“Holy-moley! I didn’t realize that I was almost getting there,” Harold benightedly soothed himself, “because…hmmmm…it’s only 1,273 miles to go until I finally reach the town of Twilight.” He perked up physically at his previous thought. The trip from B_tt_e C__ek, M_ch_g_n to the T.I.T.T.I.E.S. campus grounds covered just over 1,330 miles. A modern automobile in sterile condition could make it in twenty hours. In the fractured ’57, the journey was calculated by the authors to last a mere thirty-two…without stops. It was the longest pilgrimage Harold had ever attempted. It was a little more than twice as long as the trek from Brownlee Park to his old camping grounds out at Lake Powahahopo, Minnesota. It was now 5:54 a.m., and the school just seemed like it was over the next incline.
     Mentally, Harold went over his agenda at the moment he got settled in at the college: “Let’s see…go to the bathroom and check for toilet paper, then it’s off to the Information desk, go to Security and pay for a parking permit…if I need to. Geezers, it shouldn’t be a problem finding any spaces to park at due to the fact that it’s located in such a huge state! I mean, high school parking was a snap! I always had room around where I parked in the B.C.S. lot. College being so much huge’er and all…I mean, DUH! Run over and get a library card, the school curriculum guide mentioned that I need to pay license fees, then I’ll quickly register for all my Freshman classes…which shouldn’t take more than fifteen minutes. Let’s think, now…six different courses…under three minutes each, since I already picked the times that I’ll be attending them…yeppie…fifteen minutes! Go verify my dorm assignment and room number, sign up for some extra needed furniture rentals and laundry privileges…and last, but not least, unpack the car in an orderly fashion and take a quick nap! HA! It’s soooooooo easy! Then, I’ll get cleaned up before 4 p.m. and it’s off to the student union building to find a television with a 32-inch screen, settle down with some CheeZits and chunkified peanut butter paste and enjoy of what’s left of a Saturday afternoon that a wheelbarrow of money couldn’t buy. Priceless! Mmmmmmm…Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo, and yaht-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-t-tah-daaaaaaaaaaah…Bullwinkle J. Moose!” Suddenly, Harold went bolt upright in the car seat and gasped as he began to tremble and sweat.
     “Oh…my God,” he slowly drawled out anxiously, “what if the school doesn’t get Channel 13 in Twilight? What if they didn’t install any television towers out there or voted unanimously against using any kind of radio transmission poles due to the reason it would clutter up some God-forsaken landscapes?!? What if the only possible television reception was with ‘rabbit ear’ antennas with aluminum foil wrapped around it?!? I can’t bear to think about it…”
     He soon contemplated suicide: pressing the accelerator to its limit and having a head-on collision with some unknown out-of-control gas hauler. Sure enough, a large shadow appeared in the dim sunlight of the morning around the next curve. Sure enough, it was a designated 26-wheeled double-tanker carrying a rim-filled lethal mix of nitroglycerin, maize ethanol and turkey fat petroleum from Zak’s Refinery in Mount Etna, Indiana. To Harold, everything seemed to move in slow motion. Like a survivor’s detailed description of how he had lived through some unbelievable cataclysmic disaster. [This is a ‘hint’ for any broadcast producer with enough nerve to make some video out of this subject matter.] Harold squeezed his eyes tightly shut and relaxed his grip from the vibrating steering wheel, allowing the car’s misalignment to pull him further into the path of the oncoming truck. Slowly opening one of his eye slits, he peeked into the reflection of his dimmed headlights on the shiny chrome front bumper of the briskly approaching diesel hauler. With one final gasping breath, Harry quickly gulped the air down his tight throat, then grabbed onto his nuts…
[Tee-hee! Just kidding! Now, tell me…what was your immediate reaction to Harold’s plight?
 Do you feel that it was important enough to fry some meat on the sizzling street?!?
