Title: A Life Naive
Author: Oliver Phipps
Release Date: 14 October 2017
Life for twenty-seven-year-old Hershel Lawson has been relatively uneventful and that’s the way he likes it. When his grandmother passes away, leaving him her car and a last wish of him taking her ashes to L.A., his life takes a turn and it will never be the same again.
With his new task and grandmother’s ashes, Hershel sets out from St. Louis Missouri in the spring of 1962. He travels unimpeded along scenic Route 66 for two days, but is suddenly and unexpectedly relieved of two important things, his car and wallet.
Sally is a sassy and street smart young woman on her way to Hollywood. She’s determined to prove everyone wrong in the “one horse town” she left and make it as an actress in California. Through mishaps of her own, Sally comes across Hershel. Though neither one realizes it, the real journey is about to begin.
Take a seat and journey with Hershel and Sally along historic Route 66 during its heyday. Laugh and maybe shed a tear or two as they struggle against the odds, and often each other, to make it a few more miles down the highway.
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~ Teaser ~
Around one o’clock Hershel pulled into a small town. He found a gas station that had a cafe next door. As the attendant filled the car with gas and Hershel went to the restroom, a man in a checkered suit watched him with interest from across the street.
Hershel paid for the fuel and then pulled the Lincoln next door to the cafe. He walked inside and had a seat.
“I’ll be right with you, Darlin.” A waitress called out to him as he sat. Hershel waved to her and then looked around the small establishment. It had a cozy felling and the wonderful fragrance of food drifted about.
Several minutes later the waitress had taken Hershel’s order and he was sipping his soda through a straw.
The man dressed in a checked suit came into the cafe. He appeared to be around forty years old and had his hair slicked back. He was carrying a suitcase and walked towards Hershel, but seemed to be looking for a place to sit. He glanced down to Hershel and stopped.
“Harold… Harold Madlock, what are you doing here, you old badger?” The man in the checkered suit patted Hershel on the back and quickly sat down across from him as if ready for a long discussion.
“Excuse me?” Hershel said with a bit of shock.
“Harold, don’t you remember me? The convention in Chicago, two years ago? Come on Harold, how could you forget a night like that. I mean, I had a hangover for a week, but we painted the town red. You telling me you forgot me already, Buddy?”
Hershel looked back to see if there was someone behind him. When he realized the man was really talking to him he almost stuttered a response.
“I.. uhm, I’m not Harold. My name is Hershel, Hershel Lawson.”
The man examined Hershel very closely. “You got to be kidding me… No, you’re not Harold are you? I can’t believe it. You’re the spitting image of my buddy Harold. That’s uncanny.”
At this point the waitress brought Hershel his hamburger and some French fries. The man glanced at her and said, “could you bring me a coffee sweetheart?”
“Sure thing dear.” The waitress replied and was off again.
“Do you mind if I sit with you and drink my coffee, Hershel? I’m just amazed at how much you look like my friend Harold.”
Hershel nodded, “I don’t mind, Mr…?”
“Oh, I’m sorry, where are my manners?” The man held his hand out across the table.
“John, ahh, John, Smith. I’m please to meet you Hershel.”
The two shook hands and the waitress returned with John’s coffee. He then proceeded to talk for ten minutes about his job with a shoe company and how he was on his way to close a big deal in Oklahoma City.
“Yeah, this would have been a huge contract for me. It would have meant a great Christmas for my wife and three kids. But… I guess it’s going to fall through.”
Hershel was chewing his food and listening with interest. He swallowed and asked, “why do you say that, John?”
John looked at him with sadness, “well, my car conked out on me. I just don’t think I’ll make it in time to close the deal. I’m trying my best to get there in time but I’m losing hope now. It’s going to be a tight Christmas if I lose this deal. I may even lose my job.”
John took another sip of his coffee and glanced at Hershel over the rim of the cup.
Hershel thought for a few seconds. Then, still holding a French fry in his hand he asked, “is Oklahoma City on highway 66?”
John perked up a little. “Yes, it’s west of here, and 66 runs right through it.”
“I’m going west. I could give you a ride if you want.” Hershel then put the French fry in his mouth.
“Oh, my…. oh, could you do that, would you, Hershel? I would really owe you, Buddy. My goodness someone upstairs must be looking out for me. That would be so great. I could help you with gas.”
The waitress brought the two tickets as John was saying this. John immediately took both.
“Your meal is on me, Hershel. You just don’t know what this means to me.”
“Well, it’s alright John. I would hate for you to miss the meeting and have a terrible Christmas. I’m going that way anyhow.” Hershel then finished off his soda as John went to pay for the meal and coffee.
When the two walked out to the Lincoln, John whistled out loud. “Wow, this is a beauty. You must be doing well. I love these Lincolns, they’re beautiful cars.” John then put his suitcase in the back seat.
After Hershel got in, he immediately reached over and moved his grandmother’s ashes to the middle of the seat. Then John got into the front passenger seat.
“So, what do you do, Hershel? I don’t think you’re in the shoe business if you’re driving a car like this.”
As Hershel moved the Lincoln back onto the road, John put his arm on the open window and Hershel replied.
“This was my grandmother’s car. She gave it to me after she passed away. I don’t really do anything. I was taking care of her. But now I’m just taking her to California.”
