Monday, November 15, 2004

Walking Away - Chapter 10: Donald and Lydia

The rain started slapping harder at the windshield and the wipers picked up time trying to keep up. Donald stared intently through the windshield trying to see the road through the rain and the glare of the television blaring away behind him.

“Darn it Lydia, can’t you turn that thing off for a while?”

The only response was in the volume of the television as it was increased and the silence between them thickened. Lydia had wanted to spend the night in Harrison at the Best Western but he was in a hurry to get south and to warmer weather. Probably more importantly, she had wanted to watch her ‘program,’ which was on right now but winter was approaching fast and these days that really made his joints ache. Donald didn’t see the point in paying for a motel room when they owned a luxury thirty-two foot long recreational vehicle complete with slide outs, kitchenette, shower and bed. They could pull over anywhere and camp in comfort so he had insisted. Now halfway up the mountainside, groaning along in low gear, on twisting rain slick road with more rain obscuring his vision, he wished he had listened to his wife.

Donald was a retired geologist who had spent a short but profitable career working for Shell flying around the world prospecting for oil. He had ‘retired’ from that career at the age of thirty-six and had moved to Arkansas to get away from it all. Instead, he had gotten into the real-estate business and became quite wealthy over the next decade but he couldn’t quit just quit working cold turkey. At fifty, he had come close to ‘retiring’ for the second time but that was when the vacation real-estate boom of the 90’s hit and people were literally throwing money at him for ridiculously small acreages in their attempt to get away from it all too.

Four years ago, he had decided that his ‘getting away from it all’ world was too crowded and he officially retired, trading in his house and land for a fifty-four foot sailboat, which he had built himself and was now anchored in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Texas, a dream house in the northern deserts of Arizona, which he also designed and built, and this thirty-two foot luxury RV, which he had bought, to shuttle between those places, friends and family.

They were heading south after having spent the summer visiting friends and doctor, heading for their boat for a month of sailing before heading back home to Arizona for the winter. Both of them were sixty-five and in fairly good health. Lydia had a knee joint replaced with a mechanical one in June and was almost fully recovered. The pain that she had been living with for several years was now replaced with a newfound mobility. He had his wrist muscles ‘scoped out’ to ease his carpal tunnel syndrome from years of playing tennis and his eyesight was slowly degenerating with age but nothing that a new prescription hadn’t cured.

Donald pulled over at a roadside overlook to let a long stream of traffic that had built up behind him go by. He knew from his years in real estate in this area, that this would be his last chance to let traffic buy until the town of Ponca twenty miles down the road. On a night like this, tempers would flare from angry people stuck behind his RV and couldn’t pass because of the curvy roads and the rain.

He glanced in the mirror at his wife’s outline from the glow of the television. He loved his wife and that just wasn’t going to change despite the cold treatment he was now receiving. He knew that in a half hour when her program ended she would start to warm up again and in an hour be back to normal. Such was the knowledge from forty years of marriage. He checked the side mirrors to ensure the traffic had all gotten passed, shifted into gear, and eased the RV back onto the road. The rain was picking up and his windshield wipers were already on their fastest speed. Yes sir, a Best Western sounded pretty good right now.

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