The limousine already swam away from the gas pump and tried etching its path to finally leave the service station. Due to the sudden influx of activity, getting out wasn’t such an easy task; whether one or two hands on the wheel. Playing it safe, Dee made slow movements, and opted to drive all the way around the mostly windowed freestanding building.
Not speaking, Jack and Geenie let it stay silent in case their driver needed all his concentration skills at this point. They were already marooned once so to speak; waiting for their ride to Eugene. It would be worse to have to wait another time as well. Besides, they were already accustomed to this chauffeur who may be a little long on words, but at least he seemed to be good natured and have equal intentions. He seemed to have an easy personality to get along with, even if Jack would say he was looking out for Geenie’s sake rather than his own preferences.
As the elongated vehicle made a wide turn around the building, the passengers stared inside. Geenie was curious about whatever this breakfast station or eatery looked like where she at her decent eggs; in portion and taste. The same can be said about Jack since both had their necks slightly crooked to track the insides of the service station’s insides; but in addition, he was also hoping to get a chance glimpse at the ‘mama sita’ Dee referred to earlier – more from sheer curiosity than any intentional staring or ogling. No luck for either of them, on any account.
The vehicle finally makes it out, and it slowly drifts out and away from the freeway. This time moving onto an access road to stay on some normal style streets best as possible. As soon as the danger was cleared, Dee went back into conversation – hoping to help keep the situation light and friendly to the best of his skills.
“So your breakfast didn’t decide to get revenge on you, Geenie?” He looked up from the moment of silence following his words. She broke from her ‘nowhere’ gaze and looked to the rear view mirror; finding Dee’s eyes looking towards her direction from the reflection.
“Oh. Um… What’s that supposed to mean?”
He smiled and looked back out towards the street he was driving the limo on. “Sorry, sorry. I just mean I hoped the food was ok for you.”
Realizing her mind must have been somewhere else entirely, she smiles out of a twinge of nervousness for her lack of understanding at first. “Oh.” Her voice shifting from any nervousness to a more kindly feel, “Yes. It was a lovely thing for you to do. Thank yo,u, very much.”
Not expecting such gratitude, Dee is just shy of embarrassment. He can’t even look her way due to a warm bristling on the back of his neck. “Wow. Gee, thanks. Sorry, that must sound kind of hokey, right?” Changing his voice to sound like some sort of country bumpkin as a joke, “Jeppers, thanks miss. Aw shucks.”
He laughs at himself and feels them finding humor in it too. He expounds on her comment as if he was explaining the mechanics of a knuckleball. “Well, to be honest… I just wanted to get something. I felt bad for as long as you guys must have been waiting. And… Well I wanted to get something for you, but I didn’t even know what you guys liked,” Dropping the voice again, “Since I mean I just met you two and everything, so there was no way of knowing.”
Dee lets go of the steering wheel for a moment, and lets the alignment correct after making a turn. He takes this opportunity to snag another bite of his much cooler burrito – most likely a few average sized bites left. Chewing quickly, it’s obvious he had more to say. Besides, neither of his passengers seemed to be cutting him off verbally. “So I just figured pretty much everyone likes eggs – I know some don’t, but it’s nobody that I know.” Letting his voice growl in that seemingly comedic way, “And hey, the most acceptable way for eggs is scrambled. So I just went two plus two and went for it.”
Jack felt somewhat more relaxed; in the sense he could loosen the suspicious feeling towards Dee. It was nothing personal, but Jack’s training as a reporter and as a guy who believed in self preservation – it was always best to be objective or skeptical before easing up. With the kind of way things were going recently, it’s more than understandable for a person to see his point. When it came to Dee, however, Maybe it could be called a ‘vibe’ by some to explain getting a feeling which can’t be explained but just known somehow. “It really is appreciated. I didn’t mean to leak my breakfast all over as my form of gratitude. Now I caused your fancy limo to reek of eggs, which I’m sorry for.” He tried to play it off a little cool but meaning the words more than going through the motions.
“That is quite all right, Jack. Don’t worry about my feelings as far as that’s concerned. You know? Listen, it’s just part of the job – and comes with the territory.” Dropping his voice to say more, “Besides… A lot worse have landed on that floor that needed cleaned up by me. And that stuff was way worse than eggs.” He laughs and tries continuing the thought… “In fact, It’s possible a couple of times it was eggs in it too, if you catch my drift.”
He tried to hide a smile, but it was impossible. Jack twisted his head to one side and drew his lips tight, but his mouth wouldn’t close. It half sounded like a sneeze, then evolved to a part laugh concealed in a chuckle. “Yeah. I bet you have, Dee.”
