Twenty two year old Bill Williams dropped off the steps of the Semi Tractor with a grunt. The packed Sea Bag he held in his hands was heavy. When he lifted and carried it his muscles bunched and stretched his faded and ratty looking T-Shirt. The weight made him hit the ground harder than he anticipated. He felt the jolt in his feet and knee joints. Before he closed the door Bill turned back and looked up into the truck cab. He smiled up at the driver then said, "Thanks again for the lift. You really didn't have to drive me out here from the interstate but I am glad you did. I sure wasn't looking forward to walking all the way back here especially carrying this damn heavy bag.
"If you're ever in the area again and need something look me up. Hell look me up anyway. I'd like to see ya again. I've enjoyed riding with you this morning. I plan to be here at the junction for quite a while and I owe you." Bill could barely see the head of the driver from where he was standing. He still couldn't believe someone as beautiful and small as Suzie was a truck driver. She couldn't be over five feet two or three inches tall. Dripping wet he bet she didn't weigh a hundred pounds. He also couldn't believe she would pick him up and offer him a ride like she had. Most people who saw him eyed him warily and moved carefully away.
Bill looked rough. Hell, he looked downright scary. He had spent the last four years in the Navy. When he got out instead of spending money flying home or buying a car like many did he decided to hitch hike his way across the country to his hometown. Bill saved a lot of his pay while he was in the service so he could have afforded either option. In his mind there just was no reason to hurry home and he was too cheap to purchase a ticket so he hitch hiked. Besides, everything he owned on the ship would fit nicely into his sea bag. The bag had straps to carry over his shoulders so what was the big deal? He was tough, in good shape and had nothing pressing; no big plans for the future so why not hitch and enjoy the country on his way home.
Bill was six feet one inch tall with a chest that made the ladies swoon. His biceps were as large as some men's thighs. He spent many hours working out while he was on the ship and was in top condition. His size and musculature along with his rough unkempt appearance intimidated almost everyone he came into contact with. He kept his head shaved. A razor had not touched his face since his discharge. His almost black beard was unkempt and gave him an even rougher appearance than did his overall body conformation and his dress. Over the course of his month long walk across the country Bill's clothes were worn almost to rags. The outfit he was wearing was filthy from stains and ground in dirt. Oh, he washed his clothes a time or two but hitching as he was left little chance of staying pristine clean. Many nights he slept on the ground or in roadside rest areas.
Bill closed the door on the big rig and stepped back. He raised his hand in a final wave and watched Suzie wave back. He saw her lean forward somewhat and her torso moved. With a lurch and a roar the big rig began moving, heading down the road toward her next delivery in San Diego. Gravel crunched under the wheels as the rig moved through the weed strewn parking area of the Junction Garage.
Bill watched until Suzie was lined out on the highway once again and picking up speed. She would rejoin the traffic on the interstate about five miles down the narrow two lane state highway. Finally Bill turned to survey his surroundings. He was standing in front of a large 3 bay plus office and storeroom garage. To the left under several old oak, pecan and walnut trees was a two story house. His grandfather built the house in 1926 when the original house burned. The large old house was the only home Bill knew from birth until he went into the Navy after graduating high school. He loved the large tree shaded yard surrounded by a now unkempt hedge of various flowering shrubs such as lilac, forsythia, mock orange and crepe myrtle. His grandfather, then later his father owned and operated the garage beside the house.
Bill's father had died almost two years before. Bill was the only surviving family member. His mother had been dead almost seven years. His older sister died of alcohol poisoning in her freshman year at college six years ago. The death of his mother and sister so close together was more than Bill's father could take. Like many of the older mechanics Paul Williams had liked his beer and cigarettes. When his family was torn asunder by the deaths of the female members he retreated deeper into the bottle. By the time Bill graduated high school Paul was a certified alcoholic just as his father (Bill's grandfather) before him.
Slowly Paul's health deteriorated as did his business. He never seemed to complete a repair when promised. Many times he failed to repair the vehicle left for him and the owner came to take it to a different garage. Like many old school mechanics the modern vehicles were beyond his ability to repair. He could not afford the test equipment to diagnose the problems and didn't have the ongoing training to be able to repair them. By the time he died Bill's father was only working on older vehicles and simpler farm machinery. He did a bit of welding and odd jobs. It was a mercy when he died in his sleep at age 63. The sad part was he wasn't found for three or four days after he died.
Bill returned home for the funeral. After the services he locked up the garage, cleaned out the refrigerator and freezer then closed up the old house. He fully expected it to be totally trashed when he returned. A time or two one of his few friends would write that they replaced a window for him because kids had once again broken into one of the buildings. Of course Bill sent the money to pay for the repairs.
No other work was done on the place since well before his father died. No one mowed the yards or picked up debris or fallen tree limbs. The day he returned home for the funeral Bill was shocked and saddened at the disrepair evident in his old home. By then the yard was grown up and weeds were sprouting all around the garage. He knew this was the third summer at least since any yard work was done and it was evident. His mother's carefully tended flower beds and vegetable garden were full of weeds and small trees sprouting in the fallow soil.
Bill picked up his sea bag and slowly walked toward the old house. Every step stirred dust in the hot August day. Earlier when the truck turned off the interstate to bring him home the radio announcer reported it was 103 degrees Fahrenheit. It was a typical August. No rain in sight and so dry the trees were dropping some of their leaves. The grass and weeds in poorer, thinner soil were turning brown. Bill's shirt was already wet with his sweat. Drops of sweat were running down his face.
Bill slowly walked up the two steps onto the old wooden porch that completely wrapped around the house. He fumbled at his neck and pulled his dog tag chain out of his shirt. He bent forward and inserted the key on the chain into the front door. After he unlocked the door he threw it wide open and stepped into the living room of the house. It smelled musty and stale. There was dust over everything. Bill did not cover any of the furniture when he left last time. There was trash and beer cans on the floor from the parties kids had while he was gone but there was surprisingly little damage. Some of the damage he saw Bill remembered was already there when he came home for the funeral.
Bill's eyes were drawn to the empty space in which his mother's old couch had once sat. His father was sleeping on it when he died and his decaying body ruined it before he was found. They had to burn it after his body was taken away. Bill set his sea bag down on the floor then wandered through the old house. As he went from room to room he flipped the light switches. He was pleased to find the lights worked. They should have because he called the electric coop almost a week ago to request service but he was still pleased. There was no guarantee they had been out yet or, if they had, that the circuit box's main breaker would have been on.
When Bill arrived at his old bedroom upstairs he stood in the door and looked around. He felt nostalgic and a little sad. He was home and there as no one left to share his arrival with other than his few remaining friends. They now had lives and families of their own so would have little time for Bill. Their experiences necessarily caused them to grow in different directions than Bill. He knew he grew away from his friends over the last four years because of his experiences also. Many of his old friends left for college after high school then took jobs elsewhere or went into the service as he had. The few who remained in town were friendly enough when he was back for his father's funeral but they were not as close as they once were. After all, he had been gone for years and their lives diverged.
.... There is more of this story ...