 I didn’t think so…]
     The ‘57’s radio crackled up another reflective song from the era, which peacefully brought a smile from Harold, “Billy Doggett, you sure know how to ‘Honky Tonk’. Make that gee’tar sing…bring on the sax…Oh, YEAH! Blues, baby…blues.” Somewhat lost in thought, like a chimp holding on to a saliva-stained ragdoll in a cage at the local zoo, Harold leisurely paced himself about the adventure ahead. Then, reality bit him in the ass, “Damn! Another twelve-hundred or so miles…” Harold intoned to himself, “then, I can move into my room, sign some of the rent papers, take a warm shower, get dressed and get drunk! Nnnnnn-GULP!” He laughed under his breath, thinking about some of his old friends from his neighborhood. It wasn’t very long ago that he, Knobby, Flakie and Goodie used to sneak quarts of so-called ‘Mad Dog 20-20’ out of the underground basement pantry at little Jay Voorhees’ lodging. Everybody knew that Lil’ Jay’s father, Jason, was a real hockey buff and collected quite an array of hockey masks, but hit the hard home-manufactured swill fairly often; and was, by far, the easiest target for a dirt cheap, rip-roarin’, horror-resembling, cookie-blowin’ good time! It would be twenty degrees in the shade and the northeastern breeze would scatter the dead maple leaves through the small clump of boys sitting around laughing and making up stories, while shooting rounds of the recycled liquor by the old tree stump behind Knobby’s house. This tradition (of drinking until the last one that was left conscious enough to carry the rest of the group home on a bicycle or in their new old car) lasted throughout high school. It was a dirty, rotten shame that three out of the four school buddies were now filthy, stinking derelicts that had nothing else better to do than continue to become inebriated, pop drugs, make babies, sit in front of the television (i.e. – ‘square-headed girlfriend’) and scan the channels for smut and/or stand in line at the bar, religious-affiliated food service vendors or the welfare commission offices.
     Harold pulled a tissue out of the pastel blue and white gingham box resting on the seat beside him and gently wiped some tears from his eyes, then slowly wadded up the damp translucent paper extract tightly and popped it into the half-opened ash tray where it could be conjoined with the exiled radio face numbers. Feeling a tugging sensation within his chest, he started to pat the steering wheel like it was one of man’s best companions throughout those long ago times that were checkered with sadness and joy. Shoving some of the clutter off of the passenger seat onto the front floorboard, he slouched back into the corner between the back of the drivers’ seat and the door, resting his head against the hard red couch pillow from home (where some famous corn flakes are developed for consumption). Sometimes thinking about the past really helped him put the present into perspective.
     Harold glanced at the gas gauge, trying to calculate the distance he needed to travel before refilling the unsophisticated carrier of his propitious content. He peeked at the hammered radio grill, the sweltering paraphernalia on the floor, the ‘mucky-catcher’ sticking out from underneath the seat, then back out the grimy windshield thinking aimlessly about the drivel he had experienced so far. “Wait a minute!” he bellowed as he snapped his fingers and sat up straight again. The old, faded hard red pillow remained stuck to the window, held in place by the miraculous adhesive properties of three-day-old Happy Time Root Beer. “THAT’S IT!” he cried. Another brightly hand painted billboard concerning the infamous ‘Igmo, the Wonder Pig’ had caught his attention. He twisted his upper torso around, trying to catch another glimpse of the passing sign, but a few of the rays from another Indiana farmer’s field floodlight blocked his view. “Damn…” he exasperatingly sighed, then yelped again, “THAT’S IT, ALRIGHT! I figured it out!” He began talking to himself as he rooted around for his travel diary, “All of those crazy signs are in black and white! Ummm, except for…except for Igmo the Wonder Pig. Hmmmph…no pictures at all. No girlie models, no sex, no booze or cigarettes, no sports heroes hocking some colored spit, no radio or television acronyms. Nothing…but, written text! Man…what a unique place!”
     When Harold finally found his road diary, he noticed that the page for the present day’s date was filled up with his old-ladies-fixing-coffee-and-bacon-fat-grease-for-their-lazy-husbands log, so he scratched out the leap year’s extra day at the conclusion of the journal to record his morning thoughts. He quickly plucked the blue Bic® pen from the pocket of his brown, red and white plaid lumberjack shirt and started scribbling. The message was nearly indecipherable, because the ink would flow in an intermittent, on and off pattern. He squinched his forehead in regret, then scrawled perceptively:
     ‘All of those crazy signs are in black and-‘  he cursed as the car riveted on another line of road dividers, instinctively steering the vehicle back into its’ proper position, then continued to write, ‘white! Ummm, except for…except for Igmo the Wonder Pig. Hmmmph…no pictures at all. No girlie models, no sex, no booze or cigarettes, no sports heroes hocking some colored spit, no radio or television acronyms. Nothing…but, written text! Man…what a unique place!’
     After completing his written observation, Harold slapped the diary shut and flicked it into a potato chip-stained cardboard box sitting on the passenger side floorboard, then casually slumped back in the plastic-covered seat, feeling satisfied and explicably comfortable. At that precise moment, a blaring truck horn passed within inches of Harold’s driver-side window, with its descending echo traveling the opposite direction.
(Don’t make him that comfortable numb-nuts…we still have more than 800 pages to go!)
(WHAT?!?!? Our readers will go blind by the time they finish reading this goop!)
