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It was the shivering that brought him to reality. He was tired, cold and hungry. He tried to look through the windshield but it was covered in snow. Dawn was breaking, but the Sun would not rise for an hour or more. He turned the key on and then the wiper switch. The wipers didn't move but the strain of the motor was evident. He turned the wiper switch off and then the ignition key. The blades were frozen to the windshield. Their breath through-out the night provided moisture, which froze to the inside surface of all the windows as well. He pushed on Jimmy's shoulder, "Hey, wake up. Look at the windows" Jimmy just groaned and tried to cover up more. The boy unlocked the door and tossed his blankets onto his brother who hurriedly covered up with them with out so much as opening one eye.

The boy first tried to loosen the wipers, but they were solidly frozen to the windshield. He wadded through the snow to his father's truck and tapped on the window which was opaque from the moisture of breathing as well, but no one was inside. At first, he was worried, but then seen his father walking back from the restroom and smoking a cigarette, he offered the boy one. He declined the cigarette, warmth and the morning relief, is what he needed at this moment in time. His dad seen his urgency and said the restroom is over there, is Jimmy awake yet? The boy said, "I tried to wake him but he just grunted." "I'll wake him and warm the car up. I'll bet your windows are covered in ice inside too, aren't they" said Don. "Yeah." the boy said over his shoulder, while urgently making his way to the restroom. Don said, "We'll have breakfast and fill up after the windows are cleared." The boy was running now to the restroom and just waved an ok.

It was so cold the boy couldn't stop shivering. The coat he was wearing was not warm at all in this weather, and the restroom offered no heat at all. His boots were covered with snow and he noticed that there was snow on the floor that hadn't melted yet from all the other users as well. He had to get warm, just a little. He quickly finished and without washing his hands in the cold water, left the restroom. He could see his father cleaning the outside of the windows and turned toward the store/restaurant only a few feet from the Gas Stations restroom. Warmth of any kind was needed ‘right now.’

The smell of home made bread, bacon frying and coffee assaulted his senses first, but that warmth immediately stopped his shivering. The boy gratefully looked up to see he was standing under one of the registers from the heat ducting that seemed an afterthought in the buildings construction. Not even painted, it's no longer shiny galvanized finish stuck out like a sore thumb, but certainly its esoteric value was enjoyed by all in this freezing cold. The smells, sounds and warmth of that place were burned into his memory forever. He would forevermore, associate the roadside cafe and it's quaintness, to travel and a sense of well being. This memory was a keeper for eternity.

His thoughts were broken by the greeting of one of the waitresses, "Honey you can sit anywhere, we'll find ya." Smiling she hurried off to a table with an arm full of plates and a pot of coffee she held in the other hand. His father and brother entered the door, and Jimmy found the heat duct immediately, he pushed the boy forward enough to be under its opening. The boy stepped forward to let his brother thaw out, in the dry forced air heat of that doorway. He was feeling very good now. Dad asked, "Booth or table boys?" Jimmy chimed in "counter, ple-e-e-e-ase?" but there were only two seats available and dad said, "We’ll take a booth instead of waiting for a seat to open." They headed for a booth, one far from the cold of the entrance. They sat down, but Jimmy was still standing under the register of the duct work at the entrance. Don motioned for him to come, but Jimmy pretended not to notice them. Don partially stood and again motioned for him to come, this time showing a sternly irritated look on his face, Jimmy, reluctantly, slumping his shoulders in dejection, slowly meandered towards the booth, until his father looked sternly at him, defeatedly, he headed directly to the booth and Don motioned for him to be seated next to Don. Don realized that the boys would need warmer clothing, but on an extremely limited budget, this would be difficult.

On the seat next to Don at the booth, was portion of a local paper. Don opened it and began to skim the contents. He came upon an add in the classifieds under businesses, a short add, that listed clothing in its body. When the waitress arrived, Don questioned her about the location and any other things she might know about it. The waitress replied, “Honey in that second hand store, if they ain’ta got it, you don’t need it.” Don smiled and asked directions to the place. “It’s jus’ roun’ the corner and down a block, ya can’t miss it. It’s got one of ‘dem steel gay-raj doors for an openin’.” “What’ll ya’ll have?”

Don asked what was good, and the waitress said “Every thin’ sugar.” “This is Texas, ain’t nuthin’ what don’t taste good here.” The boys knew they didn’t have much money, so they had picked out the least expensive thing that would fill them up. The biscuits and gravy where only 65 cents for a large order, but the coffee was 20 cents, higher than it was anywhere else they’d been. The waitress offered that the biscuits and gravy where pretty filling, and aplenty. They all ordered the same, and the waitress asked “and what to drink,” and Don said coffee all around and some water. The waitress disappeared and was back in moments with a tray full of coffee cups and glasses. She placed a coffee and a glass of water in front of each of them and a large glass of milk in front of the two boys. She also added two apples to the center of table, and Don tried to explain that he didn’t order them. The waitress said, “I know.” “But this here is mah place, and little uns don’t go with out milk n’ fruit in the morning.” “Least wise not when I’m roun’.”

Shortly, the food arrived, and the gravy was nearly overflowing the plates. The waitress set an extra plate with 3 gigantic biscuits and butter in the center of the table next to the fruit and said, “That fruit better be gone fore’n you eat ‘dem biscuits.” She filled the coffee cups and continued to the other tables filling everyone’s coffee cups. The young boy was the first to notice the eggs, under all the biscuits and gravy. Don found then in his too, then Jimmy. Jimmy hadn’t heard the discovery from the boy and Don and let out with, “Hey there’s eggs underneath.” Don said to just eat them and be quieter, as we were in public not the kitchen table.

