The Walking Man has coffee in an IHOP just west of Lometa, Texas.  He's with Karen, a friend from his long distant past, Sedona, a passionate Ecuadoran, and Michael, a thirty-something businessman who watched Karen almost kill the Walking Man in a freak highway incidence. 

Over Belgian waffles, and pitchers of hot Hazelnut scented coffee, their stories emerge.

The Walking Man scratched his head as he shuffled across the jade floral print carpet towards the bar.  His new friends, Karen and Michael, had insisted at breakfast that he spend the night, at the Marriott down the street from the IHOP where they'd met that morning. They'd fallen into an easy friendship this morning and all had agreed that the conversation they'd started over breakfast that morning was too interesting to abandon.  Karen wasn't due home till tomorrow anyway, Sedona and her daughter lived in the modular home behind the IHOP, and Michael was going to be in town all week anyway.  

Shit, Shave and a Shower

"What the hell," the Walking Man thought , he wasn't as young as he used to be, and a night in a real bed wasn't a completely unwelcome prospect.  He'd been traveling for over nine years, and that's a long time by any measure.  

The Walking Man cleaned up in Michael's room while Michael did his dog and pony show for the quirky venture cap billionaire who lived in the Texas Hill Country just outside of town.  Michael had come running to their aid this morning after watching Karen almost cream the Walking Man on the highway.  Since he was checking into the Marriott anyway, he had more or less joined the little group. 

The Walking Man was surprised when he came out of the shower to find that Michael had laid out some fresh clothes on the bed.  He smiled at the welcome offering of expeditious normalcy and dressed slowly in the freshly pressed chinos, a silk Hawaiian print shirt and and dark blue Vans tennis shoes.  A soft sigh escaped his lips as he donned the Panama Hat sitting atop the pillows of the hotel bed. Clearly, Michael was a man of taste.

Karen checked into her room, then dove on the hotel phone to leave a breathless message for her friend Beth:  "Oh my god Elizabeth, Kent, HE'S HERE!  Call me, on me cell. Now!"  She shook her head at the sudden thought of how long it had been since she'd seen the walking man.  They'd called him Kent when they were in school together, but who the hell knew what his real name was?  He had been writing for nine years!  Just walking and writing.  Beth was gonna shit a brick

Sedona finished her shift at the IHOP in a blind panic.    She was, simultaneously relieved at seeing the Walking Man, and a little spooked at the circumstances in which he'd suddenly reappeared in her life.  Just when things between them had been looking up, La Migra had shown up at her workplace last week and sent her and all the other "Pollos," scattering.  Pinche Cabrones! She swept her long gunmetal blue hair back behind her and smiled as she saw her relief stroll through the side door of the IHOP restaurant.  

The Billionaire

Michael smiled until it hurt, and then he smiled some more.  He'd learned years ago that the most efficacious response to very wealthy people, especially old money people, was to smile. All the time.  Even when you were giving them some really bad news, just smile and let them absorb it at their own pace.  Michael could see the taut muscles in the old man's wrinkled face slowly relaxing as the tension leached into the silence of the oak paneled room.  

The billionaire's quick blue eyes scanned Michael's face for any trace of malice or perfidy.  Detecting none, he gathered his thoughts and prepared to respond.  But, how could one respond to this? Michael was telling him that he'd thrown two million dollars down the tube outsourcing a development project to India. Even worse, the only way he could hope to recover his losses was to double up on his bet and provide funding for Michael's company to rescue the project.  Michael was only the messenger, and no matter how painful the message was, he was appreciative of receiving it now rather than being left in the dark.  

"Do you stipulate that everything you've told me is the truth?" His sudden resumption of speech jerked Michael from his reverie.  "Yes sir," Michael said, smiling at the finely honed legalese, "to the best of my knowledge that is the case."  

"Well, leave your number with my secretary on the way out, I'll get back to you tonight with my answer."

"Thank you sir, I'm sorry to have brought you this painful news."

"Listen my young friend, I'm 96 years old, and they can only estimate my net worth.  If a little treachery was going to do me in, I'd of been six feet under years ago.  I appreciate your honesty in this distasteful matter.  Now run along."

Michael nodded and backed slowly from the elegant room.  As he drove to the hotel through the grassy rolling hills of northern Texas, he thought about each of his new friends.  The Walking Man, what a cypher!  Karen called him Kent, but the man didn't seem to respond to the name comfortably.  He was friendly enough, but didn't give anything away.  It was a jaw dropper when he pulled the little silver iBook laptop out of his bag and suddenly showed them some of his writing.  Karen had ended up damned near sitting in Michael's lap as she squirmed to read the screen.  For the last nine years the guy had just been walking, walking and writing.

Michael smiled as he thought of the pretty, auburn haired Karen. With her come-hither smile and intelligent happy eyes, Karen was disarmingly oblivious of the pheromonal bloom surrounding her. It was worth hanging out with these guys tonight just to get to know Karen a little better, thought Michael.

Sedona, the dark, spicy, latina who served them breakfast seemed to have the closest connection to the Walking Man.  When they looked at each other, the air around them seemed to crackle with blue sparks. The whole situation was the kind of classic road warrior weirdness that Michael relished. It was just plain cool. 

So, after breakfast, he'd laid out some clean clothes for the Walking Man and left him the room key.  Then he hoisted his briefcase and headed out to the rental car.  They'd all agreed to meet again that afternoon in the Marriott bar.

Old Spice

Sedona joined the Walking Man at the Marriott bar before the others.  She didn't recognize him at first.  Without the beard, and dressed in Michael's clothes,  he looked almost normal.  Except for the eyes, she concluded as they unclenched from a prolonged hug at the table.  His eyes were a hollow black void, like a smoke blackened cave.  They awakened something deep and fundamental in her. 

Sedona's dress was almost a cliche, which was why she had kept it, even as her circumstances improved. Oddly enough, the inexpensive turquoise peasant dress that she'd bought in Oaxaca on their way North was extraordinarily flattering to her full figure and rich dark complexion.  She blushed with awareness of the unconscious desire in the Walking Man's gaze as they sat down.  

In the few short weeks they'd known each other, Sedona felt as though she were falling into a trance every time they held each other close.  She sniffed at his hair, then smiled shyly. He even smelled of Old Spice rather than the road, how strange!  He was something she wanted, badly, but knew she shouldn't, and probably couldn't have. 

Is it you?

As Beth worked her way across the lounge, she still wasn't entirely sure whether she was in the right place. When her eyes locked onto the Walking Man, the rest of her being focused like a beam of coherent light.  She traveled the length of the room in a daze and appeared at the table peering at the tall gaunt man with a question on her lips, "Is it you?"

The Walking Man stood bolt upright.  He was, momentarily, as stunned as she was.  It was Beth.  She was here. Now.  Karen was the last one to see Beth and as she started to rise from her chair Beth pressed her back down without even looking at her.  

"We...need...a few minutes... alone," Beth said softly to the group without taking her eyes from his.  She reached out for the Walking Man's hand and led him slowly and gracefully from the room.


The highway ran almost precisely east, as flat and unforgiving as a euclidian plane. A glorious rising sun arched over the dark hills in the distance.  He walked along the macadam road at an easy but steady pace.  His mind stretched back to the people and events behind him, but his stride never wavered.


Lometa, Texas:

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