26 Bones (in the human foot)

5 Apr

I’d promised my 13 year old son Devon that we’d take a long roadside hike. The day finally came. We were going to hike for two days, a 30-mile trek to Milford, Pennsylvania.

The day before we were to leave I drove out along our route and put $20 down on a $40 roadside motel room. Devon wanted to sleep in an abandoned building by the side of the road. I couldn’t shake a vision of a police officer shining a flashlight in my eyes, asking me what the hell I was doing bunking down with a teenager. So, a motel it was, although Ann gave me grief over “wasting” money. It’s amazing sometimes, the lack of identification Ann has with what I’m trying to do. The hike is an opportunity to create an experience for Devon and me that has nothing to do with society’s institutions and expectations. Most people thought we were crazy not to walk the Appalachian Trail, something of that nature. Devon and I were more interested in life along the road; the detritus, the sprawl, the weird houses. Without Ann’s blessing we set off at first light.

Ten minutes into the hike Devon and I both laughed at each other – we were feeling a little tired after the first quarter mile. It was a Saturday and the traffic was light. As we walked on, we heard a rooster crow as it perched on a barnyard fence; investigated a hermit’s hut by the lake, stopped in a deli for Gatorade. We were walking along roads I’ve driven numerous times, but never experienced with all my senses.

The hours passed and the miles stacked up. I was impressed that Devon had no desire to turn back. We endured less insults than I’d expected, just one person hollering out of his truck window, “Get out of America, hobos!”

By early evening we were really dragging. We were cracking jokes, but Devon was slowing down to a crawl, grabbing hold of my shoulder so my forward motion would pull him along. I gave us nicknames. He was “Clutch” and I was “The Creeper.”

With two miles to go a car stopped across the road – Janet, Ann’s friend, offering us a ride. We hopped in and a minute later we were at our motel. We painfully climbed out of the car, our muscles already cramping up.

The motel room TV only got one channel, HBO. Devon and I watched the end of Drumline and then Chris Rock’s Head of State. Devon cracked up when I said the final confrontation between the two opposing drumlines, when one team began playing on their rival’s drum kits was, “Great, like homosexual rape.”

The next morning I’m the one that kills off the second day of the hike.  I could feel every bone in both feet.

Devon and I sat on a bench in the sun. I read Kaffir Boy and he read The Stand as we waited for Ann to pick us up.

(2004)

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