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Back To Bethlehem

Chapter 2

Custom artwork by Jessica Stanley depicting a hitchhiker.

I awoke to find a blurry, imposing shadow moving about and shaking me to my senses. I wasn't sure how much time had passed with the sun a bit lower in the cloudless sky. Sadly the afternoon heat hadn't diminished. At all. "Are you okay, man?" "Here, let me help you up." The voice was deep and had a drawl that I only describe as somewhere America. I winced when he grabbed my arm to help me to my feet but I knew nothing was broken. There'd be aches and pains. Bruises and cuts to heal. But all in all, everything was moving and functioning. Especially the bolts of pain.

We walked towards his car. The black beast that nearly ran me over. It didn't look as menacing now. No. It just looked like it was in a hurry to go somewhere. Apparently the driver was as well, with me tagging along behind, hobbling and labouring to keep up. "I'm going to Seattle" he said, matter of factly, "and you're welcome to ride along if you're headed that way." I opened the door and gingerly slid into the passenger seat of this black and chrome monster. He was already at the helm. He reached over and extended a hand in his best goodwill gesture. "I'm Jimmy" he said and half-smiled at me. "I'm Robert but most of my friends call me Bob." I shook his hand and winced a little as I settled in for the ride. The soft leather of my seat was most inviting. After riding on that hard bus seat for hours and then the walk and tumble, yes, this was most inviting. "I'm still Jimmy, pleased to meet you. Fasten your seatbelt." I did. He turned the key in the ignition, punched the gas pedal hard and my heart started pounding furiously as we tore off at breakneck speed.

I looked over at him and studied his features carefully. My head and vision was beginning to clear. He was Hollywood handsome, mid-twenties I guessed. Well-tanned and shoulder length black hair, he looked like one of the many rock stars I had poster of gracing my bedroom walls at home. In a split second I knew all the local girls I hung with would just go ga-ga over Jimmy. My bedroom wall come to life.

After a few sharp corners, a few s-curves and the passing of more than a few logging trucks, we found ourselves on a long straight stretch. Jimmy's shoulders relaxed and we started trading stories. He was from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. Not a place I'd ever heard of, well, not in America anyway. Just the biblical town. I'd heard of Nazareth, also in Pennsylvania, because that's where they make Martin guitars. My father has one. I mentioned this to Jimmy. He laughed and said he couldn't play or sing a note to save his life. "Do you play or sing?" I nodded yes and then proceeded to tell him about my band, my summer, the hash and my latest fuck-up. The missing bus. I told him about the guitar, my pawn shop rescue; but neglected to mention the bankroll. I probably left a few other things out as well.

"No problem, Queenie will get us there in time. And if not, it'll be damn close. There's a fuckin' blue-printed demon living under Queenie's hood." I laughed nervously at that as I thought of the canyon. I told him White Rock was right near the border and he was welcome to spend a day or two before heading on to Seattle. "It's not exciting Vancouver", I told him, "just a sleepy little border town that gets its share of swaggering American farm boys on weekends".

"You're the first real American I've ever met. American women don't come here. Just the guys that are underage in your country. They're legal here but they can't handle the alcohol. They hit on our girlfriends, call us assholes and long-hairs and then end up in the drunk tank after a few beers". I hesitated and then added " but mostly they're just plain scary".

Jimmy laughed loudly. "That's because your Canadian beer is so strong". I thought about that for a second. Last year when there was a beer strike, you could only get Uncle Ben's beer here. Horrible shit. We ended up crossing the line and driving to Bellingham. Our only American beer run. We ended up buying five cases of Miller. We got back home and the four of us sat around drinking. We ran out of beer around three in the morning. Nary a buzz. Yeah, I guess our Canadian beer does pack a punch.

As I looked out the side window I noticed the terrain changing. Jimmy noticed it too. It was starting to get cooler. The grassy stretches and small hills had given way to rock. We were just beginning to see the telltale signs of the Fraser Canyon. We noticed a few billboards. Visit the scenic canyon. Get gas. Food and lodging. Jimmy spoke up. "Time for a pit stop. We need gas and beer. And I need to rest my eyes. I've been driving for twelve hours straight". Although I didn't say anything I thought it was a good idea. I had wanted to help pay for gas but remembered my empty wallet. Jimmy went on. "Yeah, a nice cold beer will refresh the hell out of me". His eyes lit up. A flash of something. And then. "Hey, what about that hash of yours"?

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