“I think birds live in his hair.” Candy stared out the window of the motor home.
She was talking to no one in particular. Actually, to no one at all. She was the only current inhabitant of the Airstream.
The Airstream once belonged to her grandmother on her father’s side. Grandma Patty was a free soul. When she birthed the last one, as Patty would lament referring to Candy’s father, she divorced her husband, Luke, and left him with all the other kids except for Candy’s father, the new born.
Grandma Patty was clever and smooshed away enough bills, as she would say, to buy a broken down Airstream just big enough for her and her baby. And on top of it all, Grandma Patty was able to finagle the ’56 Chevy Nomad to pull the Airstream out of the divorce settlement because, as she proudly shared, “My bosom is good for more than just milk for a screamin’ kid.”
As it fell, once Grandma Patty was gone and Candy’s dad also left the earth for a more stately place, the Airstream minus the ’56 Chevy Nomad came into Candy’s ownership. Her two brothers and baby sister, all in their mid thirties, were happy that all Candy wanted was the Airstream.
The Nomad bit the dust well before Grandma Patty did and Candy always appreciated a good ride. So whatever funds she had left over after paying the bills and a little fun down at Tony’s Bar once in a while was put into a cookie jar. It was an owl wearing a chef’s hat, winking one eye, and smiling even though owls don’t have lips. Candy thought it was a bit creepy. That’s why she bought it for fifty cents at the World’s Longest Garage Sale.
Once the cookie jar was full, Candy counted it up. It was just enough for a down payment on the hot ’74 Chevy Nova Spirit of America. The sleek Chevy was all white with red and blue striping and could easily handle pulling Grandma Patty’s Airstream.
When she hitched the Spirit of America to the Airstream and pulled away from the curb of her childhood home, a white stucco house that faced Interstate 70 and backed up to a gas station, she waved her arm in a flourished good-bye at her two brothers and baby sister standing in the gravel driveway shaking their heads at her grand exit.
Candy didn’t look back and she never went back, even at the holidays when the Christmas cards pleading for a visit would arrive in the P.O. Box she rented in a small town about an hour and half from her motor home rental pad and where Candy would swing by every few weeks just to check up on things.
Candy was looking out the small window towards the park while she finished her hamburger.
After she visited the P.O. box and stocked up on a few supplies at the grocery store that also served as a hardware store, a beauty shop, and, of course, the post office, Candy took out her map. She folded it a few times making new creases, never using the old ones. New creases meant new adventures. It was how Grandma Patty would decide where she would travel next.
Candy also inherited the large brass pendulum with a loop on the top and a sharp point on the bottom. She actually didn’t inherit it. It was simply left in the same place Grandma Patty had put it the last time she returned from her last road trip.
The pendulum was strung on an old shoelace, the same one Grandma Patty used.
Holding the string in one hand and the pendulum in the other Candy would start her incantation saying the exact words Grandma Patty did all those years ago:
Around and around the pendulum swings,
back and forth hanging from this strings.
Where it will take me I may not know,
But where it stops, that’s where I’ll go.
Then Candy would start to sway back and forth as she repeated the chant over and over again letting the pendulum fall from her hand when the time felt just right. Once Candy felt the force, she let go of the pendulum and it would crash down onto the map, the pointy tip punching a hole in the place Candy would land next.
Next was across the street from a park in the middle of a small town in Colorado. Lamar was a nice little place with mostly friendly people who mostly welcomed Candy and her Airstream and her stories of Grandma Patty. She stayed in Lamar longer than she had planned. Longer than Dick had planned, too.
Dick had long grey hair. It reached below his shoulder blades and was curly and thick. Candy liked that. She could imagine all kinds of things about his hair. Sometimes, like today, she thought about birds living in his hair.
“I think birds live in his hair,” she repeated again as she swallowed the last sip of her Pepsi.
