The night, though cold and moonless, was most uneventful. Again Gil heard the coyotes pad’s gently following at some distance to either side, but this time he welcomed their company, whistling the lullaby, not as a comfort or warning for himself, but for them.
A some point in the dark of the early morning hours, Gil heard a noise he’d not heard in months. After so much time alone and away from the sound of the civilized life, his hearing had grown remarkably stronger.
It was a jet engine, a passenger aircraft high above the desert landscape. Gil stopped and looked skyward until he saw the faint flashing lights of a plane as it rocketed its way in a westward trajectory.
The sight caused an unexpected catch in his throat as he wondered, “Maybe I ought to settle down for a while. A town with a library, a job, and a clean bed.”
The thought held him spellbound long after the aircraft faded from sight. It was enough to lift his spirit, that and the knowledge that he was getting closer and close to his destination with each step.
Before he realized it, the sun was finding it’s way above the eastern crags of the mountain behind him. Another hour of walking and Gil clearly heard the sound of a vehicle someplace off in the very far distance.
Deciding not to stop, Gil gulped down the last of the water in the tin and pushing the empty can under the flap of his rucksack, picked up his pace. He was certain that jus’ beyond the horizon lay his ‘yellow brick road,’ and salvation from the grit and heat of the desert.
It was slightly after noon, when he came to the black top road of U.S. 50. He wanted to sit and rest a spell, but he knew somewhere south of where he was standing was a piece of pie and a soda waiting for him to order.
Another hour passed before he finally spotted the lone roadside diner, a hole-in-the-wall really, but a sight for Gil’s sore eyes. He pull on the door and stumbled to the counter. “A soda, please. Anything wet.”
Wide-eyed, the young woman behind the counter looked at Gil, “Where in the world did you come from?”
“The desert – out that way,” Gil motioned randomly.
She quickly got him a glass, filled with ice and cola, asking “What were you doing out there?”
“Working,” he said between gulps. She refilled his glass.
“So, how far is it to Carson, from here?” he asked.
She smiled, “About 10 miles or so.”
“Good,” Gil said, adding, “Can I trouble you for a piece of pie? Any kind will do.”
Quickly, she cut him a large wedge of cherry pie and placed it in front of him. Gil pulled the last few dollars from his sweat stained shirt pocket and placed it on the counter, “Thank you, ma’am.”
She refilled his soda glass, adding more ice before suggesting, “You can go out back after finishing your pie and wash up at the spigot. Then I can give you a ride into town, if you’d like. Save yourself having to walk.”
Gil returned her smile, “I’ll take you up on your offer. By the way, my name’s Gil,” as he offered her his hand.
“Nancy,” she returned.