I was driving down 23 lookin for a sign. Passed the Shell station with its wooden bear statue and the Exxon station with its American flag in shreds. Passed the 24-hour Bagel Stop, the Dunkin Donuts, and the Lakeland Bank. Off to my right, deer huddled together by the banks of the reservoir. The surface of the road was bleached from last night's salting. The sun was directly ahead and I could barely see beyond the hood -- I thought, how often do we drive through this world blind?
I haven't seen Cholly since the big storm that wiped out his Ford, but I did see Rosemary this morning walkin Buddy up behind the playground off Breakneck Road. Actually I heard Buddy before I saw him. He's got that plaintive Beagle yowl. The two of them came up over the rise, Rosemary wrapped in a blue parka and wool cap, Buddy with his tail goin a mile a minute, sniffin the snowbanks at the edge of the road, trailin his ears on the pavement. She tells me that they've been stayin at a friend's cabin. "It isn't much, but it'll do till the insurance comes through."
She says Cholly's been laid up with a bug. "He seems kinda depressed these days. At least with the truck he could get plowing jobs." Buddy caught wind of something in the near woods and stood still, gaping intently into the shadows. Rose is chubby and shy, but she's a lot smarter than you'd think at first. When she proffers that big smile and widens her bright blue eyes, you can see straight through to the intelligence at play in there. She works in a healthcare center down in Dover but I don't think she's an RN.
We dint talk long, she had to get Buddy back home and head off to work. I had nowhere to go, but it was too chilly to stand still.
So many good-hearted people tryin to get by. I think about all the young women that get themselves hooked into the publishing racket, fresh out of college, excited to be livin in the City, careful about the way they present themselves, talented, earnest, well-educated. And ambitious for a career, so different from the old days, when the girls were happy to smoke some weed and play music with the boys. These kids got the right attitude. I just hope that time hasn't passed them by and they can find a way to ride out the Age of Deflation.
How do you make a livin at it, without manufacturin and shippin palletfulls of weightless books that are just gonna get returned after eight weeks? Without the waste, no jobs. These young people are sharp, they know the score. But they gotta live on hope, just like those folks headed out to Vegas with their shiny new cash cards.
Just past the third traffic light in Butler, I saw it. A billboard with the big words, "Got Eggs?" and "Earn up to $8,000." Someplace called the Institute of Reproductive Medicine and Science at St. Barnabas, urgin women between 21 and 32 to donate their eggs. I dint know you got paid for a 'donation.' Used to watch late-night movies about 'institutes' like that, with white-coated freaks brandishin their big syringes. I wonder how many young women passing by in their Hondas and Hyundais are tempted by that sign, especially these days. Eight grand is good rent money.
I thought, shoot, in the old days, you knew who your mother was, even if you had doubts about your old man. Especially if Mom was slinkin around. But these days, kids can't be certain about Dad or Mom.
The light turned green and I followed the traffic down the hill to 287. Whatcha think, Poot? Are we headed for paradise, or what?