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Memories on the road

The first 10-mile stretch of road was hilly and straight.

Fluid, forward motion and the school day; he was growing and the warm cab, and his father's voice, and the truck tires revolving along polished asphalt relaxed the boy so that between the tenth and twelfth mile, his head drew slowly to the bench seat-like a bee to a node of mayonnaise-and landed just behind the shifter knob near where the fleshy heal of his father's hand had come to rest. The transmission lever was in fourth.

The boy was tall and wiry and fit nicely curled on the red vinyl seat. He was content. Warm drool found it's way to his cheekbone, congregating in the divots the seat pressed into his cheek. He was 14.

Tire moan, engine moan, steady rhythm; off fuel into the turn, back on fuel in the middle of the turn, steady increase of fuel uphill, feathering off fuel down hill; the father talking to himself at normal, between-two-people, conversational decibels; the boy's half-dream cast his favorite school girls with him as the hero-the one who gets the girls.

His father knew how to drive like nobody's business; it had been his business. His driving was a gift to his son. The silky ride, like a lullaby rocking the boy to sleep.

Six o'clock: on-time arrival. Paste-ups delivered to the newspaper camera room. The press, with lots of luck, won't break and the paper will print; father and son will be on their way home by ten.

Eat.

At the Fairlee Diner, cook Pat Roberts walks with a limp. For the father a hamburg steak, homemade applesauce, mashed potato, and wax beans. For the boy, Mrs. Roberts serves two grilled franks, the kind that don't snap like a tic, homemade applesauce, hand-cut well-done French-fried potatos, a thick heaping load of baked beans, melded with perfect amounts of molasses, maple syrup, and bacon, served piping hot. Brown as a Sherpa, perfectly shaped yet ductile, it seemed each bean had been baked individually to the boys taste.

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