Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Heading for Home

Monday morning was a case of ‘hurry up and wait’.  David was up at dawn, packing things away and making sure nothing was loose to fly around as they headed east on Interstate 70.  David muttered to himself that living in this thing for weeks on end made it easy to forget what wasn’t bolted down.  He was sure he’d remembered everything when his eyes chanced on a vase of flowers he’d put on a shelf in front of a window.  That would be the first thing to go, and there would be glass, water and flowers all over, and if his luck was really out it would either hit a cat or one would cut a paw on the glass before he could get it cleaned up.

Finally he was positive everything was away.  He checked the time.  The rental car company should have been here already to pick up the car.  He’d paid extra for this service; he didn’t want to be on the road until late this evening to get back to Illinois.  He found the paperwork in the rental car and gave the emergency number a call.  There was no way there would be anyone in the office this early.  Three calls later he was told that the driver was on the way and should be there momentarily.  David grimaced.  He knew what momentarily meant.  They’d put someone on the road as soon as they found a warm body.  He was tempted to lock the keys in the car and leave, but was afraid he’d be charged for extra mileage or dents that didn’t exist if he wasn’t present to check the car over with a company representative.  Fifteen minutes later he called back, and was told the driver was lost in Westmoreland, and what was that address again?  He snorted and asked for the cell number of the driver.  Ten minutes later a car pulled in – finally.  After a brief inspection of the car and sign-off on the papers, David was on the road – already half an hour behind schedule.  He’d planned for delay and still had plenty of time to get onto post for the final inspection of the sweat lodge.

LT was riding shotgun this morning.  He’d never seen David this frantic in the more than three weeks they’d spent together.  In fact, LT had come to the conclusion that David was unflappable.  Well, apparently not.  As they inched along behind a mammoth piece of farm machinery that took up the entire road, David turned the air blue with some very imaginative descriptions of the driver.  LT made a note of some of the phrases.  He’d like to use them the next time Fuzzy really got on his nerves.  The mega-machine turned off after about a mile, but that mile had taken twenty minutes to drive.  They could have walked faster than that machine moved.  There probably were laws about things like that being on the roads, but this was farm country, and barely a tertiary road.

The RV pulled up to the gate at Fort Riley with a mere ten minutes to the inspection time.  The MP looked at David’s frantic face, listened to his explanation of meeting the bigwigs for the final inspection and waved him through.  He’d seen him for weeks and already had been through the RV once, no need to hold him up.  David pulled up to the sweat lodge and called to the cats to stick close as they should be out of here in minutes.  Well, the minutes ticked by, but no one showed up.   David checked his cell phone for messages, but there weren’t any.  Then he turned on the iPad, wondering if maybe he’d been sent an email.  Yup, there was an email.  The inspection needed to be an hour later; someone was coming in from the Oregon VA to verify something.  David turned the RV back on, as it was beginning to get hot inside.  He beat his fists on the steering wheel and both cats ran for the bedroom.  Realizing that he’d scared them, David took a deep breath and started a meditation technique to slow down his breathing and release the tension he was holding.  In a few minutes he was calm again.  He walked to the back of the RV and apologized to the cats, telling them that he was always tense at the end of a job, but that was no reason to take it out on them.  They agreed, but Rudy rubbed her head on his hand anyway.

Even though the RV had been compacted for driving, David could still stretch out on the sofa, which he did.  He grabbed the book he was reading and lay down to try and distract himself.  After less than fifteen minutes of reading there was a knock on the side door.  David marked his place and answered the door.  His contact stood there, an apologetic smile on his face.  “I’m sorry, but we’re early.  Or late, perhaps, if you didn’t get the email.”

David laughed, and said he’d received the email after he’d arrived at the work site this morning.  He stepped outside and they began the inspection.  Rudy and LT sat on the dashboard so they could watch what the humans did.  Two wandered around holding huge sheets of paper and tape measures.  They looked stuff up, measured the sweat lodge, the fire pit, examined the coverings that had been stowed in a metal cabinet and measured some more things.  David seemed confident and comfortable with the discussion, and after about forty-five minutes everybody signed some papers, shook hands and got in their vehicles.  David sighed with relief as he climbed in the driver’s seat.  “Done.  We’re done.  Finally finished.  They didn’t find one wrong thing, not one problem.  It’s built to specification and they’re happy with it.  I am so done with Kansas.  Let’s go home.”  He turned on the RV and they headed out.

Since they had a relatively late start, lunch was late and short.  The only thing David didn’t stint was his run, although he was drenched when he climbed back into the RV.  It was well over 90° outside.  No matter, he thought.  He’d cool off soon enough as they drove.  The cats had slept through the first half of the drive, and weren’t in the habit of long naps at this point.  Their routines had been so different in Pottawatomie than at home.  More to do, less to do, depending on the day of the week, the weather, David’s whims – unpredictable.  Home was predictable.  Well, except for the weather, but even that had its patterns.

Rudy sat in the front seat with her paws on the side door, watching the vehicles that were traveling in the same direction.  She observed that there were a lot of large trucks on this road, and some drove way too fast in her opinion.  Almost as dangerous was the occasional very slow vehicle, because then everyone wanted to get around it, get past it.  They passed a slow-moving truck that seemed to be carrying pigs of all things.  But when she thought about it, it made sense.  If you needed to get your pigs from one place to the other, you didn’t walk them there; you put them in a truck.  And that truck wouldn’t drive as fast as the rest of these maniacs.  If it did, the pigs would all throw up on each other, and your pigs would arrive smelly and messy.  So, if you were driving your pigs to visit some other pigs, they wouldn’t make a very good impression, right?

Rudy went into the back to share her observations with LT.  He snorted at her, rather pig-like in her estimation and told her that the pigs were probably going to be slaughtered, and it wouldn’t matter if they were messy and smelly, because they probably were anyways.  Rudy hmmphed at him and went back to her front seat.

After a long afternoon and early evening drive they arrived in Effingham and after checking in pulled into the same spot they had occupied on the way out to Pottawatomie.  As David expanded the sides, LT and Rudy explored, each thinking how different it was to be heading home from an adventure rather than leaving on one.  Each had been so convinced of what they’d find, even though their expectations had been different.  But there had been the chance, even the hope that what they’d find would be even better, more marvelous.  On the way home, though, they looked forward to the familiar, the things that would be exactly the way they’d been left.  Rudy smiled as she thought of her favorite quilt on the little table in the kitchen.  It would be good to be home again with her favorite things and people.

 Photo courtesy of elbragon - http://www.flickr.com/photos/elbragon/3062001494

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