It made her giggle imagining little sparrows chirping in the morning sun peaking out from between the silver curls. Or maybe, she thought, it was a flicker who rushed out and returned just as quickly with something in its mouth to be enjoyed under the cover the swooping curlicues.
Candy thought that she was glad to have found Lamar and, especially, Dick.
“Hey! Anybody home?” There was a loud pound, not on the door, but on the hood of the Nova.
Candy stayed still, not moving, not even breathing.
“Hey! Who the hell said you could park here? You’re blocking the front of my store with this old tin can and beat up heap.”
Apparently, who ever it was that was banging on her car proved to be a tasteless and bullying dolt. Anyone who would think of the beautiful lines of the Airstream as an old tin can and the classic Nova as a heap, didn’t deserve a response.
Who ever it was could never possibly understand Candy and what she was doing gazing at Dick’s long grey curls as he slept on the bench in the park across from Grandma Patty’s Airstream.
It was art. Performance art at its highest level.
Candy Palmwater was eating a hamburger, drinking a Pepsi, crunching on some potato chips, and staring at a homeless bum through the window of a silver Airstream.
Now that was something to see. Americana Performance Art.
Such a crude beast slamming his fist on the smooth skin of the Nova, not appreciating its artistic value, deserved no reply.
The pounding didn’t stop. It got louder and closer and the voice became more agitated.
“I said who the hell gave you the permission to park this piece of junk in front of my store? I have people arriving on a bus from Denver to drop some cash on the best antiques this side of the Mississippi and you’ve parked this fucking piece of shit right where the bus will let them off. Get out of the fucking way!”
Now Candy wasn’t one to promote violence. But she also would not be spoken to in that manner. What the raging antique dealer didn’t know was that Candy was also a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. It was her father’s passion and she loved her father. So she did what ever he did and that meant becoming a black belt at a very young age. The problem was, Candy wasn’t really a rule follower. She did things her own way.
So using Tae Kwon Do for self-defense only had a pretty wide-ranging definition in Candy’s mind. Candy stood and brushed off the potato chip and bun crumbs from her dress.
She was wearing a cute blue and white checked pinafore with a white blouse, Peter Pan collar, and puffy short sleeves. She made it herself. The Airstream also proudly held a 1965 Singer Sewing Machine that was her mom’s prized possession and one she learned to use expertly.
Candy’s other love, beside the Airstream and Chevy Nova, was old movies, especially musicals. She made all her clothes after the leading ladies, and even the men. Today she wore her version of Dorothy.
She tied her dark brown hair in two low pigtails just under her ears with red ribbons. She didn’t have ruby slippers, because in her life, it just wasn’t practical. So she substituted bright red Converse high tops. It proved to be the right choice for today’s event.
The pounding and the hollering came closer and grew louder and with it more words that set Candy’s teeth on edge.
“Well, this just won’t do,” Candy said to no one in particular. Actually, no one at all.
She walked to the door just as the voice reached the other side. Swinging the door open as hard as she could, she slammed the antique dealer directly in the face.
He fell back onto the ground holding his nose in his hands, the flow of blood was quite remarkable. As the antique dealer writhed on the ground moaning, Candy stepped up to him and looked down.
“Excuse me, I was eating a potato chip and I couldn’t quite hear what you were saying.”
A flow of curse words matched the flow of blood and as the man started to stand up, Candy used her red Converse high tops in the way her Tae Kwon Do master and her dad would stand in awe if they had seen it, even if they didn’t approve of it. The antique dealer hit the ground with a thud.
Shrugging her shoulders, Candy walked around to the back of the Airstream. The gathering crowd parted like the Red Sea. She stepped across the street to the bench where Dick was sleeping.
“Hey, Dick.” She shook him gently. “It’s time to go.”
Dick looked up shading his eyes with his hand.
“I said it’s time to go.”
And the man with the birds in his beard and the girl in the Dorothy dress and red converse high tops slipped into the ’74 Chevy Nova Spirit of America and drove out of town pulling Grandma Patty’s silver Airstream behind them.