Tales From Mephitis. Chapter 18: The Goddess and Purgatorio.

Updated on February 26, 2018

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to create oneself endlessly.” Henri Bergson

“One who goes mad from the bite of a dog is excusable; yet it is right he should die of suffocation. So too, he who cannot rule his passions, nor hold them in check out of respect for the law, while he may be excusable on the ground of weakness, he is incapable of enjoying conformity of spirit and knowledge and love of God; and he is lost inevitably.”

Spinoza

A warm breeze came with the dawn, flowing low over the ground, lifting a haze over the melting swamp. Open stretches of water flowed darkly, sinuously toward the lake. Frank heard the first trumpeting of geese overhead. He stopped and gazed at them when they came into sight, his attention prompting the man sorting his bottles to stop and look as well.

“Never thought I’d see this up here: Geese in February.” Frank remarked.

“And open water in February.”

“Right. Hard to believe they were damn near extinct in the 70's.”

"No sh*t. Them and the Gators. Now the geeses are sh*ttin on everything and the Gators are eatin everyone. Nice goin."

It was mild enough that Toad ventured out of the office when the daylight became stronger. He was having women problems again and needed to have someone to vindicate himself to himself in front of.

He wasn’t finding this job easy either. Like some many others who have never been the ‘boss’, before he took it he was filled with criticism of how others supervised, in his case particularly Anton.

Once in command however, he found himself frozen by indecision. Frank had seen this happen time and time again to the newly promoted, and had dubbed it “The Paralysis of Command”. It’s all the worse if the newly-promoted is not capable of stiffening his or her backbone.

A trailer came in for a load of ‘tin’; bales of crushed steel cans. Instead of the usual box-like forty-five-foot trailer, this one was open on the top except for steel arches every ten feet.

The driver had wanted the bales stacked three high. Toad began loading it and Frank recorded the tag numbers and weights.

All went fine until Toad put the first two on top of each other on the floor and then tried to put the third one on top; the mast of the skidsteer hit the first arch. He couldn’t raise the forks high enough to slide the top one on. He kept trying to do it the same way over and over, as if something would change somehow.

Frank watched him turning red, and his mouth and eyes begin to sag. He began to perspire heavily.

At that moment Farina strolled in. He had come up with a load of bales from Venice to be transferred to the warehouse. He sauntered up to Frank.

“What’s goin on?” He asked amiably.

“Ran into a bit of a problem here.”

“Whattya got?” His attitude changed subtly to one of shrewd competence.

He likes this.” Frank noted. He explained the trouble.

Farina listened while sizing up the truck. He walked up to where Toad was still doing the same thing over and over; lifting the bale till it hit the arch, lowering it, and then lifting it again. He yelled loudly to be heard over the roar of the diesel engine.

Toad finally became aware of him and backed the skidsteer out of the trailer, shut it off and listened to him, nodding, his lower lip bulging with snuff. But instead of implementing Farina’s suggestion, he leaped out of the seat.

“Why don’t you do it…I gotta take a shit…” And he ran away toward the office. Farina and Frank looked at each other. Frank shrugged and uttered the classic Jurassic Park line.

“When ya gotta go; ya gotta go.”

Farina clambered up into the skidsteer and fired it up. He checked the boom’s clearance, then backed out with one of the two bales, put it down, and got another one, which he put on top of the first.

Picking the two up, he drove back in and simply lowered the two bales on top of the first: Problem solved.

Later they were all out by the trays when a SUV pulled up. A cheery, bouncy, woman of about thirty jumped out with a big vivacious grin. She was quite pretty and shapely.

“Hi!” she exclaimed perkily. “Stuffs in the back! I’ll open it up.” She suited action to words and threw open the back-hatch door. She was wearing a tight pullover and a pair of thin, fleece exercise pants. She bent over double to reach in for the boxes, at the same time arching her back. The effect was to present her lovely derriere invitingly. While Frank appreciated the view, Toad frantically scrambled for his cell phone to grab a picture. After they had taken care of her garbage and recyclables, she smiled broadly.

“I forgot my tickets. Can I bring them in next time?”

“Yeah, sure.” Toad muttered.

