John Otterbacher
Author, Speaker and Adventurer

A Clean Getaway

I am worn out now, a staggering exhaustion at the end of a day on the road.  All the motels in town are sporting “no vacancy” signs.  I park my motorcycle to look around and settle on a strip of lawn at the well-shadowed end of a pricey hotel parking lot.  I go back and retrieve my bike, throttling hard when I return to the hotel entrance, coasting in silence down the length of the parking lot and into an empty spot beside a hulking dumpster.

          I roll out my sleeping bag in the shadow behind the dumpster.  I pull off my boots, slide them onto the handlebar grips and lay my jacket over them.  I push a tent pole into the ground and use it to drape mosquito netting over the mouth of the sleeping bag.  I slip out of my jeans and into the sleeping bag, pulling the mosquito netting around me.  The sky is clear, the night still. Warm now and weary, I quickly fall asleep. 

          At dawn I am shocked awake by the hydraulic growl of a garbage truck lifting the dumpster above me and stopping.  I roll away from what feels like danger and scramble out of my sleeping bad.  I stagger to my feet and lock eyes with the driver.  Each of us is surprised.

He shakes his head as he might with a teenager, then re-engages the lift.  He hoists the dumpster up over the cab, a rush and clatter, garbage aroma and dust.  Then he swings the dumpster out over me and jerks to a stop.  He shakes his head again, trying to suppress a smile, then slams the dumpster to the ground in front of me.  Startled, I jump out of the way.  I cannot see him when he backs up and revs the engine, a cloud of diesel fume when he roars away. 

          I grab my jeans off the ground and lean against the dumpster to wrestle them on.  I collapse the tent pole and pick up the sleeping bag, pad out into the parking lot in my stocking feet.  I check my watch, four hours of sleep and this shock of morning.

           I roll up the sleeping bag and pack everything away, then soak a washcloth with canteen water and scrub myself down.  Nothing is stirring in the parking lot.  I brush my teeth, pull on clean socks and a t-shirt, and finger-comb my hair in a rearview mirror of my cycle.  I catch myself grinning. 

            I pull on my helmet and climb on, start the engine and head off to what I hope will be breakfast in the town square.  I park in front of a coffee shop and walk inside, trying not to notice the eyes studying me above lifted newspapers.  I sit down with a coffee and an newspaper someone left behind. 

              It feels like a clean getaway.

                                                                                                     What Remains, page 52


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Awards for Sailing Grace

Best New Non-Fiction Book, National Indie Excellence Awards Finalist, Best Book Awards, USA Book News Winner, Michigan Notable Book Awards

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