My husband had what he refers to as a “character-building experience” last Tuesday evening. This story is dedicated to all the people who have been wondering what he was doing, walking down Farm-to-Market 428 in Denton, Texas, at three o’clock last Wednesday morning. Have I caught your attention? Great! Read on. And I think you’ll agree – doesn’t it sound like something straight out of a Steve Martin movie?
Okay, here goes. We were in the drive-up line at a fast-food restaurant around 10:30 p.m. Passenger gets mad at driver because driver bought two (consider this – two) jerseys for son’s hockey games, instead of the obligatory one. Any busy parent should be able to grasp the symbolism of this number – less washing is required, less laundry to do in an already hectic, packed schedule.
Irate passenger husband gets checkbook (too late!), house keys, water bottle and then exits vehicle, announcing that he will walk home. Driver and children wait in line for half an hour, receive order, and leave, fully expecting to see former passenger husband cooling his heels in the front of the parking lot. Passenger husband has evidently now become a pedestrian, having left the premises in a fit of rage. Some drivers had left in the same frame of mind, after yelling obscenities at the cashier. I, however, had patiently waited. I am a mom; I will wait for a very long time for food to be served to me.
After a half-hearted search down University Drive – don’t tell him that – I left for home, sipping coffee but with my cell phone on the seat beside me. Surely he’d rethink the whole thing and call, right? No, maybe not, because in his hurry to pitch a fit, he’d left his cellphone on the seat.
He had said he was going to walk home. By car, that trip would take about 45 minutes. Now, I’m no mathematician, but by those standards, it was going to take him an awfully long time to make it home. In the dark. With no phone. And no food, no water either. I’d been with this man in a lot of situations, and it has been my experience that he does not have much stamina. Why, he can’t even walk a mile without stopping, winded and gasping. So he was going to walk all the way back to Pilot Point?
Irate ex-passenger husband decided to cut across the Farm-to-Market 428. When he made this decision, we were already home. I was parking the van, still sipping my coffee. The children had eaten and were asleep. After I had put them to bed and I was getting in my pajamas, he was marching past the Piggly-Wiggly grocery store. While I was climbing into my nice warm bed, setting the clock, and tucking the Dalmatian in next to me, he could now see the overpass that was a landmark for the real beginning of his trip home. The children, the dog, and I were tired; we fell asleep right away. As we sailed comfortably off to Dreamland, he was staring, bleary-eyed, at the twisting, winding road to nowhere.
As time wore on, the temperature dropped considerably. He was thirsty as well as hungry, walking with his mouth open. Two coyotes had been following him, but when they observed this behavior, they fled, probably remembering all they had heard about a rabies outbreak in the area.
He came upon a gas station but it was closed. He prayed that there would be a vending machine around the side of it. Well, there was, and he prayed again, this time asking that the machine would accept dollar bills. He looked in his wallet, hands shaking, and found…a five-dollar bill. God and the angels had smote him, just like I had predicted they someday would. He sat down on a bench and laughed. I think it must have been close to hysterical laughter. I also think it was around this time that he decided to call home. Only, where was his cell phone?
Around four in the morning, he began to see mirages of black animals coming at him from the woods (black mailboxes) and in fact, later on he could correctly relate the placement of each and every mailbox along that turning, twisting road.
He had a close encounter with a skunk, a drunk, two people in a parked car, and he never saw a cop. Not one. He began hitchhiking and almost had heart failure when a car passed him, then came back for him. He tried to hide in the ditch. A voice called out, “Dr. Stratso, is that you?”
Later on, much later, I asked him what he would have done if the skunk had indeed sprayed him. He told me that he would have taken his clothes off and gone down to one of the many creeks he passed.
With a full moon shining, boy oh boy, wouldn’t the coyotes have a story to pass on to their grandchildren?