Frank didn’t mention to him that he’d seen this same woman do variations of that scheme several times before, always successfully.

Each time she either showed her cleavage revealingly, or her inner thighs, or adopted a posture displaying her derriere. The only one unmoved was Rod.

By now Frank had seen that there were always some of the public who saw getting away without paying as a ‘good’, some saw it as a game to win, some were just stingy. The employees were perfectly willing to let tickets slide if they got something for it. But if they thought someone was trying to put something over on them, they would go to great lengths to catch them at it.

Toad came in depressed on Saturday. He’d had a big fight with his girlfriend Angie, and she had moved out. Rod wanted all the juicy details, and Toad was eager to tell them in order once again to justify himself to himself.

“It was her f**king kids again.”

“She got three right? Two boys an a girl?” Rodney asked. Frank glanced at him. He had forgotten they were both from Milan and everyone knows everyone. Rod was attentive, his eyes alert.

“Yeah. The girl’s seventeen. My daughter, Tracy’s, a year older, she and my son are with my ex…You know her, right Rod?”

“Yeah. Real bitch.”

“Yeah. Anyways; Tracy heard Angie moved out and she offered to beat up her daughter. Claimed she never liked her anyway. I told her thanks, but no thanks. It was mainly her two boys: Lazy, big fat fuckers. They’re in their twenties now and neither of them works. They just sleep till noon and play f**kin video games till dawn. Angie works twelve hours a day for the County, so she’s not around to see what they’re doing. I came home from work Wednesday and figured I’d have some Buffalo wings for dinner. Bought a bucket of the f**kin things from KFC: All f**kin gone. The fat f**ks ate ‘em all!

Then I get the electric bill. That was it. Those f**kin video games sent that bill through the roof. I told her, I said: ’You’re gonna have to pay more if they’re gonna stay here too. They’re eating my food and running the electric bill through the roof.’

“You’re charging your girlfriend to live with you?” Frank asked.

“Yeah.” His voice became defensive. “Hey, I had the whole upstairs redone. Her and her three kids got the whole upstairs and I’m only charging her $500 a month, and I pay the utilities. That’s not fair. So she says: ’You want me to leave?’, so without thinking I said: ‘Gaw head.’ And she did. Now I’m stuck with the bill for the electricity, and I paid five grand to have the upstairs re-done.”

“What are ya gonna do?”

“I’m takin her to court to recover what I paid out to have all that work done.”

Oooohhh! I’ll bet she’s pissed off!”

“She will be when she finds out. Or maybe she already guessed I was gonna hold on to her stuff until she paid up, because when I got home from playing cards last night everything was gone, and even the fridge was cleaned out.I called a buddy of mine that’s in the police department and he told me there was nothing I could do.”

Next week brought a new chapter. Angie counter-sued him for a pro-rating of her rent and the destruction of some of her furniture. Both suits were dropped after the judge advised their attorneys not to press on with this bullshit.

Toad recovered from the loss of his paramour quickly though. His sister, while she wouldn’t loan him the five thousand he needed for his taxes, did set him up on a blind date with a vice-principal from a Utica elementary school.

He and the woman texted back and forth for a while, until he began panicking. He didn’t know what she looked like and she was educated: She had a college degree. But it was her evasiveness on what she looked like that worried him the most.

“How am I gonna find out what she looks like? She could be a cow.”

“I think she also has ample cause for concern here.” Frank thought to himself. “You said she’s a vice principal, right?”

“Yeah.”

“Well, I believe all schools now have websites, and on those sites they have photos of all the teachers and staff. Why don’t you just go on line and look her up?”

Toad looked at him “That’s a f**kin great idea.”

Next week Frank asked him if he had looked her up.

“Nah. I had my sister do it. I don’t use the computer.”

“So: Is the date still on?”

“Nope. I stopped texting her back. After a few days she got the hint. That was a close one.” He paused. “She looked heavy.”

“And she’s smarter than you, buddy. She may not know it, but she’s the one that just had a close one.”

Frank had found his copy of the Bhagavad Gita and was going through it for the first time in a decade. That, and the Upanishads, and Aldous Huxley’s “The Perennial Philosophy”.

