In the end, we are not going to survive the rest of our lives. Sooner or later we will understand the fates that have befallen the ones before us. How will it all feel? What is that final thought before one passes on? Is it filled with euphoria or regret or a longing for more? Does an angel come down to lift you from this earth and transport you to a heavenly world of ever-knowing bliss? Or is it just done? A big awkward piece of nothingness. Maybe it’s something beyond nothing? A void so deep you wonder how many universes could occupy that space? So many questions run through Bob’s mind about the end. Especially that part, right before the end. In all fairness, would one not wonder why Bob wouldn’t ponder these things? After all, he has been there, in the end, with so many people. Been there to shepherd them along to their voids or bliss. Sometimes they are ready and willing to go, with what seems like a calm acceptance. An acceptance that this has been a long time coming. Sometimes it’s a kicking, screaming, drawn-out ordeal. One last fleeting moment to belong more to this world than the next. Sometimes they are oblivious to the events that will soon unfold. Ignorance is usually the best for them but the worst for Bob. There is just a slight dissatisfaction for him when he is not more intimately involved. Is it different for each one, the end? Does it matter how they go? In a blaze of glory with guns blasting or in their sleep after the toxins complete their appointed task and they just drift away?
Where does it all go? The laughs, the voice, the tears, the sweat, the electrical charges? This was the specific question Bob was asking himself as he looked at the Sheriff. Such a familiar man but evidently, he held a great secret. He thought about where it all goes after every one of them had moved on. Will I remember what it’s like when I am at the end? He asked himself. Will I carry it with me? A small explainable fear in my next life as a dog or a bird or a banker? This will occupy Bob for a short bit, but the sun is coming up, and the fresh snow will be turning to slush. The drive will be slower than usual and the day is already so full of appointments and other problems to solve. His younger self-reminds him of how the old woman is not fond of tardiness. Again, life has gotten in the way of answering all these questions. After all, the day is young, and there just might be another opportunity to ponder these thoughts later today.
Spring on the front range of Colorado can be a very fickle time of year. Warm summer-like days can give way to sudden snowstorms in a matter of hours. Storms can drop 6 to 12 inches of snow on the afternoon commuters, alone. This type of storm just so happened to hit the Denver area the previous night. The morning’s bluebird sky was allowing the sun to come up early and it was all too happy to expose the poor driving skills of the average 9-to-5er. The windy commuter road heading west out of the city through the foothills of the Rocky Mountains is now littered with abandon vehicles. Some are set purposefully in a neatly parked manner as if to suggest someone just needed to go on a little hike. They would soon be returning after their short adventure. Some cars didn’t have such diligent foresight. They seemed to be matchbox cars placed by a young child while playing crash up.
Bob was always fascinated how every Spring this happened, often more than once. His turbocharged black Subaru wagon with rally suspension, aftermarket muffler and tinted windows moved smoothly up 285 towards the town of Fairplay. His car, complete with a large Tule cargo box and bike racks screamed mid-thirties, Colorado, urban dwelling X Games wannabe. He was very comfortable with this connotation, and it was exactly what he wanted everyone to think. Plus, the all-wheel-drive made it very practical for the mountains and uncertain conditions of Colorado. With the sun steadily pushing he moved up into the mountains as the commuters slowly made their way back down to Denver or their misplaced vehicles.
The roads were starting to get a bit slushy and with it a bit slicker. There is a short space between the set up cold packed snow from the night and the melted wetness of the mid-morning. This space is held for inconsistency. An east-facing stretch might be sloppy but grippy just before you dive into a shady corner. These areas contain all the surprising fun of black ice, packed snow, a slow-moving delivery truck, or in this case, a well-dressed stocky man in loafers trying to thumb down a ride. Now, people trying to get a ride in Colorado is familiar enough. The state is somewhat known for being hitchhiker-friendly. What was odd was the specific location, which would be as close to nowhere as one could get, and his attire. Dressed for a day at the office rather than a snowy morning is what got Bob’s attention. No winter jacket, gloves, or hat. He figured the man was most likely stranded from the night before and needed a ride to a service station or such. Bob found himself pulling over despite the fact he had business to get to and not a whole lot of time. A small voice reminded him, the old woman will not be happy if you are late, young man.
The man came gingerly through the softening snow in his not-so-sensible shoes. Opening the passenger door and upon seeing the cleanliness of the car, he started to take off his shoes before getting in. Bob was a bit amused by this but also found the gesture quite endearing. This seemingly stranded man was so respectful that he would remove his shoes, not to get Bob’s insanely clean car the least bit dirty. He found this amusing because where exactly, would the man then put the shoes? On his lap? This image made Bob grin, and he was suddenly pleased he had picked up this odd situation.
“Never mind that,” said Bob “Just hop on in.”
“Ok then, mate.” said the man in an accent that was not British yet not from Down Under either.
Bob noticed that the suit and such was not nearly as nice as it had seemed, as he was cruising by at 55 MPH. It had the air of a man trying to appear more important than he was, without much success. The man introduced himself as John. He was a round, heavyset fellow with an ashen, round face. He had nicely combed over ginger hair and an earnest broad smile. He didn’t fit in the narrow, bucket seats so well, so he sat at a slight angle towards Bob.
“Did you get stranded out in the storm?” Bob asked. “I can drop you at the next gas station.” Bob pulled back out on to the road and the aftermarket exhaust brapped as he paddle shifted through the gears.
“Not quite, my man. I was dropped off back there around six this morning and have been trying to wave down a ride ever since.” He said this in a very matter of fact tone as if being dropped off on a random bit of mountain road, early on a cold, snowy morning, was very much a typical day for him.
Bob could not help but bite. “So, why exactly were you dropped off in that spot?”
“Ah, yes. That is where my church is and my first ride on this day’s pilgrimage was from the beautiful pastor, Joshua.”
Church? Bob was now getting a bit skeptical because this is his road. 285 has been as constant in his life as the seasons themselves. Between Denver and South Park is his family’s territory. It is their land, his land. Generations of it. There is no church along that stretch of road, not that Bob has ever been aware of, but now something was coming to him. A white cross on an old tree stump. It could not have been more than three feet high. He now sees in his mind’s eye that beside that cross is a draw up between the rocky walls and pines. That is but a small trail at best and leading up to nothing but steep mountainsides and rocky cliffs. What exactly was this man, John, getting on about? Here we go again with the questions he thinks, always questions. Since he was a child, he drove his father crazy with questions. This thought took Bob to an unsure moment.
“You OK there, my man?” asked John. “You suddenly got a bit sullen.”
Bob ignored the attentiveness of his passenger. “Church, huh? never knew of a church in those parts,” said more as a statement than as an inquiry. Starting to feel a bit restless he asked exactly where the day’s “pilgrimage” was taking him.
“Today, it’s Fairplay.” After a slight pause, John turned to Bob and asked, “Just how far is that from here anyway?”
Now Bob was all in. This guy, from a foreign country, is hitchhiking to an unknown location, in a dime store suit, on a cold, snowy late March morning. After the events of the past few days, this was just what he needed. Someone with a life that could very well be just as whacked out as Bob’s is right now. What was Bob saying? As if his life has ever been normal. Oh yeah, straight out of a Norman Rockwell, it’s all been.
Chuckling a bit, Bob said, “About an hour from here and you are in luck I am heading right through there.”
“Splendid! The receivers of the Lord’s prayers will be mightily comforted this day.”
Bob just shook his head, grinned to himself and downshifted. With a backfire the Subaru blasted forward.