“I woke last night to the sound of thunder; how far off I sat and wondered. Started humming a song from 1962; ain’t it funny how the night moves.” – Night Moves – Bob Seger

My wheels flowed like a current through the sticky grey broth of liquefied snow pulverized to slush. As I watched threatening sky cloud fortresses come marching in from the north; pale shards of moonlight back-lit the waning storm that had settled overhead. Craggy snow flurries illuminated by a finger of light from the gigantic full moon lit the horizon where jagged bolts of lighting sheared the sky with sharp salvos of thunder that followed with coursing bursts of ear-piercing static.

Another chattering night dipping below zero on this first day of spring; snow flakes the size of quarters covered the roads so fast the yellow lines became invisible; fear drove beside me on the unlit magic carpet highway; my spaceship and me a wavy hypnotic knot of color moving in psychedelic slow motion. Hypnotized by the western sky purpling to the color of a mussel shell before turning a sooty black; Thor hammer thunderheads swallowed the few remaining stars in the sky

Hyped-up white knuckle slip sliding held me captive when a hazy apparition appeared in the distance coming slowly into focus until I saw the international symbol for help, an upraised thumb. I pulled over and motioned him in. He was a pug faced pear-shaped man with a thick jet-black pompadour, a broken Roman nose and an air of smugness. The crevices around his eyes and mouth turned his face into a clenched fist as ugly as an exit wound.

His most distinguishing feature were two bushy eyebrows that resembled a single woolly caterpillar crawling across his forehead; looking every bit the Joe Pesci character David Ferrie in JFK. He wore a Viet Nam era head cover and the flak jacket armor of a veteran sprinkled with shiny symbols. He was a man as old man as me; but his weathered skin was as tight as a cheap pair of new boots; it moved like cracked parchment and the lines in his haggard face resembled the veins in a marble statue.

He had jagged teeth like a broken fence made of Chiclets; and though he smelled as ripe as the inside of a leper; like cologne with top notes of sweat and had a steel wool voice so graveled you could scour a stove with it; he spoke in italics like a diplomat. “Where you headed” I said. I noticed a bit of the demon in the corner of his eye as he answered. “Sometimes in the winds of change, we find our true direction” he said.

His name was Joe; a Muskogee Indian from southern Michigan making his way on a 200 mile slog to a powwow, sweat lodge cleansing and ceremonial dance affair. Once I told him I knew Russell Means had recently passed over to the happy hunting ground he opened up and we shared a bit of our infamous exploits. I explained why I’d left the cool clear watery ink blue skies and the smell of eucalyptus and honeysuckle of California for the winter bone chill and smoky haze that overlay the edge of Wisconsin’s rugged wilderness.

He had a way of conversing like the downbeat of an axe and smiled with a diabolical grin like he’d just closed an orphanage. He passed me a photo of himself in his prime looking every bit a stiletto in-fighter with a glowering stare that could crack open an oyster. When dressed up like he was in the photo he looked like a well-kept grave.

He seemed to be narcotized and when he produced and offered me what looked like dried beef turdlets; nuggets I instantly recognized as hydrated peyote buttons, I knew why. I washed the gross tasting buds down with a few good slugs from my whisky flask and it wasn’t long before they kicked in like a freight train; undulating my guts like a washing machine.

“Where are your people” I said. “We’re driving over them” he said. “How do you handle it man” I said. “When it gets worse than I want myself to imagine; I pretend it’s a movie I’m filming. I’m in it and directing my character but the rest of it just unfolds; I watch and I film; disconnected. In the end, when I re-watch the documentary, I hope my character was heroic and I can be proud of how he, I, handled the shit-storm” He said.

“What about you” he said? “Me, well, when it’s good; I prevail. Failing that; I survive” I said. He seemed like a really nice person and I didn’t want to offend him, so realizing I may have just dissed his whole ancestry with my survival comment I recovered. “I have great respect for your people’s fight to the death thing. But I’m not a big fan of falling on my sword, casting myself on the rocks or hanging on a cross for anything. Its pride comes before the fall, so, when I’m outnumbered, over-matched or outflanked I just smile and bide my time. There is always an escape if you insist on the move that will bring you there. It’s that Sun Tzu wisdom; if your enemy is superior, evade him. If angry, irritate him. If equally matched, fight, and if not split and reevaluate”.

We burned for another fifty miles I didn’t notice I’d driven. I wanted to keep going and travel to the powwow with him; but I had reasons tethering me to my spot for another week or so. So when the next turnoff approached I left him at an on-ramp. As he split on his quest we were both feeling pretty good; both knowing that feeling good was good enough. “Be careful Joe; the water gets choppy out your way” I said. “You too brother” he said.



About circusinpurgatory
Nick Masesso Jr’s fictionalized short stories, poetry and prose have been published in the Starry Night Review, Elegant Thorn Review, Language and and Vagabond Press; the Battered Suitcase. His latest book “Armor of Innocence” and first book “Walking the Midway in Purgatory, a Journal” are available on-line and through bookstores.

2 Responses to Sojourn

  1. James Mcfarland says:

    Intense imagery jolts the inner eye, overlaid by 3 D description and riveting dialogue. A 10.0 masterpiece. The flacon has landed.

    • It took two years and over 100 Posts to get a 10 from my brother falcon; and all’s the better for it.

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