The Van Man

One time, there was a man who drove a van.  In this van he hauled drums.  He played many gigs.  Times good and bad, the best were hardly meek.

His name?  Mark Gibson.  A common name, people thought it was cool that his last name was on a lot of guitars.  Mark followed around with lots of different people and bands over the years.  Before he was a drummer, he worked various jobs and did not finish college.  He made up his mind.  He thought, “I am a man.  I make decisions, and I like to do things.”  So, that is what he did.  He found people who could sing and play the guitar, and he played the drums for their various bands.

Mark stayed with one band for four whole years, and decided to let them go.  His reasoning was that the others in the band were pretty tight; they knew at least four people who would greatly appreciate being able to play the drums with them.  Hence, he explained things to these guys, and left them.  Their name was “The Flaming Lizards,” and they did rock pretty hard, according to their fans.

Mark decided to travel.  Most of his gigs were in the southern part of Arizona, where bands are known prosper.  He had some funds saved, howbeit, and decided to travel to Hollywood California.  To meet people.

Everything was planned out nicely; he had his van gassed up all of the way, an extra tank, his: drums, clothes, money, personal belongings, goals.  Mark was set, and he head out.  He drove and drove down the open, peaceful highway.  The scenery was breathtaking, the air pure, the temperature even surprisingly acceptable.  He nearly fell asleep at the wheel, kept himself awake with cheep cola.

Something subtle occurred, though; his engine gurgled.  The man could claim many a night in his well-kept and fine tuned van with a v-6.  He knew that his engine, should not, gurgle.  He was in a good mood and happy.  He thought, “That was just a ‘gurgle,’ I will check the gas, maybe let Betsy here cool off for a moment before a good long haul.”

As he glanced down to the gas meter, it was on empty.  He had driven just long enough to be way out in the middle of nowhere.  “How can this be?” he wondered.  He pulled over to figure this out and turned off the ignition.  “My tank should not even have 10% of its gas gone, now,” he thought, and he gave his beloved Betsy a nonchalant, common-knowledge, physical visual inspection.

As soon as Mark got out of his van, with no traffic in sight, he smelled something he just did not want to smell at the time -gas.  He checked to see if he forgot his gas cap.  It was there.  Where was the smell coming from?  He looked underneath the van; found a disconnected fuel line; and reasoned that the line had not been loosened from foul play.  The connection seal was rusted and worn.  “Connection seal,” thought Mark, and thought, “This is not too big of a deal, I have my 5 gallon tank.  I will fill her up and carry on.”

He opened the back doors of Betsy and saw his beloved, covered drum set.  “What a vehicle he thought,” as he reached for his gas tank.  It was not there.  Mark distinctly remembered filling it up to go in and pay for the gas, did not recall putting it in the van.  “What a start,” thought Mark.  He crawled in his van, locked its doors, rolled down a window, said a small prayer, and took a nap.

Mark woke in the middle of the afternoon, his van baked over like a late afternoon brick oven in a sixty year old pizza parlor well established in some downtown Italian district of an historic metropolis, as he left his windows up.  The sounds of traffic going by were of seeming familiarity – he was sure to be out of this fix, soon.

He got up and escaped the confines of his oven-house, and leaned up against Betsy to begin to ask for help.  Sure enough, after four vehicles blew past him rapidly, a truck pulled over.  It was an older farmer and his adopted daughter was with him.  She was nineteen, shapely, precariously attractive.  “Where you headed?” asked the man, “Problems?”

“I am out of gas,” said Mark to Mr. Summersby, “My fuel line fell out.”  “We will see what we can do,” said the farmer, as his daughter was happy to see the drummer-man and said nothing.  Mr. Summersby ran the farm his father ran.  He and his wife adopted a young girl 17 years ago.  She was born in the United States.  Her parents were there illegally from Mexico, were taken back.  Her name?  Isabelle.

Mark saw Isabelle; she was pretty.  Her long flowing hair black, her smooth skin a natural pale tan, her smile, tempting and gentle… her lip was haired.  Mark did not really know what to think of this.  She was pretty and well-endowed, no doubt, but she seemed partially manly.  Not forgetting what was going on he said, “Good friend, my name is Mark, and I am headed to California as a percussionist.”  “I think I have enough gas here in my spare tank to get you to the next station.  You can call me Mr. Summersby.”

Mr. Summersby put gas in the van after Mark fixed the fuel line.  The drummer followed the farmer to the nearest gas station.  Mark offered the farmer money, and the farmer said it was not necessary, to have a safe trip.  “But Daddy,” said Isabelle, “Cannot he come and have dinner on the way?”  Mark was sure hungry, still did not know what he really thought about it.  “I suppose he can,” said the farmer, “You said your name was Mark?”  “Yes sir,” said Mark, “I must be headed out, though.”  “Oh sure,” said Mr. Summersby, “You have to be getting on.  You have your drumming waiting for you in California.  Our farm is just up the way, though.  You are more than welcome to come and eat with us, tonight, and to try and travel again in the morning.  My wife can cook.”

