an excerpt from Running From The Taxman, A Great American Road Trip, by Chris Plante

April 16, 2013

Dear Maggie,

I have mailed my final letter to the Taxman for now.  He has been put on notice that I am no longer at a physical address.  I have not left him a forwarding address, either, and would appreciate animosity that by chance he, or they, contact you looking for a way to contact me.  You are welcome to keep me up to date as to what their demeanor is from time to time.  Just send your letters to the previously arranged mail account that we agreed to prior to my leaving.  The tablet you bought me has been indispensable and I have found that Wi-Fi is plentiful in the diners along the few highways WB and I have been on thus far. Keeping in touch will be easy and immediate.  I know our fondness for each other will only grow over time, and cannot thank you enough for letting me take this hiatus.  I am meeting some interesting people already, and it has only been a few days.

WB and I contracted with a lady at a diner to paint her bathroom.  She had just one, which made it easy, and the payment of a meatloaf dinner, cheesecake, and some gas money for each of us was well worth the labor.  WB told me it had been a dream of his for a long time, even while he was paying a mortgage and raising kids, to travel the U.S. and earn his keep painting bathrooms.  He said the diners were the best places to get painting gigs, because the food was always good and plentiful.  Gas stations were necessary every 300 miles or so, but payment besides the fuel was usually a cold processed sandwich.  The diner lady wanted to know all about my life before hitting the road, so I left out the issues with the Taxman and gave her the scoop.  We mainly talked about my uncle, and she kind of connected with him.  She liked that he is a hard worker and fair with the folks that work for him.  “It was good of him to store your stuff,” she told me.  Her family, however, “was not so nice to be around,” she confided.  “They would sell my stuff from under me, if I was stupid enough to let them have it.”  Her lips straightened and her eyes squinted tight, and she went on; “They were mean, nasty people,” she snarled.  Then her lips went crooked on her, and she added, “they attended church, but only so they could hide behind a Jesus curtain.”

She told me how her mother used to beat her, and how she threw cans of food and vacuum cleaners in fits of rage.  Her family, she said, was sick, going back as far as she could remember.  Her grandmother taught her mother how to beat her older sister with the branch of an Oleander bush, and her grandfather beat a horse to death with a whip handle.  I asked her, “was that possibly on a Sunday before they went to church, or after?”  She just made a hissing noise, and walked away.

I’m going to pack it up for the night.  We are parked behind a shed next to the diner and my bones are tired from painting most of the day.  I need some good sleep, so I can be ready early.  The mornings out on the road are kind of surreal. Waking up in a stuffy van parked behind a shed like tonight or a bush along a highway like last night is kind of like not waking up anywhere at all.  Just throw your regular routines out the window,” WB said to me on the first dawn out on the road.  Nothing makes sense here, so just do something new and forget it tomorrow.”

Yours truly,
Simon