The limo driver smiled wide and laughed back, but Geenie just wrinkled her nose a little and curled one thumb around her ear – feeling a bit vulnerable in how to react. This sort of thing was not along the lines of her sense of humor at all.
“I appreciate you not minding, Dee.” Now was as good of time as any to feel out the situation. “Geenie and I didn’t mean to bring you all the way out here in the first place. We just had some issues and… Well, kind of at your mercy.”
“Relax, it’s no problem at all. Actually, you kind of actually did me a big favor in your own way. I was practically sitting around doing nothing. I mean, I was on call – but it was the crummiest part of the day, whenever I’m ever on there at least. People at that hour are either doing the ‘walk of shame’ – or else They’re generally in a- um, crummy sort of mood let’s say, you know?” He makes a face by raising both eyebrows a second, knowing a stronger word was implied. “ It’s either a night of something that didn’t go well. Or a hangover, or losing cash. Or generally people who just aren’t morning kind of folks.”
Turning his head backwards a second similar to a dad checking up on his daughter in the back seat with a boy, “So just to ask, where are you folks from anyway?”
Immediately on the defense, Jack brings one leg over the other and lifts his left hand – using the back of it to trace across part of the seat’s roundness at head level. “Well… It’s really not that important.”
“Oh, I’m sorry. That’s totally one against me. Usually people are just bursting at the seams to talk all about where they hail from. Just a force of habit from me, really.” Cracking a quick joke, “Trying to keep the paper trail low, aye?”
Hiding a wince behind and exhaling of breath, Jack felt a little put upon. Maybe Dee was merely being cordial, but defenses rose up again. One never knows. “Oh, well can we say it’s a bit more like… Spontaneity?” As he said it, his left hand crept over.
At this moment, Geenie was feeling equal parts contented and lulled. The food in her system made her a little more comfortable and restful from digesting the first food which comforted her a little. Scrambled eggs were something she didn’t often eat, but she liked them in the same way students in college get warm thoughts from home when getting a warm meal the first trip back from so many weeks away. The missing and longing of family and free eats. In addition to that feeling, the humming and whirring of the vehicle were enough to make her relaxed and lackadaisical. She could hear a conversation but just not paying intent attention. Just as having a mind elsewhere during a lecture.
While Geenie was in this state, suddenly her attention was grabbed – almost as much literal as figurative. Jack’s hand in motion suddenly wrapped around her arm; just shy of her shoulder. As the limo traveled over a less than smooth patch of road, Jack pulled her in a little closer with a near suave technique while continuing the statement.
“If you couldn’t tell, things haven’t exactly been going as planned.” Taking a foot and pushing on his duffel bag, he causes it to make a sound of a leather covered pillow hitting against something – the air expels from the bag and the jostling causes the zippers to slap and create a metallic sound like ‘clip clip clip’ while trying to settle. “Let’s just say we decided to try to salvage whatever time we have left here.” Smiling in the direction of the driver up front with just one corner of his mouth to not oversell it.
Without words, Geenie looks up. The sideways hug of Jack scrunched her face more into his shirt. She wasn’t taking any issue with anything he said, but hoped he wouldn’t elaborate very much either. Geenie decided she might as well trust Jack – just as she had so far. She may not follow him into the depths of humanity, but for now it was ok to be along for the ride as far as Geenie was concerned. This was kind of a moment of escapism for her. She hoped things would start getting better, since it always seemed bad luck to her thinking nothing could get worse. Geenie would never be confused with Pollyanna in the ‘make lemonade out of the bitterest lemons’ way, but she liked making the most of any situation. Turning towards their driver and pulling her hair back again to make better eye contact, Geenie smiled a little bit. A smile a bit more sincere than Jack – since hers was more genuine.
The limousine driver had to do a double take. He was a little surprised about it, then a face of getting the picture. Flipping looks at them between the rear view mirror and then twisting his head, “Oh yeah, no kidding? That’s fantastic.” Trying to drive and stay casual, “Any sort of special occasion or?” Stopping at a light, he looked back towards them.
Geenie shook her head from within Jack’s grip and spoke as loud as anyone heard so far, “No. Nothing but just-” Checking back towards Jack, “Just an outing.”
Sensing he won’t get socked in the jaw, Jack lets her get a little closer by leaning back somewhat and drawing her in just a little bit more. “She’s not really the traditional type, and the same goes for me,” Keeping an almost monotone phrasing rather than gloating. “We don’t like to be held to so many boundaries. It gets a little complicated hashing over it all, if you don’t mind.” Hoping it was enough of a hint for Dee to stay out of their personal space.
