Daniel Continues Driving, Without Me

 

Through Ben’s recommendation, Daniel got a job doing some pressure-washing of sidewalks and docks at some lakefront property in McQueeney. Earlier, he and Greg visited the property together to meet the lady and get an idea of the scope of the job. Friday morning—yesterday—was the time agreed upon for Daniel to actually begin the job. Because Daniel was scheduled to work at H-E-B from 11 to 3, his workday was broken into chunks: pressure-washing in the morning, H-E-B at midday, and more pressure washing in the afternoon. Greg would be working, and unavailable to go along.

 

This meant a lot of solo driving to and from a place Daniel had visited only once previously. When I offered to accompany him, he seemed baffled that I would even think of such a thing. He is, after all, a licensed driver and a capable young man. So I steeled my courage and sent him on his way alone, armed with a Google map and our rarely-used, emergency-only cell phone. I prayed a lot.

 

The day passed without untoward incident. Daniel reached his destinations without hitting any people, animals, other vehicles, or stationary objects. (He did see two wild turkeys crossing Highway 90 between our place and Kingsbury, which makes you wonder: why does the wild turkey cross the road?)

 

Besides not getting lost, not having an accident, and not getting a ticket, Daniel had a full and successful day. He made good progress on the pressure-washing, and the lady praised his careful and methodical work. The Easter rush made his shift at H-E-B busy; all registers were open, and baggers were hard pressed to find any empty carts to put bags of groceries in. Daniel stayed an hour late at H-E-B before going back to the pressure-washing, and he never did have lunch. Then after dinner, he and Greg had a karate workout in the back yard, surrounded and observed by sundry cats and dogs.

 

This morning, while getting ready to go back to McQueeney again and finish the job, Daniel announced that he might just want to take a nap later in the day. A sure sign of growing up is the increasing desirability of naps. And Daniel is certainly growing up. As I told him on his birthday, he is now only five years younger than his father and I were when he was born. (“Don’t tell him things like that,” Greg said. But he didn’t really mean it. We are both bothered by the protracted childhood that is expected of young adults in this country.)

 

Before heading to McQueeney, Daniel dropped off Emilie at Rene’s place to help with horses. I must say, Daniel’s ability to drive himself and his sisters certainly opens up some intriguing possibilities in my own life. But I have not yet relaxed in those possibilities. I am not worried exactly, but I am somewhat hyper-vigilant.

 

 

I have had a bit of a scare with my laptop. Last night, I tried to bring it out of its dormancy or whatever by swiping the mouse touchpad, but the screen remained ominously black. I finally got it to come to life by pressing a key, but then I could not move the cursor to log in. The computer appeared to be frozen up. Daniel made portentous remarks about the age of my laptop, and I remembered that I had not yet backed up all my important documents to the flash drive. Hoping that the computer was experiencing a mere temporary glitch, I turned it off.

 

But this morning, there was no improvement. The cursor remained stubbornly in place and would not respond to my repeated strokes on the touchpad. Unpleasant possibilities occurred to me, such as how much it might cost to excavate the hard drive and recover my documents, which would have been saved already if I had only exercised a little forethought, and how much it might cost to replace my laptop.

 

Then I had another thought. I clicked a button, a light came on, and all was well. The touchpad had been turned off, probably by a wayward cat stepping on my keyboard.

 

 

This morning, Anna and I drove to Luling to buy some distilled water and return some books to the library. (I have few vices, but I do enjoy a good cup of Darjeeling tea made with distilled water, steeped for exactly five minutes, and sweetened with thirteen drops of stevia extract.) Greg had the car, and Daniel had the Suburban. That left the 1971 Chevy Super Six truck, formerly owned by Greg’s grandfather.

 

This truck is not old enough to look like a classic; it is just old enough to look old. Its lines are plain and spare, lacking the truck-on-steroids look of modern designs. Even the color is an understated slate grey. But all that is gold does not glitter, and people who know about trucks find this one strangely exciting. Older men see it and begin spouting fond recollections of trucks they owned once and wish they owned still. Our trusted mechanic in Krum, who restored the truck to good running condition, praised it in terms I only dimly understood and cannot hope to reproduce here. Greg’s friend Joey enthusiastically pressed on the hood, demonstrating the strength and durability of the steel body. Apparently they don’t make them like this anymore.

 

The truck has a kind of transmission called “three on a tree.” The layout of the gear-shifting scenario is like a capital H—not exactly second nature to me yet. I believe I have driven the truck twice before today. The bench seat does not come up far enough to accommodate my five feet, two inches. The first time I drove it, I started out perched on the edge of the seat so I could reach the foot pedals. Unfortunately, the mammoth effort required to push in the clutch caused my rear to slide backwards. I ended up in a semi-recumbent posture, with my upper back pressed against the seat back to provide necessary stability, and my head so low that I could scarcely see over the dash.

 

With Greg to coach me, I managed the unfamiliar gear system and the vagaries peculiar to this particular truck. One of the more exciting happenings was when I tried to shift gears and the gear-shift knob came off in my hand. But it went on again easily, and no harm was done.

 

At the light in Kingsbury, a man in a truck of comparable vintage raised his hand to me in the laconic salute of country people. We understand each other, he seemed to say. We drive old trucks.

 

There was a time when I would have waited three hours for Greg to come home rather than drive to Luling in the truck. It’s been several weeks since I drove it last, and I wasn’t quite sure I recollected the gear configuration. By nature I am not a risk-taker. Before I set out on any course of action, I like to have a pretty good idea of what the outcome will be. I am not quick on my feet. But over the past few years I have developed a real relish for challenges that take me beyond what I’m reasonably sure I can handle. It is a test of skill and strength, and the ability to roll with the punches and make stuff up as you go.

 

So off we went. Anna said she remembered how the gears worked, but what she thought was first gear turned out to be reverse. But no matter! We made it there and back, with nothing worse happening than the rearview mirror coming off in my hand.

 

A few minutes ago the dogs started barking excitedly, and Anna looked out the French doors and saw several black-and-white cows. As there are no cattle being kept on this land anymore, these animals must have strayed across a bad section of fence to the southwest. One bovine interloper came close to the back steps, where it was probably contemplating eating the leaves off my citrus trees. We scared it off.

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