King of the Road

Delta Winds cover 2004Delta Winds: A Magazine of Student Essays
A Publication of San Joaquin Delta College


King of the Road

Loring Scotty Hoag

"Pic, pan, pnc, punk, pnt. . . ."

The men continued to pound away on their hammers. Their work was quickly evolving from seemingly random geometric figures into sturdy wooden walls and roofs. Where only days before you could see nothing but a barren field of dust and rock-solid adobe ground -- near-worthless soil that the local farmers had long since given up on -- you could now make out the framework of the dozen or so new living establishments. You could see them all quite clearly from where the road ends. I own that road, so I am king.

I closed my torn, aged copy of The Great Shark Hunt and set it down on the passenger seat. I was watching through the windshield of my silver Pontiac Trans-Am, which was covered with dozens of pale transparent white splotches left by the naturally high calcium well-water shot from the sprinklers during the night. The paint was wearing thin due to the intense California summer heat, and I could distinguish some of the lighter spots on the hood in the silhouetted reflections of the trees. It reminded me of the faded dust jacket on my book. "Have to wax this thing soon," I thought to myself. There was one major nick in the front-left shoulder guard and a few minor scratches elsewhere. "Need to change the tires, too."

Of course, the cosmetic qualities of an automobile are second to me. What mattered most was its raw, brute strength and power. Under the rough curves of its calcium drenched hood lay an incomprehensible nightmarish labyrinth of wires, pipes, and assorted other gadgetry capable of out-performing up to 400 of the world's finest racing horses -- a true testament to the supreme hot rod engineering insanity of the mid-70's. "So it could use a little touch-up on the outside, big deal," I thought. "The guts are bright enough to help you adjust the part in your hair. Just listen to the engine purr . . . roar . . . scream. . . ." I grinned. I loved that sound. Hear it just once in the driver's seat and you feel like a Starbuck's double-shot of adrenaline has been sent straight to the frontal lobes of your brain and forced throughout the rest of your biological system. Again!

"Buh, luuuh-luuuh-luuh-luh-luh-luh-luh-lh-lh-lh-blooommmmmm," it went. "Bllllllloooom, bllooom-bloom." It was the perfect accompaniment to an egotistical megalomaniac like myself. Yes, it was pure performance perfection, and the king of the road should demand no less.

I often sat there in the driver's seat, just staring out into the desolate field past the end of the road. The private road, about twelve feet wide and about a football field in length, led from the main drag, passed by my little country home, and then just seemed to end. Then there was nothing but the barren field of dust. Even the bushes, the giant trees, and the various other shrubberies came to an abrupt end. Road, trees, flowers, grass, *POOF*. Dust, crackled lumps of orange-red dirt, useless hard adobe ground . . . nothing. Not so much as a tumbleweed was visible in the void. It's like someone had taken about a hundred acres out of Death Valley and, in an attempt to get rid of it, just dumped it off here.

"Psssshhhhh. . . ."

"Vvvvvvooooommmmm. . . ."

Some cars passed by the entrance of my road, and I could hear them forcing the wind out of their way. They passed my road. That's fine; it's not their road to use in the first place, and it wouldn't take them anywhere except past my house, my kingdom, and to the desert at the road's end.

Why doesn't anything grow there? Why does everything just end? These are the kinds of questions I would ponder in the captain's chair of my silver ego-stimulant while watching blurred streaks of blue lightning zip past. They passed by silently, not like the forceful cars behind me. They moved too quickly for me to comprehend exactly what they were, but I assumed that they must be birds of some sort, even if the sole reason for that train of thought was to explain all of the other splotches on my car not caused by the late-night sprinkler system. Didn't they know it was unwise to mock their king?

"Yacch. . . . Wer, wer. . . ."

Did the same blue blur make those sounds?

"Yacch. . . . Aighnn. . . ."

There must have been hundreds of them resting in those trees.

"The trees," I thought as I shifted my train of thought. I didn't know what they were exactly. Redwood? Oak? I just knew that people must have stayed out of their way for quite a long time for them to get as large as they were. They were all over forty or fifty-feet tall. Their leaves were like little green needles connected to long, thin twigs. They seemed too minute to absorb light, but the huge groups that the trees had amassed over the years could block out all light projected onto them and could make the afternoon seem like 2:00 A.M. One small strand, about two and a half inches in length at most, had fallen off the tree and was caught in my windshield wipers. It was dry and brown. Its needles seemed sharp enough to puncture skin. The trees seemed strong, but not even they dared to grow past the end of my black asphalt road. Not even a volunteer sprout could be seen. "It was good to be the king," I thought.

"Pnc, punt, puck, pac, pnt. . . ."

The men in the blue overalls were making good use of the useless land. You can't do anything else with it, so build homes on it. I could see them hauling up boards and planks to the unfinished roofs and could almost make out the sweat on their foreheads, even though they were hundreds of feet away. Urban development is very important in California, especially in places like this where people can easily commute to the Bay Area. I could make out the tracks where the mammoth lumber garbage trucks had gone past the end of my road to deliver supplies to the homes. My road. What right did they have to use my road? One of the truck drivers shouted down to me from his gargantuan cockpit about my silver carriage being in his way.

"You act like you own the road, or something!"

"You want me to get out the deed?" I thought to myself as he drove off of the royal pavement and onto the dirt of the lesser masses. The king never loses his cool.

Actually, that's a complete lie. My egotistical mania exploded and rage overcame rational thought as I began to swear random obscenities and act like a complete lunatic. This startled him and he went to find another route. I sat back down in the cab and picked up my book, glancing over some small pale coffee stains stretching across the bottom of the dust jacket. "I've been reading too much of Hunter S. Thompson's stuff," I thought.

Are they going to try to extend my road to the houses? Are more people going to try to share my throne? Will I remain King of the Road?