Dee hit the gas, “Loud and clear. I read you I mean, man.” Laughing out, “Man and madam.” He smiled wide and pointed in a general way, letting his finger wag in a playful way. “You know, I guess I knew it, yeah. But you two kind of…” Driving for a pensive moment, Dee gathered his thoughts. “You guys just had a rough patch I guess with. Well, you know. The travel arrangements I take it.”
Using his face to exaggerate some sort of relationship difficulty, Jack firmed up his lips and turned his head ever so slightly to the right. Something to indicate he doesn’t want any additional trouble from this female in his grasp. “I… Yeah, well…” Jack cocks his head towards Geenie and smiles in a way to infer there’s some secret which Dee isn’t privy to. “I just hope to look ahead.”
“Me too,” which came from Geenie as she was tired of this conversation.
The limo driver was a professional, and sensed there was probably something bubbling which should not erupt. He let go of prying, and decided to praise them. “It’s totally fine. I just wanted to say you two make a pretty good couple. My congrats.”
He took the opportunity to finish the very last bit of his super deluxe breakfast burrito. It was little more than just the end piece, a twisted flour cap of his earlier goodness. He took the wrapper and put it to his mouth, letting the thin paper wrapper crinkle as loudly as it wanted to. With a press of his ring finger, Dee dislodged this piece and tipped his head back as in so many tv shows when people take pills and embellish the fact they are using no water to wash the medication down.
Keeping his eyes forward, Dee consumes the last of his meal. It was a sizable chunk but there was no other way to go about it. In the world of breakfast burrito enthusiasts, this is just the way it’s done. He would love to have decorum, but this couldn’t be achieved at the moment. He opened his jaw wider to made sure he could fully crush the meal, since this fresh tortilla was so chewy. It looked like a captain of empire chomping on a cigar the way Dee let his mouth move. It was a little dry, but he still managed to swallow it all – and just in time. He had something to say.
“Welcome to the Emerald City!”
“Come again?” While Jack asked, Geenie managed herself upright and separated herself from him.
“Eugene, Oregon. The Emerald City, Emerald Valley, Emerald Empire… It’s just what it’s called. All the green I suppose, right?”
Not knowing if a rhetorical statement, Jack let his eyebrows raise gently then takes a peek outside. All the world was green – at least as far as he could see in the distance.
“So what do you guys plan on taking in while here? I used to do a lot of touristy things here…“ Letting the volume of his voice drop again to sound sarcastic towards himself, “Since there are some pretty fun bars to hang out in here, and a poker house too if either of you like that sort of thing.” Trying to think quick on his feet, “I hope I didn’t offend you with those things – I should have asked first.”
“Don’t worry about that sort of thing,” stepped in Geenie. “I don’t think Jack minds at all, but I think it’s sweet of you for worrying on our behalf.”
Slightly embarrassed, “Thank you very much, Geenie.” He takes a quick swipe over the top of his head before putting both hands on the wheel. “This place is kind of small, but it has a LOT of alcohol. I mean in the top ten attractions here, there’s like three wineries in the fray. And this place is just forty square miles. It’s pretty densely packed in that way,” laughing again to himself. “Sorry. I guess the proper question is what you’d like to do.” Lifting his head to look in the mirror again, “Geenie?”
“I don’t know…” She smiles shyly as if the teacher called on her and she didn’t know the right answer to the question on the chalkboard. “I guess just walking around. Looking at stuff.”
“Well… If you’re just ‘looking’ there’s a really big attraction called Studio West. It’s glassblowing. It’s, you know, done on sight and a gallery. All that stuff. But I don’t have that kind of scratch.” Easing off the gas to deal with traffic and road conditions, “And there’s this antiques place. It’s pretty popular too. But it’s got a funny name.” Looking back towards Geenie, “It’s called Pewter Rabbit.”
Much to Jack’s surprised, Geenie laughed at it. “That’s so CUTE. I used to love that book for some reason.” Looking more towards her travel companion, “Didn’t you love that book when you were a kid also, Jack?”
Losing out to hiding a smile, “It was alright I guess. I know I read it but wasn’t sure how much I enjoyed it. I was more a Pokey the Little Puppy kind of guy myself.” Laughing at what depths it seems he sunk, “How about for you, Dee?”
“Who, me?” He laughs also. “You’ll hate me for it. I don’t want to tell you.” This is the first time their driver wanted to stop talking.