He had decided that empirically he had some basis for listening with new ears, and realized that he had been prejudiced against it because of a subjective mental state akin to depression these last few years.

“The Bhagavad Gita says there are two kinds of beings in this world:

The divine who strive after virtues, and are spiritual;

and the Demonic, who are reductionist, mechanistic, atheistic, of little minds, the enemies of mankind.Life has only one end for them: Gratification of the senses. They are constantly reborn in degradation and delusion. They are evil.

People tend toward one or the other.”

“How’s your day goin?...That’s nice. Mine’s not goin so good.” Rod whined, looking at once downcast and secretly excited.

“Now what?” Frank asked.

“My sister-in-law just died.”

“I’m sorry. That’s too bad.”

“That the six-hundred-pound one, Della’s sister?” Toad asked wryly.

“Uh huh.”

“Were you close to her?” Frank asked.

Close?!” Toad snorted. “He use ta peek through their trailer window to watch her taking a sh*t in a bucket in the living room.”

What?”

“Sure. She couldn’t fit in the bathroom.”

“I only did that once. By accident!Rod retorted quickly.

“Yeah. The first time. You accidentally creeped up to the window and looked in. How many times after that did you do it?”

“Only a couple!”

“What happened to her?” Frank asked, though with half a mind he didn’t want to know any more about these people. He always felt “slimed”.

“She was hospitalized with kidney frailer.”

“Kidney failure?”

“Uh huh. She told them to take her off the machine. She said she wanted to die, that her life sucked. Her husband took pictures of her in bed all tubed up and dyin and posted them on facebook for everybody to see how bad she looked.”

“Yup. Shouldn’t have asked. ‘Slimed’ again.” Frank reflected.

All day long, over and over Rod accosted the customers with his unvarying line: “How’s your day goin?...That’s nice. Mine’s not goin so good. My sister-in-law just died.”

By the end of the day everyone was heartily sick of it. Little Tom, Toad, and Hoppin’ John began to parrot his line as soon as he began it with a customer.

“How’s your day goin…”

“HOW’S YOUR DAY GOIN? THAT’S NICE. MY SISTER IN LAW JUST DIED!!!” They mockingly mimicked him in union in a falsetto.

The next Saturday, just before Valentine’s Day, Frank had a bizarre conversation with Toad and Hoppin’ John out on the bridge in the afternoon. Both volunteered that they were Viagra users. He couldn’t believe they were admitting they couldn’t get it up. The only possible explanation he could think of was that it must be that impotence is so common now that no one sees it as a failing.

Christ. What is it? An epidemic?”

They were both only in their forties, but both were heavy beer drinkers; he wondered if there was a connection. When he asked, they said the only side effect was a bad headache. It costs them forty-five dollars for six pills with their health plan. Strikingly, neither of them said it made sex more pleasurable or gave them more intense orgasms either.

“It just makes you feel like a porn star, cause you just keep on going.” Toad explained. “Heh, heh, heh, heh.”

“Yeah. I told the old lady after I popped one ‘Well, you better do sumthin with this, or I’m gonna have to deflate it!’” Hoppin’ John added in agreement. “Then it’s: ‘Jesus Christ! Are you gonna f**ckin c*m already or what!?’

“Angie used to make fun of me about it.” Toad added. “She said I wasn’t ‘Bionic’ like I said I was, ‘only Viagric’…. I don’t give a f**k. Heh, heh, heh, heh.

They both agreed Viagra was better than another type of pill, something to do with an enzyme. They were interrupted by some customers arriving.

As Frank thought about it, it certainly didn’t sound like this was at all for the woman’s benefit. From the sounds of it they didn’t enjoy it a bit.

So, it was just for the male’s pleasure: If he could find some place to put it.

While pushing the magazines on the tray off into the bunker, his eye was caught by a copy of Sports Illustrated’s “Swimsuit Edition”. It wasn’t the fact that it was full of scantily clad young women; he’d seen that issue discarded a dozen or more times already. It was the fact that the cover on this one was slashed up.

Curious, he leafed through it. Every single photo of a bikini clad female was slashed up with a razor; by the force of the cutting, whoever did this was enraged.

