I See Me (Oracle 1): Chapter Three, Part 1 & 2
Begin reading here: Chapter 1, Part 1
I See Me (Oracle 1)
Part One & Two
“I’ll give you six thousand for it,” I said.
“Seven thousand, firm,” he answered.
“That’s way too much, old man.” I grinned, just so he knew I was teasing about the ‘old man’ part.
He chuckled, his belly actually jiggling to accompany this mirth.
I liked Gary. He was nice for an old guy. His buzz-cut hair was gray and his big, gnarled hands had seen hard use — the hard use that had probably bought him this mausoleum of a house in Richmond. And, upon his retirement, the upgraded, insanely expensive RV that currently filled the entire driveway.
We were negotiating for the much less upgraded 1975 Brave Winnebago he had parked on a cement pad at the side of the house. His wife wanted a hot tub there. I figured she’d just be happy to not be staring at the Brave out of her living room windows anymore.
Not that I thought the older RV was an eyesore. To me, it looked like freedom.
The kind of freedom I’d been looking for since I turned sixteen, and started scouring Craigslist and AutoTrader to figure out what kind of RV to save up for. I’d gotten my driver’s license pretty much the moment I was eligible. The license had taken some wrangling on my part, and I was seriously lucky my shrink and doctor hadn’t pulled it after my last visit to the psych ward. Of course, I’d been rather circumspect about the blinding side effects of hallucinations.
Despite the blip this afternoon, I was certain I had the delusions under control. At the very least, I knew the warning signs and could react quickly — say, pull off the road or park the RV, if needed.
This was my second trip out into middle-of-nowhere Richmond. It had taken a SkyTrain and two buses to get here the first time, but I’d figured out a way to skip the second bus on this trip. I didn’t mind walking, and I could cut diagonally using the side streets where the bus had to drive in straight lines. The buildings weren’t particularly tall around here, so the residential sprawl was massive. The house lots were easily double the size of those closer to downtown Vancouver, though.
It was full dark, around six o’clock when I’d arrived. The sun set early this time of year. I was late, but Gary hadn’t cared. The delicious, spicy dinner smells coming from the house behind him when he opened the front door had made my tummy rumble.
I settled my feet. I’d been bouncing around a bit in anticipation. It was a struggle to compose my face. I really, really wanted him to sell this RV to me. He’d kept it in mint condition, with the original orange-striped curtains, brownish-orange carpet, and lime-green countertops. Even the dashboard was burnt orange. You’d think the colors would be completely faded and the fabric threadbare, but they weren’t. It was absolutely hideous. I loved every inch of it.
“Six thousand five hundred. That’s all I’ve got.”
Gary narrowed his eyes at me and frowned deeply. “I’m not sure. Can your feet reach the pedals?”
I laughed. “You saw me test drive it last time.”
“Yup. Nearly shaved ten years off my life watching you pull out in it.”
He thrust his hand forward and I eagerly shook it.
I dug into my bag and pulled out the envelope of cash I’d been carrying all day. I opened the stack of hundred-dollar bills and removed five hundreds from it.
Gary sputtered, though probably more over me carrying that much cash than how I’d talked him down five hundred dollars that I’d been completely prepared to pay. I actually had a couple hundred dollars tucked inside my bag in American currency as well.
“I have to buy gas,” I said as I handed him six thousand five hundred dollars of my hard-earned, scraped-together-over-the-last-two-years savings. I’d never been so completely excited to part with money in any amount before, let alone this much of it. I’d have to get some new sketches listed quickly if I wanted to eat next week. Thankfully, I wasn’t a big eater.
Gary laughed. “You’re taking her tonight, then?”
“I’d like to.”
“Course, course,” he said. “Well … I should show you how to empty the storage tanks and charge the battery.”
“I read the owner’s manual and the driver’s guide last time.”
“Ah, yes. You did.”
I held my hand out for the keys. He smiled sadly as he dropped them into my open palm.
“There’s an Autoplan place over on Number 3 Road,” Gary said. “But I’m not sure they’ll still be open.”
“They are. Until seven,” I said. “The insurance guy is kind of expecting us. If you’re cool to come with me?”
“Of course he is.” Gary chuckled again. “I’ll follow you in my car.”
I practically stumbled over my feet to the side door of the RV. The Brave had a single exterior door — right behind the cockpit passenger seat — that opened to the entire interior. There was one bed in the tail section, and the bright lime-green kitchen table could be converted as well. The kitchen and the tiny bathroom occupied the middle of the vehicle. This model didn’t come with the drop-down bed over the cockpit, though that had been an option back when it was new.
