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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