“Whoa. There’s a story behind this one, for sure.”

While the boys were in the office Saturday morning, Frank went out alone to the trays to escape their sick prattling.

In the cold and dark, he sat down and stared at the thin sliver of a moon rising over the hills in the distance. It was lovely.

Two things sprang to mind, merged and struck a spark that became a fire: “The crescent moon: The Bow of Diana”.

“Oh, my God. I get it….The actress in that photo, bare-breasted in the moonlight…Now I see.

I have, in essence, always worshipped that Virgin Goddess of the Moon: The Unwinnable, the Cold, the Pale, Blonde, ivory skinned, she who had never given her heart to any man.

Because her heart was not won, neither was her body; it was not to be given.

As a boy I worshipped all those blonde Goddess-girls I had crushes on. But I was unable to approach or talk to them, fearful of being rejected as unworthy, afraid to compete for their heart, for fear of losing what I most wanted.

And what I wanted most, shockingly to me, was not sex, but love. The love I never experienced. But not motherly love.

I needed to melt the Ice Goddess to love me: I needed to thaw out and feel my emotions. The Woman, the Anima, in me was the frozen Moon Goddess, that I projected out onto other women. My own bottled up, repressed emotions.

I always fell head over heels for girls like her. And what always surprised me as I grew older and bolder was that they fell in love with me too. The ones who never gave their heart, gave them to me.

There is a mystery here.

And I know I will still feel the same way toward some other 'Goddess of the Moon' again; always.

Like my anger, my solitary nature, it is permanently etched into my bones. All I can do is recognize when it’s happening again and rein it in.

Ironic: I never felt like that about my ex-wife; I never saw her like that, or felt like that about her. What I felt toward her after she told me about her abusive childhood was pity; I wanted to protect her. I hadn’t remembered my own past yet; consciously.

But unconsciously, I once again projected myself out onto someone else. And that time it was a mistake. A BIG mistake

With Melissa I got it right: I adored my Goddess from first sight. And she fell in love with me. I was lucky enough to be able to remove my projection over time, and see the real woman, and fall in love all over again.

Okay...I get it...There's the real meaning behind Acteon's fate: He gazed with lustful eyes at that which was above and beyond earthly pleasure, that which should be preserved from egotistic desires of possession.

And he was devoured by them."

Two of the ‘regulars’, always came in on Saturday. He was a driver with the Cooper DPW, she was a waitress. They were in their fifties, a friendly couple, and down to earth. That day however, their car locked itself on them as they were outside of it, talking with Rod and Frank. For a moment both of them stared at the key dangling from the ignition in silence.

“How the hell did that happen?”

“I don’t know. How could it?”

“Have you got your keys?”

“They’re in my purse.”

“On the front seat?”

“On the front seat.”

He straightened up, looking like he was trying to control his temper. “We got glass coverage on the insurance?”

“I think so.... Why?” she asked sharply, divining his intent.

“You got any better ideas?”

“Wait a minute.” Frank said. “Hold on. I’ll be right back.”

He returned with a four-foot length of baling wire with a crook bent into both ends.

“Here.” He handed it to the man. “I’ll pull back on the door a bit. Slip that down on the inside of the glass and try and catch the door latch.”

It took a few tries, but he got it. Both were relieved and effusive.

“Pizzas and sodas are on us next Saturday! Don’t bring a lunch! We can’t thank you guys enough!” she shouted out the window as they left.

As good as their word, the next Saturday they dropped off two pizzas and a six pack of soda. Rod, unfortunately for him, was off, and Hoppin’ John was in, fortunately for him. He wolfed down slices like they were peanuts.

Later, Frank headed for the bathroom. As he entered the breakroom, Toad came rushing out, colliding with him and bouncing off his chest in his haste. He seemed blinded, his eyes tearing, his face beet red, and holding his breath. Frank turned his head, watching him scurry away.

What’s his problem, I wonder?” he thought as he took a step into the breakroom. “WOW!!!”

He was struck by a hot wall of incredible rankness that made his head recoil. Instinctively he leapt backwards, holding his breath.