“Come on… How could we hate you?” Her voice had a sad tilt to it, thinking she caused some sort of problem.
“No, it’s just silly. Me being here and saying.”
“It’s not a kid book or something,” getting more curious by the moment – though Jack was not as concerned to know. She continued, “It’s a kid book right?”
“Yeah… It is.” He sounded defeated.
“Nobody will judge.” She looks up and gives Robinson a pat. “Right Jack?”
“It’s totally fine with me. Even without Geenie making me, I would have anyway.” He smiles a little at her, slightly surprised she decided to play along.
Dee laughs and takes his silly tone again. “Gosh, you guys really know how to wear a man down, you know it.” Looking out the side mirror to avoid eye contact, he practically talks loudly to himself as a distraction. “How did we even get on this topic?”
“Come on, Dee…” Adding, “Pleeeeaassee?” Despite all the signs Geenie has presented, she now shows she can be a girl. One of those types of girls. She did sound genuine, but it seems Geenie had a bag of her own tricks and feminine wiles, despite looking aloof to the ways of men.
“Oh brother… You didn’t have to go that far. I was going to tell you anyway. Now that I built it up it might just ruin it all anyway.”
Raising his hand up from the steering wheel to stop the barrage of Geenie, “Just wait – wait. I was going to tell you.” Underneath a smile, “Dang. Persuasive.” He showed his teeth and grinned wider. “I like that.” His downbeat demeanor seemed to dissipate from the sweetness of Geenie. “I guess it’s just weird about my current employment and all…” Gritting his teeth, Dee breaths through them in a supposed funny gesture. “Fine, here you have it.” With a hint of embarrassment, “It was called Cars and Trucks and Things That Go…”
“What was that? Was it a boy book so I don’ remember it?”
“Possibly,” with a hint in his voice to show he thought he would have been made fun of by now. “The title’s a little bit self explanatory.” Defending, “It was a Richard Scarry book, but I think it wasn’t really a girl kind of thing maybe. You know. But he drew all those animals like people. Pigs and stuff. And, why am I getting into this, but he drew that Lowly Worm character guy.”
Her voice sounded overly joyous from a happy but not loud tone. “You mean that worm guy that wore the Robin Hood hat?”
Nodding his head and grinning again, “Yeap. That’s the one.” Wandering slightly off the path with his words, “I remember him, but he wasn’t really my favorite- but you know, I did kind of get a little kick out of seeing him in the books; when he’d hide somewhere or all that, if you remember.”
“Sort of, yeah. I thought he was so cute though…”
Sitting back, Jack didn’t feel a need to interject. He was having enough fun looking at Geenie get interested in something. As even keel as she seemed at her present age, she certainly must have experienced a lot of happiness when younger.
“…A lot of the books had him on the front or where you can put your name in the book. Maybe my mom still has some packed away.”
“That’s pretty cool. I think all of my stuff got away,” while looking upwards, not into the rear view but trying to talk backwards in a strange gesture. “I had a lot of those books, but I liked the animals since they looked like people basically and and just had those expressions. I liked those kitty people and the pig ones. Those kitty people faces cracked me up even though I was never really much of a cat kind of guy.”
“I think I remember those kitties were farmers and firemen or something. Gosh, it’s been so long and I still remember a little kitty cat on a tractor in a straw hat or holding a pail. They were so cute.” She gave extra emphasis on explaining this cuteness; which was cute all in its own way.
“Well, here’s the thing. I was never much of a reader type of kid. Not much then, and not a whole lot not- but sometimes. Anyway, I was more into it for the pictures. And that’s why I was so into that book. Because Cars and Trucks and Things That Go was a big book. It was just wide, and all thise stuff was going on in it. So I’d be able to stare and stare and kind of thought about my own stories even though there was stuff right on the pages.” Laughing with a lower voice, “I just sort of hated to read it and just made it up on my own anyway.” He suddenly changed gears, “Whoops!”
Dee jerked the wheel to the right suddenly, and they skidded in an audible way – tires crying and gripping as the vehicle felt at a point it was going completely sideways. It was enough to make Geenie unexpectedly cry out. She sounded like a girl who came face to face with a frog in a Mark Twain story. Not thinking and only reacting, she gripped with her hand as tightly as she could. As it happened, her hand managed to grip and squeeze Jack’s. His arm went stiff and he pulled himself toward the seat; digging in and trying to hold Geenie in place with the pose.
