“I think it’s been more than a year since I’ve driven a car,” Brad said while making a left-hand turn. He pressed a button on the steering wheel, accelerating the silver-colored sedan to highway speeds once again.
“Yeah, I know what you mean,” James replied. “Unless you count backing out of the driveway as driving.”
“That's when it's good to be … have a lot of money,” Brad said, “because those driveways drive themselves.”
Most streets in larger cities were equipped with an auto-drive system that permitted vehicles to drive themselves. The operator need only input his destination into the dashboard computer.
In Brad’s mind the Mississippi highway stretched on for several miles before another word was spoken, though only about thirty seconds had gone by. The only sound that could be heard from inside the car was the gentle sensation of the classical music playing from the radio. At one point Brad felt himself dozing off to sleep. At once he summoned the radio: “Music – change channel to Rock.”
“Rock channel not specified,” a voice from the dashboard replied.
“I don't care.” Brad frowned. “Surprise me.”
“Very well,” the dashboard replied with a chime, signaling the changing of the music station.
Brad felt an instant surge in his energy, so he sat up a little taller in his seat. After listening to the music for a minute or so, he looked over at James for but an instant and said, “How much farther do we have to go?” Before he completed the question, he returned to gazing at the highway in front of him.
James leaned into the dash, glancing at the small computer screen. “It looks like we have about thirty minutes before we reach Bruce, which is twelve miles south of Banner.”
As for Brad, that was too far, but there was nothing he could do about it except maybe sigh, which he did. James smiled, recognizing Brad’s agony. “I want to thank you again for coming out here with me.”
“I really don’t mind.” Brad tried to forget his reason for sighing but failed. If only our destination wasn’t so far away, he thought. He braked, for there was a slow moving tractor in the lane in front of him. Then, he said, “I get sleepy after driving for a long time, that’s all.”
James bobbed his head from side to side, smiling, “I have another way to thank you.” He paused long enough to bother Brad just a little. Brad frowned; he couldn’t image what James had in mind. He didn’t contemplate it long, though, for he had a tractor to occupy his thoughts. He leaned to his left, looking down the opposite lane, and since there was no oncoming traffic for at least a mile down the hill, he decided to go around the tractor.
“There might be some monetary incentives involved in this trip,” James said finally. He rubbed his hands together and inhaled a little louder than normal. He was looking forward to these prospects.
His pausing was getting to Brad, for Brad shook his head and laughed. “You’re something else. Did you know that?”
“I’m glad my manner is pleasing to you,” James said. Brad couldn’t decide if it was pleasing or annoying. It was probably a little of both. When your best friend annoys you on purpose, it might be a little entertaining at times.
“But, don’t let your manners get in the way of what you were saying,” Brad said, making it clear he hadn’t forgotten.
“In that case,” James continued. “There might be some money to be made in Banner, Mississippi.”
James hadn’t said much of anything new, but Brad was going to run with it, anyway. “I thought you said that we were just going to clean out a house,” Brad said.
They had already discussed their trip a little, but obviously, James had left out a few details. Brad knew that the house had been empty for several years since James’ grandfather passed away, and he was under the impression that James had volunteered for the cleaning assignment.
Beyond that, though, it was all guess work. He hadn’t taken a vacation for almost a year, so he jumped at the opportunity to get out of town.
“Basically,” James replied, “that’s all we are doing. But, it depends on how much that stuff is worth. This family house we are cleaning out was built in the 1880’s. Possibly before that.”
Brad was beginning to catch on, his countenance beaming. He laughed, remembering a few episodes of Antiques Road Show he had seen. “Has this house ever been cleaned out?” he asked.
James realized that Brad knew the secret he was withholding. “Nope,” he replied, “so we might find some priceless antiques.”
I don’t see where that helps me, Brad thought. But out loud he said, “Once you share what you get with the rest of your family, there won’t be a whole lot left.”
“Oh contraire, dear Jacque.” James laughed at his own fake accent. Then, he switched to his regular one. “Dad really didn’t want to come out here, so he said I could have the whole kit and caboodle.”
I still don’t see where that helps me, Brad thought. Then, he tried to push the thought away because he realized he was being self-centered. For all he knew, James might even share his upcoming fortune. But, then, he pushed that thought aside as well, imagining his short-term reward to be lunch or all expenses paid for this trip.
As if reading his mind, James said, “You know I plan on sharing it with you.”
Still, what James particularly meant Brad did not know. How much of a share was he talking about? And, how much money was going to be in the mix, anyway? In the matter of a few minutes, this trip posed interesting possibilities for the both of them.