's arrest in history.  "Sure..." I nodded back at him.  Then, "Thanks."  
I picked my way through the weeds between where I was standing and the road.  I swung my leg over his bike.  I had a moment of confusion as to where to hold on and opted to grab the edge of the saddle between us.  
He reeved his engine a couple more times.  "You secure?" 
"Yeah!"  The reeving engine made my insides shake.  I suddenly wanted to go to the bathroom.  
"Name's Al."  
"Yeah."  He reeved it again.  "Short for Alfred."  
I nearly tumbled backwards off the bike as it leapt forward.  
It was all I could do to hold on to the seat and not fall off as Al made lefts and rights seemingly at random.  It felt like some fun park ride.  On the last right hand turn, he slowed down enough for me to catch a glimpse of the street sign on the corner.  "Hidden Cave," it said.  Al gave his bike another quick spurt of speed and I had to grab on again as I swayed backwards almost to falling.  
We came to a halt.  I jumped off Al's bike.  Still nervous and shaking, I looked around at a typical, "quiet, neighborhood" street.  All the houses were built along the same plan, mirroring and matching each other as like some game pieces on a board.  
Al marched up the walkway to the house on our right.  I reached the porch just as he raised his hand and knocked on the door.  
The door opened a crack.  A youngish looking woman stuck her head out.  Her hand was at her throat, clutching closed a pink bathrobe.  
"Hey, Robin..."  Al gave her a wave and a nod, as if we were running into her at the grocery store.  
"Alfred?  Hey, yourself."  Her voice was friendly.  She gave me a curious look.  
"Found this fellow walking from the highway..."  He hooked his thumb toward me.  "I told him, maybe, the sheriff could help him out."  
"Oh...  I'm sorry, Alfred.  Bruce's gone fishing this weekend."  
I let out a groan.  Both turned and looked at me.  
"Nothing."  I waved their facial questions away.  "Sorry."  
"But the Deputy would be on duty," Robin offered with a helpful nod.  "I'll go give him a call."  
She left the door ajar as she went inside.  Al and I chatted about inconsequential things.  He mentioned to me that everyone "around here" went fishing this time of year.  I told him that I'd noticed.  
Robin came back and told us that the Deputy was on his way.  I could wait there, on her porch, for him to arrive.  Al wished me luck then walked back to his bike.  He kicked it to life, waved, then turned around and roared back the way we'd come.  
I sat on the porch.  Robin squatted down, feet together, hands wrapped around her knees, just inside her doorway.  We talked while we waited.  I told her where I'd been headed and where I'd come from.  She hummed, and oh'd like she was really interested.  At one point she went and got me a glass of water.  
A black and white police car pulled up in front of her house after a few minutes.  A tall slender man, older than I expected with a graying moustache, wearing a "Smokey the Bear" style hat, got out and walked up to the porch to join us.  
"Hey, Jim..."  Robin, the sheriff's wife gave the Deputy a wave.
"Hey, Robin."  He gave me an evaluating look.  "Something I can do?"  
She relayed the story Al had relayed to her, that I had to relayed to him.  He nodded.  
"Well, I'm not sure what we can do, but I'll take care of it from here."  He gestured for me to follow him.  I thanked Robin and returned her glass to her then walked to the police car and got in the passenger seat.  
Jim the Deputy drove me back to the highway.  He questioned me about what had happened, where I was going, my means, everything.  He had my entire story by the time we pulled up behind my injured car.
"Well... There's not much we can do for you around here," Jim said, "But I do know the owner of the service station in Russell.  I can at least get you a tow."
He got on his radio.  We sat in his police car and waited.  Jim told me that he usually got stuck with duty on the holidays, like Labor Day weekend, because he didn't like fishing much.  I told him that it was too bad.  
The tow-truck appeared.  My car got hooked up.  I followed in the police car with Jim.  
"You gonna be OK?" Jim asked me as the driver lowered my car.  I shrugged.  I asked him if he thought it would be OK if I slept in my car.  Jim said that he'd let the local police know so I wouldn't be bothered.  
"If something happens, let me know."  He handed me his card.  "Also, my daughter, Barbara, she works as a dispatcher for the local police.  You can give her a call, too."
I thanked him.  Jim got into his car and drove off.  
Standing in the light from an overhead security lamp, I looked at the card he'd given me.
"James Gordon," it said.  James Gordon.  Just like...
