The writing had started coming out again. The printed output was increasing with each day. A few stories had possibilities for expansion into longer projects. I was feeling good about it. The high altitude air was going for me. I was happier than I’d been in a long time. The need to create something, anything was the burden I woke up to each morning. The completion of that task always made me feel lighter, perhaps made me feel younger every time.
I sat in the one of the upstairs bedrooms. It only had an old desk in it. I moved the bed and the rest of the furniture out. There was a large oval window that looked out into town. I had tacked up with scraps of paper with thoughts on the walls. The room had become essentially wallpapered with endless notes and poems, hardly a spot of paint was visible. I didn’t want to lose a stray thought. You never knew when a lost thought could have been the key to something greater.
I could hear the trains coming into Downtown. The mainline followed the old Route 66 path. Interstate 40 had replaced it years ago, but it didn’t carry the same romantic notions of heading west like Horace Greeley had spoke of. Traditions could be stuffed out with simple changes. The world had changed before we knew we wanted to keep the old stuff. Kids these days don’t know what a dial tone is. It was a scary new world and bravery has nothing to do with it.
I was going stir crazy after being shut up in that place. I had some decent pages written. There were even more notes and scraps pinned to the walls. I started making piles and putting them in baskets for later use.
One day, I noticed I was looking shaggy when I walked past a mirror. My focus had been on the words and making sure they didn’t dry up. I had forgotten about small things like hygiene and sustenance. I noticed that the fridge was bare. I needed to get out of the house. I needed some fresh air to recharge my lungs and to refocus myself.
I walked down to the garage and found an old powder blue ’68 Beetle. It was dusty and probably hadn’t been driven in a while. I look around and didn’t see many tools or auto parts. The owners weren’t those types of people. My best bet was to see if it would start, then worry about the maintenance it would require.
It took some cranking and I knew I was lucky when the engine caught. I let the car sit at idle for five minutes before I started towards town. It had been quite awhile since I had driven stick, but I figured it out after grinding the gears a little bit. Driving that thing was a lot more fun than I ever remember behind the wheel.
I pulled up at the little mom and pop market on the corner. It looked like it had been there for fifty years. As I climbed out, I realized the backseat wasn’t very big and there was almost zero trunk space. It took me a minute to figure out that the trunk was in the front. I must’ve looked rather dumb out there. I hope no one was watching.
I walked to Geno’s and grabbed a shopping cart. I filled it with the essential groceries, toiletries and found an aisle that had some cheap tools and household items. I was hoping I would find some oil and automotive items. They didn’t have what I needed, so I made a mental note adding that stop to my list. I steered the cart to the checkout.
“How are you doing, young man?”
“I’m doing well, sir. How are you today?” I noticed his name tag said “Geno” on it. That made me smile. Some how that made this town even better.
“I woke up again. How bad can it be?”
“That’s a good outlook. You own the place?”
“That I do. We opened it almost sixty years ago, my bride and I did.”
“That’s amazing.” Geno finished ringing me up and offered to help me to my car. “No, thank you. I can manage. Besides, it’s not much.”
“Well, I hope to see you around. Have a good day.”
“Yes, I’ll be back. It was nice to meet you, Geno. My friends call me Q. I’m staying at the old Gurney place for awhile. I’ll be around.”
“Oh yeah? That’ll be nice. I knew them well. You must be a friend of James?”
“Yes sir, I am.”
“I’ve known him his whole life. He’s a good egg. I hope you enjoy your stay. It’s a great town. The weather looks like it’ll stay warm for awhile. Nice to meet you, Q.”
We shook hands and said goodbye. I liked this small town and the innocent comfort that it provided. San Francisco was a great city, but it could leave you feeling cold and alone. This was a completely different experience. My impression of Arizona was the arid desert with lots of dirt, cacti and no trees. Here I was seven thousand feet in elevation in the middle of a forest. This isn’t what I expected, but I didn’t know what to expect. I never thought about it.