John’s face twisted a bit when Hershel said this. he glanced in the back seat and then back to Hershel.
“What do you mean, you’re taking her to California? I thought you said she passed away?”
“Yes, well I’m taking her ashes to California.” Hershel nodded to the case sitting between them.
John looked at the case and his face again twisted a little. He recovered quickly and chuckled a bit. “Oh, I see. Well, that’s real nice of you, Hershel. So, she just gave you the car?”
“Uhm, well she gave me some money too. But she gave most of her stuff to my brother. I guess she figured he had a family and needed it more than I did.”
“Ahh, I see, yeah having a family costs more.” John then turned and watched the scenery go by for a while.
After about an hour, Hershel pulled the wallet from his back pocket. He reached over and put it in the glove box. “Pardon me, John. This hurts my… hip after a while.”
“No, it’s alright. I understand, I’m the same way. That’s where I generally keep mine as well.” After John said this the two again watched the scenery.
Soon they passed a sign indicating they were coming into the state of Kansas.
“You ever been to Kansas, Hershel?”
“I don’t think I’ve ever been out of Missouri.” He replied.
John nodded and smiled. “Well we won’t be in Kansas for long. This is just the corner of the state. We’ll be coming to Oklahoma soon.”
Sure enough, a ways down the road they passed the Oklahoma state sign. Later, they stopped for a quick meal to go. After this, the houses became fewer and father between as they continued west.
Hershel eventually began searching around nervously. “I sure need to find a restroom,” he finally said aloud.
“Just stop at one of these big tree’s.”
Hershel glanced at John. “No, I need a real restroom.”
“Ohhh,” John said. “Well, we may have some trouble finding one around here.” He then appeared to think of something. “I may know where one is. It’s a little crude, but it may work in a pinch.”
Hershel glanced at John with a look of pain in his eyes. “How far is it?”
“Oh, just a few more miles.” John replied with a smile.
As the sun began to set, John pointed at an abandon gas station on the road side. Hershel pulled up beside two antique pumps.
“This place is closed.” Hershel said as he looked over the boarded up and derelict store building from the window.
“Yes, but there’s an outhouse in the back. I’ve had to use it myself several times. Like I said Hershel, it’s a bit crude, but in an emergency it’ll do.”
The word emergency seemed to bring the urgency for a bathroom back to Hershel and he grimaced a bit in pain.
“Does it have… you know, paper?” Hershel asked, still seeming a little reluctant.
“Oh….” John looked around. He then reached into a paper bag and pulled out some napkins.
“Here you go. I didn’t use my napkins from dinner. You’re welcome to them.”
Hershel took them. He turned the car off and pulled the keys out of the ignition. He then got out and shut the door.
John got out of the car and as Hershel was about the go around the building John called out. “Hey, Hershel.”
Hershel stopped and turned around.
“Do mind if I put my bag in the trunk? I might take a little nap in the back seat later, if it’s alright with you.” As John said this he opened the back door on the car and pulled his suitcase out.
“Yeah, okay…” Hershel said, and reaching into his pocket pulled the keys out. He hurriedly walked back over to John and handed them to him. Then he moved quickly towards the outhouse again.
John took the keys and opened up the trunk. He moved one of Hershel’s suitcases to the side. He then pulled the footstool and box of family pictures out. He sat them on the ground behind the car and put his suitcase in the empty spot. He chuckled as he shut the trunk lid.
“Way too easy,” he said to himself as he got into the drivers seat of the Lincoln. He started the car and pulled away from the old pumps. He then stopped. Opening the door, he sat Ethel’s ashes outside on the ground. Then John drove away in the Lincoln.
A few minutes later, Hershel walked around the abandon store to find the car gone. He jogged over to the footstool and pictures on the ground.
“Hey…. what….hey?” Expressing fright, Hershel jogged down the road a little ways. He then turned and jogged the other way. He stood in the middle of the highway as dusk was overtaking the day.
With his head hanging he started walking back towards the store, then spotted the case with his grandmother’s ashes. He ran to it and picked it up. He laughed a little and almost hugged the case.
Hershel then picked up the footstool and pictures and moved over to the small overhang of the old store. He sat underneath it and looked out at the road, wondering what to do.
As dusk turned to night, he sat holding the case and watching the occasional car or truck go by.
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~ About Author ~
Oliver served as a Paratrooper in the United States Army and studied at MSC. In the late 1980s through mid 90s Oliver perused his love of music. He enjoyed traveling, playing percussion and writing lyrics for popular bands. During this time Oliver also began writing short stories and articles.
After playing for thousands in the fall and winter of 1996 Oliver’s band abruptly disbanded. Oliver along with a good friend, that was a guitarist got together to form a new band in early spring of 1997. However rather than form a new band the two put together an expedition plan to travel to Northern Canada and Alaska to prospect for gold.
Leaving in April of 1997 Oliver and company traveled up the historic AL-CAN highway. After exploring the Yukon and Northwest territories of Canada as well as the Arctic Circle the team traveled over the Top of the World highway to Alaska.
1999-2000 Oliver traveled through Asia, visiting Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia and other countries.
In 2004 Oliver published his first book and continues writing articles and stories under various pseudonyms. Currently Oliver and family reside happily in the U.S.