Countdown Story #2: Winchester, VA

As I push Little Buddy down a smooth Winchester sidewalk, I come across a woman seated on a curb. She’s dressed in all black and is carrying a mini-AC unit still in the box. Arctic Air. I say hello, and we get to chatting. Her name is Kitty. She’s just returned from Walmart and is waiting for the bus. She asks about the Walk USA sign on Little Buddy’s front hatch and I tell her what I’m up to.

“I’ve been to Los Angeles, too,” she says. “It’s too bad they don’t have good marijuana here like they do out there.” 

A yellow alien head is pinned to the front of her ball cap. She fidgets with her fanny pack then looks at a small keychain clock that hangs from a belt loop.  

“You know, a few weeks back not far from here a man got jumped by a cop because he smelled like weed,” she says. “The man was Black and the cop was white. Guaranteed they wouldn’t have done a white man like that.” 

She checks the clock again. 

“Does anyone ever bother you out here?” Kitty asks. “I heard about a dentist in Pittsburgh who got out of his car and was hit over the head with a hammer. Didn’t even have any money on him.” 

She looks at the time again. Asks where home is.

“One time my niece was swimming in the ocean in North Carolina and a lifeguard had to save her in knee-deep water because a tiger shark was coming straight for her,” she says. “The world is really something, isn’t it? I mean, san you believe it? A tiger shark!”

She peeks at her clock again. Then asks about Little Buddy. I tell her about the countless flats back in the desert and the multiple tire changes since then. I show her the splits down the solid middle of both front wheels.

“I hope he’s got at least a couple hundred more miles in him,” I say.

“Oh, don’t worry,” she says. “He’ll be fine.”

Kitty takes another looks at the clock. Leans over and looks up the road. 

“So, are you rich?” she asks—a question I’ve heard a few times. But before I can answer, “Did you go to college? What did you study? Where do you sleep out here?”

She then asks if I have a job and I tell her I’m a writer. My response perks her up.

“Oh yeah? me too!” she says. “Gosh, I love writing. But how do you get people to buy your stuff? I write a lot of poetry. My best stuff comes out when I’m angry.”

Another look at the clock at her waist. 

“Writing is how I get things off my chest,” she says. “I write my angry poetry then put it online. If it gets folks all stirred up, I take it down. But it still makes me feel better.” 

Kitty looks at my legs. Her brows raise over her sunglasses as she puts a hand over her mouth. 

“You really must be strong to be able to do this long walk of yours,” she says. “I mean, geez. Your calves look like they are going to explode. Do they hurt?” 

The clock again.

“Tom, my bus is going to be here any minute,” she says. “You’d probably should get going.”

I ask if I can first take her photo.

“Sure,” she says, and she fixes her alien hat as I frame her on my phone. “Now, take another one. And hey—make sure you protect yourself from this sun, will ya? I try to make it a rule not to be outside between ten and two.”

I look at my watch. It’s 11:32. She looks at me and shrugs. I thank her for the chat as the braking bus approaches. 

“Before you leave, let me pass along a small piece of advice,” Kitty says. “Never forget that sometimes it’s OK to break your own rules.”

Then she stands up, looks at her clock, gives me a little wave, and steps up onto the bus. 

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