“My GOD! What IS that!?” Through the tears that had sprung up he saw the closed bathroom door. “Hoppin’ John!! My God, I’ve stumbled into the ‘Pit of Eternal Stench’! That would kill a colony of rats at fifty yards!”

He fled the toxic area ignomiously.

Early in March, Frank tore a rotator cuff again in the afternoon while lifting some heavy bags, one to an arm. When he swung the left one up and over the wall into the hopper he felt the old familiar tearing burn.

“Fool. Goddamn fool. You were showing off again, weren’t you? There’s the price of pride, fool.”

For the rest of the day his arm was almost useless and by the next morning he couldn’t put his shirt or jacket on without Mel’s help. He said not a word to anyone at Mephitis, just went about his work with one hand. No one noticed the difference.

He had decided he was going to go for a CDL, a commercial driving license, as soon as possible. After talking with Little Tom, he resolved to go for a Class B first because it would be the easier and quicker for him.

As soon as he got the Class B, he’d go for the Class A. With even a Class B under his belt, he was sure he’d have a much easier time of finding other work.

He’d been eyeing that truck that was used for the “White Truck run” for a while now. He’d checked out the cab and figured he should be able to handle it easily enough. Maybe he could get Toad to let him practice on Saturdays during his lunch or slow times.

By April he thought it was probably safe to say that this was the winter that wasn’t. Not since the winter of ’79-’80 did he remember such a snowless, mild winter.

So much for “Tim from Genoa’s” Wooly Bears and NOAA’s computer models.

Two customers confirmed his recollection of which year it was. One of them knew it was that winter because that was the winter he had moved up here from the south. His new house had a long driveway and he didn’t even own a snow shovel, so he was delighted at the lack of snow.

The other remembered it because it was the winter of the Lake Placid Olympics, and they had to bring snow in that winter.

Since late February Rodney had been offering him a ride in to work occasionally, and a few times as far as Evetown on the way home.

The rest of the time he rode or walked. A couple of times he had to use the taxi, but because of the unusually snowless winter it was only a couple of times.

Hoppin’ John would also offer him a ride home on Fridays. He refused any money for gas and was actually quite magnanimous about it, still claiming Tina would kill him if he let him “ride home in the dark and cold”.

Rodney on the other hand was a totally self-centered extortionist. On a day when he had offered him a ride, Frank would bike down to Stewarts’ and buy himself and Rod a coffee. At six o’clock Rod would pull in, and Frank would stash his bike in the car’s trunk. Then he’d be a captive audience for Rod’s troubles the rest of the ride in.

By now he was thoroughly tired of the humiliation of accepting those infrequent rides from Hoppin’ John or Rod, and then having to keep an eye on his behavior to see if he was catering to them as a result.

Or of having to stone-facedly follow orders from a weasel like Toad. He was trying to maintain his dignity and Stoic balance, but it was getting to him.

He could crush any of these clowns with a finger, yet they offered an easing of his toil.

He knew his danger signs by now; he’d have to redouble his efforts to stay calm, impassive. The essential concern for him was always of maintaining self-respect in his own, harsh, eyes.

Meanwhile, he’d stopped a couple of times in the pre-dawn to check out a van that was for sale. He’d been saving what money he could, and figured by the end of the month he’d have enough to make an offer.

He’d contacted a mechanic that he used to work with and asked him if he’d be willing to give the van a once over if he brought it in. He grudgingly said he would, treating him like a pain in the ass for asking.

He’d offered to pay for Christ’s sake.

He finally felt quite comfortable handling all the machinery. It was tough learning with no help and only working part-time; but he did it.

However, physically he was getting weary. He could still perform; knocking off eighty or more push-ups a day was no sweat; at least before he tore that shoulder. But he knew deep down he couldn’t sustain the effort as much, day in, day out.

Each passing year was now lowering his energy; it was getting harder and harder to get the fire flaring. He knew he’d never see a five-hundred-pound deadlift again. And his legs were gone.

“J’ai perdu mon saut: I’ve lost my ‘jump’. Me, the one who used to be able to vault clear over an eight-foot fence. Sucks; but there it is.

