My hangover this morning, coupled with warm sheets and a cold, subdued morning air kept me in bed late into the morning. I climbed out only when I heard ole Polly the Pontiac putter up the driveway.
I met Ocean on the porch and gave her a bear hug. She smiled, smacked me on my butt and told me to put pants on before I froze something off.
“Should you be drinking that?” I asked.
“Decaf,” she said.
I scowled into my cup, “So I’m drinking this mud for no reason?”
“Be nice. I’m with child.”
“Nope,” I said, and we smiled at each other.
“So,” Ocean said, “There’s a book mobile?”
“S’what mom said. Out at the land. Dad was working on it for her and they just kinda locked it up.”
“So it runs?”
“We shall see.”
After our coffee, I made some toast and Ocean drove us out to the Banned Family Farm. Eighty acres of land my father liked to call Clay Holler. A stream and a highway cut through the middle of the land, both sitting on rich topsoil atop hard clay. Pine trees grow in abundance on the land, and goats wander through and keep the grass low. At one point a sawmill on this land made the family fortune, but shut down after we moved closer to town. Parts of the old mill and the main house can be seen in pylons near the creek and a foundation buried in waist high grass. Both buildings burned down half a century ago, the final nail in the farming coffin for the Banned family.
Or it would have been if my father had not been out there. The goats are his, so are the buildings. When he rejected the library for the military, he set out this land as his own. He re-tamed it, building a barn and several other sheds. He even got a few crops to grow out here. On this land he gave me chores of slopping hogs and harvesting corn and shooting wild dogs and coyotes that would eat the weaker animals. Part of me enjoys the peace and quiet of the open land, only the sound of wind on a cold day.
We opened the shed and found the old bookmobile. As big as a half-bus, the boxy vehicle stared out at us with square headlights.
“How many rats do you think are in her?” I asked.
“As the one bringing a new life into the world,” Ocean said, “I say you get to find out.”
I hefted the keys and opened the driver’s door. The joints groaned and I looked back at Ocean. She motioned for me to continue.
I looked around the interior, dust everywhere. I hit the seat and stepped back, but nothing but a grey cloud rose to meet me. Crawling in, I found the ignition and turned the key.
The damn thing started.
I pulled the aged vehicle forward and into the light. The bookmobile groaned and creaked, but seemed fine. When we opened the back, another cloud of dust billowed out.
“Where’s all the books?” Ocean asked.
The shelves were empty save one sheet of paper. I looked at it and handed it to Ocean.
“Looks like we’re going to Shelter Ridge,” I said.