All I had to do to be exactly where I’d been dreaming of being for the last three years was climb a couple of orange-carpeted steps up into the cockpit between the driver and passenger seats. From there, I could slide in behind the wheel and be off.
Well, right after I got insurance.
I hustled out of the Autoplan place, even more impoverished than I’d been thirty minutes ago, but with my insurance papers safely tucked inside my bag.
The mall parking lot was empty, and the insurance broker’s lights winked out behind me as I hustled over to where Gary was tightening the new license plates onto the Brave.
I was glad that Gary had come with me, because it had really smoothed out the transfer of ownership process. He’d slipped out before the insurance guy seriously depleted my savings account further. Apparently, it took four years — not three — to build up a safe driving record and nineteen-year-old’s dished out a crazy amount for insurance. I paid for six months upfront without even blinking.
Gary grinned at me as I approached. But then, I was grinning at him like a maniac and practically skipping instead of walking, so I wasn’t surprised. He snapped something closed on his Leatherman multi-tool and pocketed the knife. A screwdriver, I guessed.
“All set then?” he asked.
“Just one last thing.” I pulled the back off the date sticker the insurance guy had given me and applied it to the blank spot on the license plate. It read July 14. And for me, that spelled six months of freedom. Yes, please, and thank you.
I straightened and offered Gary my hand. I didn’t like to touch people, but Gary had been amazing. “Thank you, sir,” I said.
He shook my hand and then nodded me toward the Brave without a word.
I crossed between his big Jeep and the RV to climb in the side door.
As I settled into the driver’s seat, Gary crossed around to the driver’s-side window. I put the keys in the ignition and obligingly hand-cranked the window down when Gary knocked on it.
“I filled her for you,” he said, leaning in with his arm on the window ledge. “Tess baked you muffins.” He gestured across me toward a basket on the passenger seat. “I’d already figured you’d take the Brave tonight.”
“Thank Tess for me?”
“I will. I also put a note in the basket, with our cellphone number, our CB handles, and other things I thought you should know. But, ah, we don’t use the CB very much anymore.”
“Right.” I let him off the uncomfortable hook he was wiggling on. “Because lots of working girls use them at truck stops to solicit customers. I’m good with Google.”
Gary cleared his throat and bobbed his head in a nod. “Okay, then. Well, it’s still good in case of a traffic jam. The trucks and RVs ahead of you will let you know what lane to get into or what bypass to take. I also left instructions on how to change the password for the personal safe, which I’m sure you already saw.”
“It’s bolted into the floor in one of the lower storage cabinets.”
“It isn’t foolproof, of course, but you might want to use it for your passport and any valuables you aren’t wearing. The sheets are clean, and there’s an extra set for the second bed. Tess bought all the plates, glasses, and utensils especially for the Brave. But, well, you know all that already.”
“Thank you … again and again.” I couldn’t stop smiling, even though my face was hurting from it.
“The tires are going to need replacing next year. Sooner if you drive her a lot. Try to get her under cover in the winter, especially in the snow. Don’t invite any leaks.”
I nodded, though Gary had told me all of this already. I had a good memory but I didn’t mind him fussing over me — even if it was really just him fussing over letting go of his Brave.
“Tess and I are going to take a spin down the coast tomorrow, see where we get. It’ll be wet, of course, and not all the campgrounds are open.”
“That’s where I’m headed.”
“I thought you might be. Better to do BC in the spring, after the snow has melted in all the pretty places you’ll want to see.”
He nodded, then did so a second time more deliberately. Finally, he let go of the window and stepped back. “Start her up.”
I turned the key in the ignition. The engine tried to turn over a few times and then caught.
“Call the cell if you need us,” Gary called.
“Texting seems easier. You need an international data plan. I just bought one myself.”
He laughed, thumped the side of the Brave, and turned to walk around to his Jeep without looking back.
I’m not sure why, but as I pulled out of the parking lot and onto the street, I watched in the passenger sideview mirror as he drove off in the opposite direction. I imagined him going home to Tess and their tasty dinner with sixty-five hundred dollars in his pocket that he really didn’t want, or maybe even need. I had no idea why it mattered to me, but I really hoped some part of him was pleased he’d sold the Brave to me.
I had to force myself to turn left and wind my way back to the highway and into Vancouver, instead of heading straight for the border. I had a couple of suitcases and boxes waiting for me at the Residence. I might toy with the idea of just taking off, but I really wasn’t going anywhere without my drawing stuff or an extra supply of pills.
The impulse to just walk away from everything was strong. It felt empowering. And I was still grinning.
Plus, I was going to eventually need food. I always hated the fact I couldn’t get away with not eating.
Chapter 3, part 2 & 3 (Oct 2)
– Shares welcomed and appreciated –