My head snapped up.  I looked down the street toward the highway off-ramp.  The police car was already gone from view.  
James Gordon...?  And his daughter, Barbara?  Alfred?  The symbol on Alfred's tee-shirt?  Robin?  Bruce?  In the town of...  Gotham?!  
Were you kidding me?  
I have since tried to find "Gotham, Kansas" on the map, but I never have.  There's a Gorman, Kansas between Russell and Hays.  But it wasn't Gorman on the sign I saw.  It was Gotham.  I swear.  
I figure one of two things happened: 
Either...  Over the years, trying to turn a series of random, stupid and unlucky events into something meaningful, even fateful, I've unconsciously changed names and places around, such as Gorman to Gotham.   
Or...  When my car broke down the second time, in the middle of Kansas, where trips into Wonderland are known to begin, I passed through some barrier.  A thin film separating us from some other dimension had become permeable, and I slipped into some fractal place not quite in "That" dimension, but not quite "This" one either.  A mixture of the two.  
Judging by the rest of the trip, I'm thinking it was the latter.  

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Road Trip-Part 4: The Temporal Effects on Objects falling past an Event Horizon

I need to offer an apology.  When I started this Road Trip series I told you it would take about six weeks to complete.  Well, I'm already up to the fourth installment and I'm even through the first day of the trip yet.  It's going to take us a bit longer to get to our destination, I'm afraid.  
I can only say that the original trip took a lot longer than I  expected, too.  Guess that's just the way it is.  
Moving on...
I didn't say much to Frog-Faced Arnold or his son on the drive to Byers.  I remember looking into the setting sun and thinking I was headed the wrong way.  Getting farther from the place I wanted to be.  
My impression of the town of Byers back in 1985 was that it was...  Short.  All the buildings I saw were single story.  They all looked like someone's home.  Even the businesses looked like someone converted the family home into a convenience store, bait and tackle shop, and the like.  
Frog-Faced Arnold's auto supply store was the same.  The garage was the same size as a single car garage you'd find on someone's house.  In fact, the sales floor, with its rows of standing shelves and double glass doors, looked like a giant add on to someone's three bedroom house.  
We pulled into the gravel covered parking lot.  The son popped the door open and sprinted off before Arnold even put the parking brake on and shut the engine off.  I grabbed my stuff and jumped out the passenger side door.  
As I was pulling my duffle bag out of the truck's cab, Arnold came crunch-crunch-crunching around the front of the truck.  He crunched his way across the parking lot, straight through the double glass doors.  
I stood there, staring at the front of the store.  I looked back at my car, still dangling from the rear of his truck.  Was he just going to leave it like that?  I grabbed my bag and made my way inside.  
Frog-Faced Arnold was behind the cashier's counter.  He acted like he was straightening up, but there wasn't much to do.  Everything was laid out in a neat, precise order.  There wasn't even a customer...
Someone came into view from one of the aisles just as I was stepping up to the counter.  I'm going to call this fellow, "Clem."  He would later tell me his real name, but I've completely forgotten it.  He looked like a Clem, though.  Tall and lanky.  A dark baseball style cap on his head, the logo illegible from age and grime.  Two days growth of facial hair.  He moved in a slow, measured shuffle that got him where he needed to be when he needed to be there.  
"Arnold...?"  Clem was examining some brass looking thing in his hand, turning it this way and that, as he approached the counter.  "Is this the only valve like this you got?"  
Frog-Faced Arnold acted like he didn't hear Clem.  He continued lining up a display of pine-tree shaped air fresheners with surgical precision.  
"I took a look at Mrs. Paterson's Kenmore yesterday," Clem said, his attention still on the valve dancing in his fingers.  "I thought it was a valve like this that it needed, but looking at it up close..."  
"Some people ought to wait until other people are ready to listen before they start asking questions."  Arnold was speaking in that same, weird, third-person way he had back in Deer Trail when he came to get me.  Clem nodded like he'd received his answer and started shuffling his way back down the aisle.  
Before I could say anything, Arnold spun around and existed the cashier's station from the far side.  He cut sharply to his left and disappeared behind a display.  
"What the hell...?"  I hoisted my duffle back back on my shoulder and followed.  