“You talked me into it,” said Mark.  He followed the old truck to their farm; Isabelle’s subtle grin stayed the same the whole way.  Upon arrival, Isabelle asked her non-biological father, “So, what do you think Mom is cooking tonight.”  “I think she mentioned fried chicken,” said Mr. Summersby, and they all went inside to clean up.

Mark was a tall and slender man; Mrs. Summersby was delighted to meet him.  They exchanged pleasant conversation and had dinner and conversed, and Isabelle wanted to see Mark’s drum-set before turning in. He showed it to her at dusk and she was amazed.  He explained how he only uses two small drums, a bass, and a symbol, because his rhythm and natural talent was what pleased the crowds -not big and costly extravagant drum-sets that would be harder to travel with.  He sold a larger set of drums to someone for a good price a few years back.  She was impressed, gave the man a hug, and went off to tidy up for bedtime.

Mr. Summersby showed Mark to the barn.  “We have plenty of room inside,” said Mr. Summersby, “Out here you will probably like it nicer.”  The farmer gave the drummer a bunch of blankets and a pillow.  “The dinner was great, and I thank you for the bedding,” said Mark.  He would have not minded staying in his van on the road, really, but the fried chicken dinner was great, and he did appreciate the bedding.  The farmer and the drummer conversed for quite some time about the farm, its history, and Mr. Summersby’s thoughts on its future.  Things would be modest.  Things would be fine.

As he had taken a nap earlier, Mark made his bed and stayed up gazing to the stars from a barn window.  The night was crisp; the air was clear; and the drummer dozed off.  A creek popped in the night.  Mark awoke without opening his eyes or changing his breathing.  He eased a squint from one eye in the direction of the barn door.  He saw it opening, entirely on its own.

A figure walked through it quietly and closed the door quickly and with no noise.  He could see her.  It was only Isabelle.  She walked carefully toward the drummer and into the light of his small window.  “I wanted to come see you,” she said.  “Your dad is going to come out here, and he will kill us,” said Mark, thinking.  “No he will not,” said Isabelle, “He and Ma are off sleeping soundly.  They will not wake up. I just wanted to talk.”  “Sure you do,” said Mark, as Isabelle lit a small candle and put it besides them.  He sat up, and she sat down by him.  He noticed that she had not removed the hair from her lip, that her nightgown was stunning with its soft laces, albeit, a probable form of costly Asian silk, its small decorative lace-flowers resembling cherry tree blossoms.

The two talked and talked about her school and plans and life and his career and all for some time.  She leaned in to try to kiss him.  He backed away, thinking she might be like a man.  Of course, he knew better.  It would not be proper ethically to let one thing lead to another, not with this young girl on someone else’s farm.  “I am sorry,” said Mark, “You are very pretty, I just do not think it would be okay for us to do anything physically.”

She put her hand on his work-hardened shoulder and said, “Listen.  I plan to live alone for most of my life.  My career is not going to involve mindless boyfriends – I am going after my own bacon.  We only live once, and I want to feel your body in mine.”

The drummer just did not know what to think about all of this.  This pretty girl and her hairy mustache – it was awkward.  She wanted it; he knew he did, too; and, as Mark looked into her eyes, he, again, saw the frail hairs of her upper lip.  That was his dilemma.  “If I wanted to get with something manly, I could just wait until California,” thought Mark, thinking, “I prefer women, do not understand being with something besides them.”

Nevertheless, the two gave into temptation.  It was her first time.  They embraced each other and made passionate love together, she was strong and got what she wanted.  The two slept like a rock.  They woke up before dawn; she wrote down her address so he could contact her.  Mark promised he would, said to keep in touch, his new band would be traveling.  He planned to send her a post card from California, gave her a twenty for some extra lunch money or whatever.  She was happy.  Isabelle kissed him on the cheek and snuck back inside to crawl into bed before her parents awoke.  They were fast asleep.  The sun’s morning glow was coming before it over the horizon.

Mark was ready to head out.  He put all of the bedding on the back porch and checked out his van.  It was fine; his fuel line was secure and fine.  As he was going, he hollered to Mr. Summersby’s window.  “I guess I am heading out,” said Mark.  “Be safe and do not be a stranger now,” said both the farmer and his wife.  “Okay,” said the drummer, “We thank you now.”  That was all they said, and he made it to the van and drove away.

Mark drove all the way to California; sent Isabelle a postcard with a horse on it; met some guitarists and played often gigs with large crowds; and they all rocked on.


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