I’m in my parents’ kitchen around midday, after one late-nighter too many. My father walks in from the garage where he is working on his VW Bug with my brother.
“Have you ever thought about joining the military?”
I nearly spit out my coffee.
“Dad, do you really think your war-hating, defiant daughter would last longer than five minutes in the military?”
The phone rings, saving me from my father. Mom says,
“Kathy, Thomas is on the phone.”
“Hey Kathy, do you want to go see the Grateful Dead in
It sounds much better than joining the military.
I leave a note on the kitchen table for my parents:
“Hi Mom and Dad,
By the time you read this I’ll be traveling on a Greyhound
Bus to California to see the Grateful Dead. Don’t worry about
me. I have $188.00 and a sleeping bag.
Love, Kathy”
I’m willing to bet a lot of money my parents will bemoan
my inadvertent birth at length after reading my letter. Either
that, or they’ll rejoice that I’m out of their hair.
Thomas and I are well settled on the Greyhound bus.
We’re passing through Amarillo, Texas, weaving hundreds
of colorful embroidery bracelets that we hope to sell at the
Grateful Dead show in Ventura, California. We’ll have a
lot of competition among the arts-and-crafts vendors that
invariably fill the parking lot.
Thomas is weaving bracelets in a frenzy. “The Battle of
Chickamauga was the first battle in Georgia, in September
1863. The Confederates won. There were 18,454
Confederate casualties and 16,170 Union losses. It was the
second-highest loss after Gettysburg.”
There are a few moments of silence. Then Thomas
“There were a hundred and twenty generals at Gettysburg,
and nine of them were killed. Nine. That’s a lot. Pickett’s
Charge had around twenty thousand Confederate soldiers,
but Gaines’ Mill had more than fifty thousand Confederate
I weave bracelets like nobody’s business. “If I was a soldier,
I would run away. I would run away and hide behind a big
log. If I had Elmer’s glue, I would glue leaves all over my
body and lie still, in disguise.”
“They didn’t make Elmer’s glue back then.”
“Well, they made some kind of adhesive. It may not have
dried clear, but I would make sure I had a bottle for my
clever leaf disguise.”
Thomas jumps up. “Oh my God, look at that row of
cars with their hoods sticking in the ground.” We drop our
bracelets, laughing our heads off.
“What do you reckon that’s for? What’s the point?”
I conclude it’s a modern-day junkyard. They’re making
good use of the space.
We’ll later learn that we were driving by Cadillac Ranch, an
art installation featuring a row of brightly colored Cadillacs,
their hoods pushed into the sand with their trunks in the
air. Junk or art, it’s the most interesting thing we’ve seen for
hundreds of miles.
Back to weaving.
Thomas says, “When we each get married, we’ll still be
best friends, no matter what.”
I think about marriage. It’s a distant notion. “Of course
we will. Even if we hate each other’s spouses, we’ll always be best friends.