Meanwhile, the menfolk were outside. Earl was sizing up a truck that looked like it had been used for everything from plowing to hay bailing. “How much for the truck?” Earl asked.
“Truck ain’ for sale. But I know someone who is selling their truck.”
“Can you call them?”
“If I had a phone. An’ if they had a phone.”
“Mind if we see them?”
“Sure, I don’ mind.”
Alyson came to the door, dressed in one of the overweight dresses that Nancy had. It hung on her thin frame, like a parachute on a skeleton. Her black hair was wet and clung to her. “Next?”
“Jim can go. I’m out to buy a truck.”
Alyson helped bring the tub of hot water to the bathroom and poured it into the tub after the other tub was drained. It was a good thing, too, because it was horribly dirty.
Jim looked back at Alyson as she shut the door. Alyson went to the kitchen to get a chair. “Where’re you going with that?”
“I’m supposed to guard him,” she said.
“Ain’ no one gonna bother you here, honey,” Nancy said with a smile. “Sit down, have a cup of coffee.”
Alyson sat, but on the edge of her seat. Nancy started to wash Jim’s clothes in the sink, using actual lye and a scrubbing board. Alyson’s clothes were hanging out on the line. “Where you from?”
“Boston,” Alyson said, and bit her lip. She should have lied.
“An’ what’re you running from?”
“A whole bunch of people.” She sighed, as her body started to relax. “It’s a long story.”
Meanwhile, Oscar was asking Earl pretty much the same question, “Where you from?”
“New England,” Earl said.
“You don’t sound English.”
Earl chuckled, “No, Massachusetts.”
“Oh!” Oscar laughed. “Where you headed?”
“That ain’ far. About six hour drive.”
They drove a couple of miles down the road and turned down a driveway. Earl watched and paid attention to where he was going. They approached a house with no barn, but there were fields all throughout. Oscar got out of the truck and went to the door. As he did, Earl saw an older Ford truck which had a For Sale sign on it. The truck had seen better days, but was in one piece. He walked around the truck, examining it. It was held together by pieces of aluminum riveted to the steel. He peered in the back.
“Hey there,” said a man in overalls and workboots. “Good afternoon.”
“Afternoon,” said Earl. He motioned to the truck. “How much?”
“Five hundred, as is.”
“Does it start?”
He went and started up the truck, which turned over without a problem. “Pop the hood,” Earl said. With a loud clang, the hood popped open. Earl poked his head inside, did not hear any knocking or pinging. He looked underneath, saw that there was an oil patch beneath. “You’re leaking oil?”
“I used a sealer,” said the man.
“Ok, how much?”
“As it is. With the plates.”
“With the plates?”
“I’m taking it to Washington DC. I need to get there by tomorrow. I’ll send the plates back to you.”
He frowned. “Don’t get in trouble.”
“I have no plans to.”
“All right. I’ll get you a receipt.”
Earl waited for him to get the receipt. When the man came back, Earl glanced at the name, and then counted out four hundred dollars across the hood of the truck. Earl shook hands with him, and got into the cab.
When Earl pulled into the driveway of Oscar’s house. Alyson was sitting outside, dressed in her clothes, and Jim was wearing a pair of pants and a flannel shirt, with a belt that was tied up. Oscar followed.
Earl put the truck into gear and set the emergency brake. Alyson came down from the porch and looked at the truck. “You couldn’t have gotten something older?”
“It was cheap,” Earl said. “It’s a moonshiner’s truck.”
“How can you tell that?”
“V8, engine’s pretty good, high suspension, and the hidden compartments in the back.”
“Should have asked him for a shotgun while you were at it.”
“I’m not pushing my luck.” He tapped the hood. “As long as this lasts us six hours, I don’t care.”
“Once we get to Washington, what do we do?”
Earl stopped to look at Alyson. “I thought you knew.”
“No, I thought you did.”
Alyson sighed. “We’ll call when we get there.”
“We’ll have to phone home and Steph will have to get the dossier. It’s on my desk.”
Jim came over to them. “Do you have a phone?”
“Yes, but the battery’s low.”
Jim frowned. “I wanted to call my wife…”
“Not right now, Jim. When we get to Washington.”
Disappointed, he turned away. He went around back to check on his clothes.
“Earl, you going to take a bath?”
“No, I think we’d better get going.”
“Earl, you’d better take a bath.”
Earl gave Alyson a cocky grin, “You’re saying I stink?”
“In the most gentle way possible.”
“I’ll take a sponge bath.”
“Better than nothing.”
“Ha, ha.” Earl went into the house, with that full intention. Instead he found his clothes taken and washed the old fashioned way, so he had to wait for them to dry somewhat. In the house, he wore a pair of Oscar’s pants and went around shirtless.
Oscar noticed the tattoos. “You were in the Navy,” he said.
“Yes,” Earl said, sitting down at the table. Nancy, while washing clothes, had put a chicken pot pie in the oven and they were going to sit down to a hearty lunch of that and biscuits and a whole host of other things. The kitchen was warm and cozy, and the clothes were hanging up here instead of outside because it was warmer.
“Where’d you serve?”
“All over, really. Kuwait, Somalia.”
Alyson said nothing as she passed the biscuits.
“Our son went into the Army.”
“Is he still there?” asked Alyson.
Oscar nodded. “He’s a mechanic. Says he loves it.”
“Our daughters are in Lynchburg,” said Nancy. “More work there.”
Asked Jim, “You farm here?”
Oscar laughed, “We have a couple of cows, but nobody wants to do this kind of job anymore.”
Said Nancy, “We’ll probably lose the house after we die.”
Oscar put his head down. “Maybe, maybe not.”
“I would love a farm like this,” said Earl, and Alyson stared at him. “What?” he asked her. “This is beautiful country.”
“You don’t realize the hard work that goes into this,” said Alyson.
“That’s why I’ll have to marry someone who works hard.”
Nancy smiled, the cloud over her lifting. After grace, they all tucked in to eat. They made small talk, not about politics or religion, but about the travel they were going to do. Eventually Oscar got a map for Earl and Alyson.
They all piled into the truck about an hour later, Earl driving, Jim in the middle. They drove into the town of Harmond, then headed east according to the map.
Two hours later they reached a highway, and followed it north, and as Oscar had promised, they were at the outskirts of Washington DC four hours later.