However; tomorrow I’m going to test ride a ’93 Ford van, three quarter ton: We’ll see.”

“The Weird One”, as Frank had begun to refer to Rodney when telling Mel about him, exemplified Gracian’s aphorism that “There is no imbecile who is not malicious”.

Frank had thought that by treating him humanely, unlike all the others, he would begin to calm down and change his behavior: Mistake. He was a sobering confirmation of the hypothesis that personality traits are unalterable, especially among the unreflective and uneducated.

Frank had finally grown convinced that Rodney would never change, nor was he capable of changing.

“A devil, a born devil on whose nature nurture can never stick; on whom my pains, humanely taken, all, all lost, quite lost.” That was the way he saw him now.

He seemed to have developed a type of jealousy, and a desire to see, and create, “bad things” to happen to Frank: And he was aware of it at some level.

“There’s a good Rod and a….‘not-so-good’ Rod inside me.” He had told Frank.

He did nothing out of goodness, only for gain, though he pretended otherwise.

He only offered a ride when he could be seen doing it, and he expected to get paid with a cup of coffee, a dozen of Frank’s chickens’ eggs, as well as five dollars for gas each ride.

He was incredibly uneducated, incredibly sexually perverse, delusional, and over-the-line psychotic. Everything was a manipulation for advantage, monetary gain, or increase in his ease.

If he wasn’t so stupid and psychotic, he’d make a great salesman. But as it was, if Frank were his boss: He’d fire him.

Yet he couldn’t help thinking his being thrown together with this loathsome, repellent creature was no accident: They could learn from each other.

He strongly doubted Rod would; but Frank saw him as a walking repository of material for lessons and examples of what can go wrong and be lowly in human nature.

“There it is again: Is change, real change possible?

I’m becoming more and more convinced that we cannot alter our character or anyone else’s: It is immutable.

Looking back, you can see early on, characteristics that are consistent all life-long in a person.

Growth is less change than development; a giving of greater expression to what you always were.

Long ago I’d seen how a person’s basic personality is manifest as soon as they could express themselves; as early as two. It may have quite possibly been there since inception, who knows?

That ‘core sense of self’ stays, unchanged, with you as you grow through adolescence, maturity, and right into old age.

We can gain knowledge of ourselves and a wisdom in controlling our basic being; but that’s all.

Gneuthi Seuton: Know thyself. It makes that dictum all the more crucial. If the only thing we can do is control somewhat our tendencies, then it behooves us to know what those tendencies are. The beginning of wisdom. ‘The unexamined life is not worth living’: Hyperbole to make a point.

The Hindus felt differently: You will be as aware as your present incarnation allows. In your next life you may improve. So, they believed in progress.

But not the Greeks with their “Eternal Return”. That’s why Nietzsche was nauseous: In “die Ewigewiederkehr”, his “Eternal Return” too, there was no possibility for improvement; no progress. Everything will always only repeat itself for all eternity. The “Yahoos”, like the poor, will always be with us.

There is a mystery in how our lives play out.

Empirically, it is not random; it is repetitive and directed, circling, spiraling, around a unique make-up.

We are not victims; not of child abuse, not of heredity, not of environment.

I guess that’s no more unbelievable than our being here at all, or more incredible than all the ‘secret’ paths that led you somehow throughout your life, making it inevitable that you would wind up where you are here and now.

Only by looking back do we see how inescapable it was we’d wind up where we are.

Out of all the countless choices we could have made, only certain select ones were ‘chosen’, as if a Destiny was at work.

Some ‘Destiny’. A bad joke.”

The last day of work before Frank was going to make an offer on that van, it was stormy all day. He rode in to work in the teeth of a wind so fierce he had to pedal hard going downhill just to keep moving.

“I’m sorry, ‘Buddy’, but I can’t give you a ride home today. I gotta go to Wings Falls after work, so I gotta go the other way.” He gleefully informed Frank that afternoon, perhaps expecting him to plead.

Frank just coldly stared at him. “I never asked you for one. So there’s no reason for you to ‘apologize’ “

“I’m ‘worried’ you’re probably gonna get hit by ‘some one’ in this weather.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Frank made a mental note to watch carefully in his mirror for him on the ride home. “What a creep.”

