Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Part 27




"Jace ..."

No response.

"Jace ..."

Still no response.

"Yo ... Jace!"

In a groggy only half-listening kind of voice he answered, "What?"

Finally.  "That fire is spreading pretty fast."

"Good."

I sighed beginning to get concerned.  "Earth to Jace.  That tree is now on fire and it might fall over.  If the tree falls over it is going to be on fire.  If it falls over on fire then the fire might jump that big ditch thingie over there.  From that point there is nothing to stop the fire from running all the way to the road.  You know ... that flat concrete path through the forest and hills where we need to drive the truck and trailer?"

Jace was still staring at the flames when suddenly he stiffened and looked at me.  "Dammit!  If the fire crosses the gully ..."  Partially coming out of his daze he snapped, "We have to get out of here and right now."

Hadn't I just said the same dingity dang thing?  For someone that is supposed to be older than me and going to teach me things Jace was acting like he'd been hit in the head really hard ... more than once or twice.  He started running and pulling me along with him.  If I had locked my knees I would have just skiied along.  The leaves on top of the path we were using were damp and slippery from the recent rain and were perfect for sliding, but the leaves underneath were very dry.  In fact there were a lot of dry things for the fire to burn now that the sun and cold and low humidity had sucked the moisture from everything again.

An hour later the smoke from the fire was still visable which meant that the fire had definitely grown.  When the wind blew from that direction you could even smell it.  Jace said, "We aren't stopping until we cross the state line."

That was a change in plans.  "Wait, I thought you said you didn't want to do Rockford at night.  If we don't stop until we get into Wisconsin that's exactly what is going to happen."

"I know what I said but I changed my mind."

"Why?"

He slammed on the breaks so hard the trailer fish tailed.  "I told you ..."

He turned to look at me and I had my big screw driver up and ready which shut him up.  "Don't scream and yell," I told him quietly using the tone of voice that Sherry did right before she would slap the bejeebers out of me.  "Just because you are in the driver's seat doesn't mean I don't have a right to ask which way you are driving.  I want to know why you changed your mind.  I'm beginning to wonder if ..."

"Don't," he said quietly.  "I ... look I'm just not used to somebody asking me why all the time and ... and I've never had to explain things before.  It's irritating and I don't have a lot of patience right now.  Clarey never did.  And as cracked as Sammy was she didn't ask why as much as you do either."

"I don't care.  I'm not your crazy cousin and I'm not your dead girlfriend," I told him in a voice that told him just how dangerous my not caring could be.  "You lay one hand on me, even try it, and I'll do whatever I have to to make you stop.  In fact, just let me out here and give me my pack.  This isn't working."

"DeeDee ... I ..."

"Say it or not, I don't care whether you're sorry.  I lived a full year being stomped on by people.  I'm tired of it."

Rather than stop he put the truck in gear and started driving again.  I growled, "I said let me out."

He shook his head and kept driving anyway.  "No.  Just because I acted like a jerk is no reason for you to get stupid."  He was quiet for a minute while I contemplated how badly hurt I would be if I jumped from a moving vehicle.  He must have sensed it because he hit the electric - and childproof - lock button.  I turned to give him a warning look when he started talking again.  "The reason why is that I've been thinking about our route.  We picked the fastest way which is straight up the interstate.  When I was still in Springfield we heard radio reports about how the military concentrated on clearing the interstates and major highways so they could move large convoys around more easily so I'm pretty sure we aren't going to hit road blockages or anything like that unless it is something that has happened in the last six months.  But I was looking at the map last night and there are too many larger towns and cities along that route.  We need to move through quickly and since we've got the clear roads we might as well take plenty of advantage of them."

"But Rockford ..."

"I know.  It will be the biggest of them.  The interstate skirts the city and if ... when ... we get around Rockford then the state line and Beloit are just a hop, skip, and a jump beyond that.  We've got plenty of gas in the trailer ... or at least plenty enough to get close to Singing Waters.  What we don't know about is the weather.  We need to take advantage of decent weather while we have it.  Right now it is looking fairly ok ... tomorrow might be a different story.  October weather this far north can be changeable.  I looked in Uncle Simon's almanacs and the average temp in south Wisconsin is 50s and 60s during the day and 30s and 40s at night.  That's good weather.  On the other hand where you want to go is way north of there in the Nicolet National Forest.  You know how cold it is going to get there?  We need to get there soonest and get you set up."

I let him continue to ramble.  What I hate is when he is constantly saying things like where YOU want to go, where we need to get YOU set up.  It isn't like I'm looking for company or anything but he said he'd be around long enough to teach me how to do things that I need to do.  By always talking about me, never about himself as part of it, it makes me wonder just what is going on in his head.

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