"Well, now..."  Arnold was seated in a big, cushy office chair just inside his office.  It was an old, brown leather thing that swayed back and forth too much to be safe to sit in.  His desk was fast by the office door to the left.  Arnold was pulling some forms from a stack so neat you would have thought it a single, solid block.  
"Are you going to leave my truck hanging like that?"  I pointed out the store windows.  The metal strips framing the glass made the image look like a picture.  The tow-truck was showing off what it caught like some fisherman.  
Arnold paused in the action of pulling a pen from a cup filled with identical pens.  With deliberation, he took the pen out and pulled its cap off to place it on the pen's non-working end.  
"Your Auto Club membership only gives you a certain number of miles for free."  Like a grade-schooler learning his letters, Arnold filled out the form with precisely crafted letters.  "We went over that some getting you here..."  
"What about my car?"  
Arnold paused again.  He gave a little shake his head and continued writing.  
"Some people," he intoned as if reading the lines from a book.  "Ought to take first things first."  Before I could respond to this strange narration of his, he turned and pushed the form across the desk toward me.  
"Here's the balance."  He pointed to a figure at the bottom of the form.  "Cash would be fine if you have it."  
I winced.  I knew he was right about the miles thing, but it still seemed like an awful lot.  I put it down to breaking down in the middle of nowhere and reached into my pocket for my stash.  
After taking the bills from me and giving me my change, Frog-Faced Arnold leaned back in his chair.  He laced his fingers of the top of his round belly.  
"Now...  About your car..."  I felt myself go on alert.  His wide-mouthed smile curled up in a way that reminded me of the Grinch.  "You probably want someone to take a look at it."
"Well, now...  The thing of it is...  That's gonna be a bit of a problem."  He started nodding, a broken bobble-head toy gesture.  "My mechanic, he's on vacation for the long weekend..."  
"Gone fishing?"  
For a moment Arnold's self assurance vanished.  "Matter of fact..."  He shook his head and carried on.  "Anyway, he won't be back till Monday..."  
"Is there someone else?  Someone close by?"  
"Closest fella that would be open is the station in Limon."  I started kicking myself mentally when I heard that.  "Now, you'll have to wait till Monday.  Or, if you're willing to pay for his overtime, I can call my mechanic..."  
"I can do it."  
I shut my mouth and turned around, forgetting the desire to through Frog-Faced Arnold's desk on top of him that had boiled up inside of me.  Clem was standing there.  He was giving me a steady look from under the brim of his cap.  
"You can take a look at my car?"  
"Shuuu-ure..."  A drawn out, musical drawl.  "I help people all the time with their cars 'round here."  
"What...  How much would you charge me?"  I braced myself, hoping Clem didn't share a thieving inclination with Arnold.  
"Whatever ya think is fair."
I looked back at Frog-Faced Arnold.  He had straightened up and was sitting on the edge of his chair.  His expression was tight and sour looking.  
"Well...  Now...  I..."  His body trembled for a moment, then he snapped upright.  "Then I'll have to charge ya rent for my tool!"  
I left with Clem after that.  He wasn't going to be able to look at my car until morning.  He told me his mom owned a motel after I told him I needed a place to stay.  
Frog-Faced Arnold backed my car into his garage while I was waiting for Clem in his truck.  He parked his tow-truck in front of it as if to prevent it from driving off without his permission.  
At his house, Clem explained my predicament to his mom.  She gave me a discount on the rate for the room.  $20 to stay the night.  
After she lead me to one of set of duplex bungalows built behind their house, I stood in the middle of the middle of the room for the longest time.  My eyes darted from the big bed that filled the small room from wall to wall, to the sink outside the bathroom by the door, to the color TV on a stand in the corner.  I couldn't seem to do anything but turn in place.  I was stuck there, in the middle of the room.  Stuck there, in the middle of the country.  Stuck there, having no idea what to do next.  
So...  I did sit-ups.  Hooked my feet under the edge of the bed and did sit-ups until I'd lost count and my stomach was sore and tight.  Then, I lay on the bed and stared at the ceiling.  It felt as if time had stopped.  I listened as a rain storm came tumbling out of the Rockies to fall right on top of the roof of the bungalow.  I couldn't even go out for a walk if I'd wanted to.  The clock didn't seem to move.  I was stuck temporally as well as physically.  Stuck, stuck, stuck. I settled myself in to wait the eternity it would take for the second day of my Road Trip to come.  
If I had known what was going to come, I would have kept on waiting.