There’s no free lunch, right?
Now, wait a minute. I’m not talking politics. None of that stuff. I’m talking about reality ... real lunch ... lunch with a price on it.
Just hold on, though ... there’s more to the story.
Phyllis and I had hopped into The Little Red Car ... and Little Red, as usual, was eager to go ... so we went.
We didn’t go far, mind you (there’s always that fear of falling off the edge of the earth) ... but we had a good outing, explored the place where we did our first tent camping, way back in the previous century.
Beautiful spot ... then and now. Remind me to tell you more about that some day.
Eventually the hunger pangs started coming at closer intervals, so, as we were driving in the vicinity of Cedarville University, we took a sudden right turn, drove carefully across campus, and found a parking place, near a building which seemed to be the center of activity at the moment.
We entered, paused at the Information Desk for reassurance that Little Red was not violating any rules while waiting for us.
Then we spied the dining room ... and made a bee-line for it, taking care not to knock any of the students aside in our rush.
We paused at the desk there ... and I was trying to remember which pocket my billfold was hiding in ... when events suddenly went into fast-forward mode, something like this:
I heard a young man’s voice, nearby, saying something like ... “Have they been swiped in?”
“No, they haven’t been,” replied the young deskperson.
Then the young man handed her a card, which she promptly slid through the card reader.
My initial reaction, I must admit, was a flicker of a thought: We were next in line, and he’s going ahead of us.
But, like I say, things were happening fast. The deskperson swiped that card two more times ... smiled at us ... and said, “You’re all set!”
He ... the student ... had paid for our lunches!
I turned to thank the young man ... and to ask his name ... but he was already gone.
Oh, but that wasn’t all.
Still stunned, I turned slowly toward the dining room, and there, in front of us now, was another young man holding out his card and inquiring of the deskperson ... “Have they been swiped in?”
WE SAT NEAR the large windows, enjoyed a fabulous lunch ... and the view ... and marveled over what had happened to us just minutes before.
At some point I ventured the suggestion that we should go there for lunch every day ... but quickly withdrew it ... on a smile and a glance from Phyllis ... I agreed, that might be overstepping.
WORD FROM LOREE, Kansas ... “Well, after losing a few nights’ sleep and tossing and turning, I went yesterday morning to take my annual driver’s test.
“Strange how that makes my heart kick up its heels, probably makes the pacemaker nearly frantic, and the palms of my hands so wet I could water a flower!
“Anyway, turned out to be much ado about a whole lot of nothing.”
The scary part?
“The intimidating letter that the DMV sends out of Topeka, stating in no uncertain terms, ‘You are allowed four tries, within the 30 days of the date this letter was written, to attempt to pass the driving test you are required to take!’
“Well, guess I showed them ... one more time,” Loree says. “I passed it on the first try.”
Congrats to Loree ... and to her pretty, shiny 1996 Ford F150 pickup ... which rolled over the 77,400-mile mark on the driving test.
TODAY’S POEM - This is one of my favorites (some of you may recall having seen it before) ... largely because of the memories it has preserved of a young family taking affordable outings. We were living in Northern Illinois at the time, and Marengo was one of our favorite destinations.
Memories of those outings were still "rotating on the carousel of my mind" as Phyllis and I returned from a now-rare outing, a trip out of town.
Traffic had thinned a bit (all the trucks, buses and cars of the world had gone zip-zip-zipping past us ... because I always poke along at the posted speed limit).
During those few moments when we had only the humming of our own car's tires to keep us company, my thoughts drifted toward those summertime outings.
What delicious memories! I had no choice. I had to dig out "Driving to Marengo" and share it with you again today:
DRIVING TO MARENGO
We urged the old station wagon
along curving country roads
toward that place just across
from the school, to consume
those remarkable foot-long
hotdogs with chili peppers
and onions, dripping mustard
and juices, filling the air
with an aroma that lingered
all the slow, dark drive home,
and for days afterward,
like a spirit moving softly
among us, implanting memories
still turning, slowly rotating
on the carousel of my mind.
(originally published in Raintown Review)
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