When the waitress came back and filled the cups again, Don thanked her, and she said she knew, she’d been there a time or two herself. She asked where they were headed and where they’d come from. Don told her and about his Mother-in-law. She asked if he just up and left Arizona for that, and he told her he did.

When they were ready to leave, she brought a bag for each of them, and a check. Don looked at the check and pulled out a five and two ones. He left the two dollars on the table and went to the cash register. The waitress walked over to the cash register and picked up the check and looked and Don and said, “Have a nice trip, and stop again if ya ever come back this way.” Don tried to give her the five to pay the check, and she just shook her head and said, “You bess’ git down to that 2nd had store and get ‘dem some coats.” Don turned to the young boy, and handed him the five, and told him to go finish his milk, and while he was there to put this on the table, handing him the five. The young boy looked at his father and the waitress who was walking back to the order-up bar, and figured out what had happened. Don left with Jimmy, and the boy went back to the table to do as instructed. The waitress seen the boy return to the table and figured it out quickly. She went to the phone and was making a call as the boy went to the car.

Don had wisely pointed the cars east so the Sun would hit the windshield of the cars. By the time breakfast was through the Sun had warmed the glass enough to clear the inside of the glass enough to see. They would have to leave the windows down so the moisture from their breath would not again freeze on the inside of the windshield and windows. They easily found the second hand store and parked on the other side of the street so the Sun once again could do its work.

They entered through the steel garage door, and found the clothing area. Don told them to find a heavy coat that would keep them warm. The young boy looked at the coats, but didn’t like any of them, until he found a Leather Jacket, with zippers all over it. He tried it on and it was a little big on him, but just big enough that he could wear a sweater on under it as well. He loved the smell of the leather, and didn’t mind that the left sleeve on the forearm and elbow had been scratched up quite a lot. When he went to show Don, he asked if this one would be ok. Don told him it wouldn’t be as warm as another one and wasn’t it a little big? The boy insisted that he wanted it and besides, he could wear a sweater under the jacket for even more warmth. Don had previously taught the boys to wear many light layers of clothing for warmth from the cold. Don noticed the left sleeve was tore up and said, “Some poor guy went down on that arm riding.” The boy said, “Riding a horse?” “No, a motorcycle, not a horse,” Don said. “He would have gotten a lot of road rash if he hadn’t been wearing that,” Don added.

The boy didn’t care how rough the sleeve was, he loved the smell of the leather, and the jacket was like new except for that sleeve. Don finally relented and let him have it, Jimmy had finally decided on a coat too, and they all three took their purchases to the register, and lady waiting for them. She lady ask if they had stopped by the fine diner that was on 66 yet, and that they had really good food there. Don and the boys assured her they had already been there and that it was some of the best food they had ever eaten. Don asked how much and the lady said that it would be “3 dollars… 3 jackets, 3 dollars,” the lady said. Don couldn’t believe what he heard and reminded the lady that the leather jacket alone had an 8 dollar price tag on it and that it was surely worth double that. The lady said, “well that might be, but your total is 3 dollars.” “Do you want it or not?” “I ain’t got all day, I got other customers too, ya know!” There was only one other person in the store and it looked like she worked there. They couldn’t believe their good fortune, “besides, this here is discount day; everythin’ is half price at most,” said the lady. Don just repeated, “Discount day? It’s the middle of the week, only Wednesday.” “You a buyin’ these coats or what?” said the lady. “Yeah… Yeah sure. We’ll take ‘em,” said Don. The boys put their new coats on and Don put on the light jacket under his coat he already had. As they walked out the door, the lady said, “Dora said to tell ya, have a nice trip, and drive careful.” Don stopped in his tracks and turned to the lady, but she said, “Dora said you were hard headed, but she knew her sister was harder headed than you were. Now go on. Git outta here. Daylights a burnin’. And you got a long way to go. An’ the snow ain’ta gonna stop fer ya.”

On the road, the young boy felt good, like a new man. Yeah, a man, that’s what he felt like. Besides warm, he felt like a man. Driving now, and out in the world, traveling, meeting really nice people, living an adventure, picking out his own clothes, nobody telling him he can’t have this or that, or he has to wear this hand me down from uncle Kenny or one of his cousins. He picked out the jacket. It was used, but he picked it out. It wasn’t another hand-me-down. And it was a Motorcycle Jacket too. Cool.

The snow continued to fall, the road got slicker and they could hardly see the road in front of them any more. It was late afternoon now, almost 5 o’clock. They were just coming into Oklahoma City. Don slowly entered the drive of the gas station, when the truck started to slide side ways. He turned into the skid and the truck came to a stop without him touching the brake. It had slid into a rut and couldn’t move with all the weight and the ice and all. Don got out of the truck and motioned the boy to slowly move closer to the truck. When Don realized the bumpers would match, he motioned the boy to pull forward slowly till the bumpers touched. He came to the window and said, “Just start pushing slowly till I get moving. If you start slipping, stop, don’t push me any more, or you’ll get stuck too.” A couple of nudges later and the truck was free, but the boy was now stuck, he thought quick and remembered the sand he always got stuck in and rocked the car a little and got out of it. Surprised that the trick from the desert worked in the snow too, he couldn’t wait to share this knowledge with his father.

When they were pumping their gas into the vehicles, Don came over and said, “Son, we’ll eat here, and then get some bread, sandwich meat, cheese and maybe some soda pops, for later.” The boy said, “Dad? Can you call me John from now on? I’m gettin’ older now, and it sounds like you’re talking to a little boy when you call me son in front of everyone like that.” Don thought about that for a minute, looked at the boy in his leather jacket and said, “Sure John. Just don’t let that jacket go to your head and have you believing you’re a man just yet. You still got a lot more growin’ up to do.”


------
Daniel Lloyd Kennedy


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The following comments are for "The Transformation... Part II"
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