I drove back to the house and put away my groceries and brewed myself a cup of coffee. It was early afternoon at that point and I was feeling a little sag in my spirits. I sat the small table in the breakfast nook. I stared out at the trees and the mountain slope below the house. It was a great view, I had to admit.
Back in San Francisco, I always marveled at the power of mankind’s achievements in art and architecture. Here, I was blown away at the majesty of God’s creation. Life and the path to happiness wasn’t that difficult, if only you could stop long enough to realize it. Life was good. Every morning was a chance to be happy. Geno was happy to just wake up. He was grateful for it. I wanted that outlook on life. Maybe I could find it, but I realized that the desire for it was a big step.
I ran my hand through my hair and decided I was too scruffy. I need to go into town again and get cleaned up. My beard had grown out a little too far. Perhaps Flagstaff had a place to get an old school straight razor shave. I never had one of those.
I pulled out my phone and Googled it. The third entry, The Barber’s Pole, was nearby in the same shopping center as Geno’s. I decided to take a shower and spare the barber the funk I had gathered on my body. It would be unkind of me to go like this. I had a peculiar smell.
After a shower and some clean clothes, I remembered to write a note to get the necessary supplies to change the oil in the Bug. On the back of a receipt I found on the counter I scribbled haircut, oil, filter and beer, just to be thorough.
The Bug started right away again and that put me in a pretty good mood. I was thinking that things might be looking up for me. I was feeling hopeful. The clear mountain air was doing wonders for my positivity. I was not used to it. I had always been a downer. I had always thought the cynical nature was part of my charm. In the recent past, it began to get tiresome. It was exhausting to always be so negative. I felt like I had to play the role and couldn’t get away from it. But out here, I felt free.
The little car sped through the streets. It was a new experience to be that low to the ground. The windows were down and I had the radio turned up to the local rock ’n roll station. I felt like a teenager again. I had fresh energy and a boundless smile.
“You the fella staying at the Gurney’s house?” The lady asked as I walked in. I was taken back for a moment.
“Uh, yes, I am. Word gets around quick, huh?” I said with a smile.
“It’s not that big of a town. It’s difficult to remain anonymous around here for long. Besides, most of the tourists stay over by the university. You sorta stick out over here.” She had a nervous habit of brushing her hair out of her face as she talked. It was distracting and endearing at the same time.
She introduced herself as Sarah Mae, with a soft, mellow voice, just a hint of a squeak. She was uniquely beautiful. I immediately noticed her tattooed sleeve. It was a floral menagerie with a crossed anchor and straight razor as the centerpiece on her bicep. It was magnificently tough. She had short, crimson hair and small rectangular glasses perched on her petite nose. She wore bright red lipstick, the color right out of a vintage Hollywood set. Her earrings were bold, and dangly. Sarah was the Molly Ringwold for the digital age.
“So, what can I do for ya?” She was direct.
“I don’t know. It’s been awhile.”
“I can tell. Your fades are all gone,” she said as her fingers worked themselves through my hair.
“I guess, just clean it up a bit. I like it a little long, but just not this shaggy.”
We spoke sparingly as she cut my hair. I’ve never been much of talker with strangers. Small talk is downright painful to me. I’d prefer a barber focus on cutting my hair and getting me out of there. Social situations usually make me uncomfortable.
She washed my hair and then offered to put some product in it, but I declined. I left my old Giants ball cap sitting on the passenger seat. This wasn’t spoken of, I didn’t want to offend her by covering up her work. Perhaps I was reading too much into it. I had a tendency to do that.
“Well, it was nice meeting you, Q. If that is your real name?” I blushed.
“Nice, meeting you, too, Sarah.”
“I’ll see you around.”
“Definitely. I think I’ll be here for a bit.”
I stopped by the auto store and back to Geno’s for that beer. I couldn’t forget that. I was going to need some lubrication to keep the inspiration going. The rest of the day was filled with thoughts of Sarah. It felt good to have a woman on my mind again. It had been awhile.