(Then I suggest you go to school and invest in getting an associate degree in Optometry.)
     Cresting over the next rolling hill, Harold’s stomach gurgled for some form of nourishment. At the bottom of the dale, on the right side of the highway, was what looked to be one of those road-side truck stop diners erected in the 1940’s that Harold had hoped to experience during his odyssey. This eatery just happened to be located on the outskirts of a town called Valentine, smack dab in the center of Lagrange County, Indiana. By coincidence, the ZZ Top song of the same name started playing on the local radio station…
     …’bout that shack outside La Grange,
     and you know what I’m talkin’ about.
     Just let me know if you wanna go
     to that home out on the range.
     They gotta lotta nice girls.[1]
     Harold tried to snap his fingers to the beat of this unfamiliar ditty, then flapped his yaps onto the deaf world outside his interpretation of the chorus:
     “Have scurvy
      Ah-chaw, chaw, chaw, chaw, ah-squawk
      Ah-chaw, chaw, chaw.”
     Letting the automobile glide after he took his foot off of the accelerator, he slowly peeled into the parking lot of the red and white diner. Adjacent to the road-side café was another building that caught Harold’s interest. He chuckled at the concept of its construction, due to the fact that it didn’t have any windows built into the frame. It was just a large white aluminum-sided structure with an oversized neon-lit address. He soon fathomed that any one of these Indiana farmers could possibly spot this sign from ten miles away. As he slowly drifted to the last parking space in front of the diner, he noticed that there was a breezeway which connected the two buildings. On the right was ‘Zak’s Family Choice Diner’, while on the left was ‘Zzzzzz’s Adult Video Pornotorium’.
     “My goodness,” Harold candored, “this must’ve been Anita’s birth place!”
     He quickly glanced at his watch, “6:09…damn, I’ve only got a few minutes to eat or I’m gonna be off by a long shot from my schedule.” He removed himself from the car, then stepped inside and ate his nutritious meal, which consisted of buckwheat waffles covered in fig-flavored syrup, cream-o-grits, three links of fried catfish sausage and a piping hot cup of homemade coffee (i.e. – recycled grinds from the previous sixty pots of caffeine-laced swill). After leaving the 83-cent tip for his waitress, Wilma Jolene, he returned to his old ’57 and left this fine masticating establishment. Gliding through the parking lot of the so-called ‘Pornotorium’, Harold noticed something distinctly unfamiliar with the front of its structure. Each of the parking spaces was designated with a wooden eighteen inch-by-eleven inch sign nailed onto a fence post categorizing the preference of the trucker that had parked his or her rig into it. It reminded him of the old western movies where the cowpokes would tie their horses to the posts in front of the saloons. Harold mumbled them to himself as he drove past, “’Hardcore’, ‘Couples’, ‘Big Boobs’…er, ugh, hmmmm?...yikes…’Teens’, ‘Gangbang’, ‘Interracial’, ‘Mature’, ‘Amateurs’, ‘Bondage’, ‘Blow Jobs’, ‘Facials’, ‘Anal’, ‘Gay and Lesbian’, (and last, but not least) ’Trailer Park Home Videos’. Well, zippity-doo-dah-dippy!” Reaching the end of the freshly painted lot, with the sound of road gravel grinding under his well-worn tires, Harold embarked on the journey towards his college…’T.I.T.T.I.E.S.’
(I know what you’re thinking…he’s twisting his head around to try and get a glimpse of the curiously bizarre fence posts announcements. Au contraire, mon frere. For those of you who are wondering what in the hell his college acronym really stood for, the college that Harold will most likely be attending for the better part of the next decade, is aptly called…Texas Institute of Technological Training Including Environmental Sciences. There…)
(Wait a moment! Including?!? What educational institution would have the word ‘including’ in their title?)
(A ‘fictional’ one…so blow that out your hole, Fump-T’Dump!)
     After another twenty minutes had passed, Harold decided to start playing with his automobile’s homemade transmission a bit to help ease his boredom. He shifted the car into ‘Neutral’ and let it coast down a short hill, reengaging the clutch at the nadir of the valley, then start gunning the engine up to the next rise. Pasture livestock within five square miles would respond to the sonically-enhanced automobile. As he apexed the top of the next mound, he was startled to see a banner stretched across the road between two telephone poles. Billowing audaciously in the dawn’s early light, it was a ratty streamer that looked like three white bed sheets sewn together. On it, in burnt umber latex paint, were letters that announced:
[1] ZZ Top, “La Grange” (Frank Lee Beard, Billy F Gibbons, Joe Michael Hill)
Song: Ch.8-1
Song: Ch.8-2
End: Chap. 8