“Hoo baby, I’m sorry.” Dee rubbed his head with his left hand as if checking for sweat. “I had no idea until the last second. It was a little patch of ice, golly gee.” Slowing the limo to an overly cautious crawl, he kept both eyes on the road. “Sometimes you just a little patch of ice. That’s nothing compared to black ice though,” Dropping his voice in a more serious than funny way, “But I hope you guys never have to feel what hitting a patch of that stuff is like.”
The limo came to a complete halt at a worn stop sign and Jack felt silent long enough. “Not that I’m holding a grudge, but all would be forgiven if you can find a place to get some clothes and it wouldn’t hurt being near someplace to get some food.”
“Hmmm….” It wasn’t the meaning of life, but Dee seemed pensive while he spent a bit longer than needed at the stop sign. Gently easing the gas pedal, “For the clothes, new or second hand?”
“It all depends what she wants,” while Jack pivots and looks at Geenie. “So?”
“I don’t know-” She stops herself; noticing she didn’t stop gripping Jack’s hand yet. Secretly letting it slip out without the driver being any the wiser, “I used to check out second hand and vintage. That’s fine.”
“All I needed to know.” Dee cranked the wheel to the left. Hand over hand, the steering column reverberated a bit while he slowly made a wide left turn with nobody in his path.
The scenery had more of a main street feel, which caused Geenie to slide all the way over to the left hand side to get a better look at it all. Jack kicked back wand watched through the windshield much the same as if he was driving, but also glanced over to see how interested Geenie was in the atmosphere just outside their vehicle. She liked to hide her smile, but it shouldn’t be that way from how Jack saw it.
People were sparse but a few moved around, and most of the shops showed signs of stirring even if not bustling with clientèle. The limousine maneuvered until it found an alleyway which seemed wide enough for the vehicle to fit in but not so much the scary type as seen in so many big cities. The limo eased in and hit an icy puddle; causing equal parts water splashing and ice cracking.
“Just hold on a sec,” as Dee brings it to a complete stop. He pulls hard on the shifter and the limousine complains, but it parks with a small lurch and bounce as it finally complies with the driver. Dee comes around to the and opens the door slightly more defensive this time while jokingly exclaiming, “End of the line.” He stands just beyond the door to watch them exit.
Jack tried to let Geenie out first, but she didn’t recognize his chivalry. He got out and filed past Jack. There wasn’t the same issues exiting as entering earlier. Geenie slipped out fairly easily, ignoring the slightly outstretched hand of Dee and had a little bit of a bounce once standing upright; adjusting to the ground and crisp breeze in the air.
“Hopefully this is just what you two wanted.” He pulls a hand out from a pocket and gestured a semi circle, “Just around there is just what you want. But if you want to walk around, that’s just fine too.
The breeze came through the alley and Jack turned his back instinctively while Geenie backs towards the wall to hopefully sidestep the current entirely.
“I can just wait it out here and park if you’d like. It’s no problem.” Laughing, “I’m on the clock but not your, you know?”
He takes a courteous moment before responding to the driver. “We’ll probably be ok for the moment. It’s a nice offer, but I don’t know how long we’ll be out shopping.”
“I hear that.” He opens his jacket a small bit, “Well…” He pulls a card out from inside the sports coat. This is me. And my private number’s on the back. No need for dispatch or any of that nonsense.” He looks off to the side as if his boss was over Jack’s shoulder as an imaginary apparition. “I forget if there’s a place to stay around here, but I can cut you a deal on accommodations; whatever you need.”
Jack pockets the card after inspecting the front and back of it. “Thanks. You never know, right?” He smiles, knowing it’s always good to have a backup plan – especially with transportation.
“Hey, can I ask something?” Dee’s voice was quieter but not in his joking lilt as usual.
“I suppose so.” Smiling again, “You can ask anything. You know the rest.”
“Oh yeah…” Smiling wider. “…I sure do. Ask it all but not answer all. Did I get it?”
He gets the answer with a half nod and slight lift of Jack’s eyebrows.
“So anyway…” Dee leans in a little more. “I think Geenie’s pretty cool. You know?”
“She is. Yeah, I like her too.” His grin comes through a closed mouth – unsure if from happiness or just waiting for the driver to finish his statement.
“Well of course you’ve gotta like her. I mean, you-” Dee rubs his head again and then makes a small spinning motion with his finger. “But you know earlier…?”
“I may. Which part?”
“Not to bring it up from a bad place, but…” Making a gesture with both hands, nervously thinking. “You were talking about you guys being forward thinking. Was that in a ‘progressive’ kind of way or more in the ‘open‘ sense?”
Slapping the left side of Dee’s coat with his right hand, it makes a audible slap – filtered through the material.
“Thanks again, Dee.”