That day may have been the last time he had to ride the bike home from work, but it was a beaut: How fitting.

During the day the winds had shifted so he fought a powerful headwind again uphill on the way home and a drenching, freezing downpour.

And he did almost get hit; not once, but twice. It took a half an hour longer to get home. But he did get home.

“For the journey is done and the summit attained, and the barriers fall.... 	I was ever a fighter, so...one fights more, the best and the last!” 				“Prospect” Browning
“For the journey is done and the summit attained, and the barriers fall.... I was ever a fighter, so...one fights more, the best and the last!” “Prospect” Browning

When he bought that van, the owner recognized him.

“Hey! You da man! Christ, I see you every day bustin your ass comin up that hill an ridin past! Holy shit!”

He wanted $1,300, but took less. The body had rusted out spots, but the frame was sound, and the motor was a straight-six. He had it looked it over before he made an offer, and the mechanic had told him you can’t kill those motors, they were the best ever built.

And maybe he was right. Frank had had two others before, and both times they outlasted the frame.

“It runs well, doesn’t overheat, and I’m so goddamned glad to have it! After all those cold and dark, or hot and sweaty, exhausting hours of riding and walking that ten miles each way, watching everyone else driving past me; they’re about over.

Finally, our isolation and humiliation are coming to an end. And, I’ll have a place to eat my lunch alone! Praise the Lord! Hallelujah! Hot Damn!

Of course, nothing ever goes smoothly. The van has a junk battery, so it’s just sitting there now. But I’ve got a plan....we’ll see how I can finesse this. I figure I can borrow 504 long enough to get to an auto parts store and pick up a battery.

Damn. I’ve torn up my left shoulder real good. I’ve tried to just ignore it and bull my way through it. Now I’ve got a “frozen shoulder”. Can’t use it. Keeps me up at night and cost me all the strength in that arm. Was a mistake to keep pushing it, should have babied it. Tough working, or riding with only one arm.

Oh well.”

Now that he had a set of wheels, Frank decided it was time to start thinking of the next rung on the ladder out of this hole.

He talked with Ray, explaining his intentions and asked if he could train on the County’s trucks and use them for the road test. Ray agreed, albeit without any enthusiasm.

All other reading and studying was temporarily laid aside as Frank took up the Commercial Driver’s License manual.

He called Motor Vehicles and set up an appointment. The test took about three hours all totaled. If he could pass and get his permit; he’d have made the first tangible step toward a Class B license and a better job.

He applied himself with characteristic intensity. Most of the manual was common sense driving advice. He forced himself to memorize the steering, suspension system, and air brake systems and parts, until he could recite it without the manual. Stopping distances at various speeds for different sized rigs were also committed to his memory.

“Well; looks like someone actually read the manual” the young woman who administered the test coquettishly told him after she had graded it. He passed the permit test for a CDL Class B with air brake certification; getting a 92 on the general knowledge part, and a 96 on the air brakes test.

“On to the Road Test.”

“You know, your entire life had been one of fighting off attacks, of fighting your way back, of battling to climb out of abysses. When I married you, I had no idea you were such a fighter.” Mel said after congratulating him.

“Thanks. Frankly, I’m getting tired of pulling myself out of all these holes. I think I’d be better served by avoiding them to begin with, instead of crashing to a bottom and then climbing out with all this exertion.”

“Cast the bantling on the rocks 			Suckle him on she-wolf’s teat 			Wintered with hawk and fox 			Power be to hands and feet.” 					Emerson
“Cast the bantling on the rocks Suckle him on she-wolf’s teat Wintered with hawk and fox Power be to hands and feet.” Emerson

In the morning he put Mel’s bike in the van and drove into town. He dropped the van off at a garage to be inspected after some minor repairs necessary for passing were completed, and rode back to Mephitis to work.

The next day after work he rode the bike to the mechanic’s and picked up the van. Emotions powerfully surged through him as he drove off in his own vehicle; pride, relief, happiness. He almost wept for joy. Finally: He was now able to go to the grocery store and not need a bloody taxi and pay cash for food again.

It had been so long.

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