from the short novel
THE ROAD PRINCESS & ETERNITY
Come dawn, after another night without sleep, the road princess was on the road again ~ afoot, stiff, thirsty, hungry.
Plump red pears sitting like crowns on cacti growing along side the dirt road, beckoned her blade. She cut off one of the little fruits ~ bit into it. It was sweet and juicy. She ate several.
At the bottom of the canyon she came across a creek. She dunked her head into the cold bubbling water ~ and drank. Although she was already somewhat chilled from her long night in the open air, she discarded her clothes and nimbly stepped in ~ submerged herself in a nature sculptured tub of rock and sand. The water was agonizingly cold, and a moment later, blissfully refreshing.
She noticed a crawdad, its beady little eyes sticking up out of the water, spying on her. With a deft hand she picked up a rock and, quick as a bullet, smashed in the crawdad’s head. She broke apart with her teeth the little lobster-clawed carcass and ate the mouthful of raw meat within.
Ruthie stepped out of the tub. She sparkled like a flower with morning dew ~ and covered with goose bumps. The creamy-white shadow of a tiny bikini accented her summer tan. She shivered. If a vehicle had passed at this time, the occupants, if lucky enough to be glancing in the right direction, would have glimpsed a completely revealed piece of ~ of living grace. But no vehicle passed. Ruthie donned her clothes and footwear, combed her fingers through the long wet strands of her hair. Revived and reckless and ready to die, the young lioness of the road hit the road with a familiar bounce in her step ~ and with droplets of water evaporating on her naked belly.
Three hours later her feet were dragging. Her heart was pounding. She was dripping, instead of with creek water, with sweat. Lizards scampered into the brush along the beer-can strewn roadside as she passed. Dust arose in little puffs of woe behind her heels.
The road was now ascending without respite ~ mile after mile. The gravitational pull was not nice. The lack of shade was not nice either. The sun was so hot that poor sojourner Ruthie felt as if she were ploddding along beneath 50 electric blankets ~ turned on ~ high!
How come there were no cars on this road? And where was this road taking her? She shuffled around a bend in it. Hoping to see it level out, she saw instead the ribbon of dirt curling its way up the canyon wall for at least another steep mile. Ruthie’s heart sank. Yet her feet kept plodding forward. She was going to walk until she died.
Then she heard a chorus of humming. She stopped in her tracks. Her heart, beating hard, was actually keeping beat with the humming. Or was the humming keeping beat with her heart? At any rate, what seemed like a hundred baritone voices were humming what sounded like an old Civil War tune. Where was the humming coming from? Ruthie looked around. She saw nobody. So she kept walking. But the humming wouldn’t quit. So she stopped again. And listened. It was definitely an old Civil War tune.
If you recall, kind and sympathetic reader, Ruthie had had only a couple winks of sleep for many days and many nights ~ six days and six nights to be exact. Physically, being young and strong, she was still, more or less, sound. But mentally, she was long gone and beyond that level of normal day-to-day functioning of which we, who find nightly rejuvenation via sleep, are so familiar. Mentally, you might say, she had sky-rocketed off the launching pad of an uninvited, undeniable, unmerciful exhaustion, into other, less familiar realms. Now, in other words, she was nuts. But she didn’t know this. The humming was as real as could be to her, and the lizards that had been scampering into the brush and hiding as she walked by, were now lined up, she thought, on either side of the road, doing push-ups, and humming!
Ruthie was dumbfounded.
Yet she smiled fondly at the prehistoric little bygones who she thought were there but weren’t, and who were honoring her with what she thought was such a fine performance ~ and she continued to drag her feet up the long long road.
With an endless row of unreal lizards to the left of her, and an endless row of unreal lizards to the right of her, all humming in brilliant chorus, Ruthie cried and smiled like rain and sunshine at the same time ~ with exhaustion, pain, joy ~ as she trudged along. And the enchanting beauty of her inner spirit brightened the ripe femininity in her face to such an acute degree, that she was beautiful as a woman could be, but nobody was there to see. And pretty soon, the lizards were singing:
comes marching into Heaven
God and his angels
will welcome her then
She felt rather foolish, even blushed, and the song was terribly corny, but she couldn’t help but rain and shine with a kind of exultation. With these little baritoning ghosts of her mind to either side of her, she felt very humble and very proud. In fact, she experienced every edifying emotion there is to feel under the sun, as they sang:
will cheer, her dead brother
will shout ~
they will all turn out ~ “
And she even burst out with laughter, titillatingly amused, when her multitudinous entourage trumpeted:
“And we’ll all
feel gay when Ruthie comes
The road princess straightened her shoulders and picked up her pace, as hundreds of reptilian figments of her sleep-starved, sun-stricken imagination, doing push-ups to either side of her, hummed some more and repeated again and again their song of glory to her. She was elated. She was sanctified. She was full-blown nuts ~ and wiped the sweat and the dust off her brow with her slender arm and trudged on.
She reached another bend in the ascending road ~ saw the ribbon of dirt continue its ascent up and around a distant, broad-faced bluff.
“Jesus,” she moaned ~ and trudged onward.
The lizards, as Ruthie passed, clamped their jaws and began to scamper into the brush alongside the road again, just like normal lizards do. Ruthie stopped, blinked, scratched her head. The silence was mortifying. All she could hear was her heart beat. She turned around, backtracked around the bend she had just traversed, peered down the road. Nothing ~ nothing but a mini-Grand Canyon and an empty road climbing up out of it.
“Am I going nuts? Or what?” mumbled Ruthie. She turned around and continued onward ~ up up up the long dirt road.