For Paperback Writer’s Just Write Thursday challenge. (http://pbackwriter.blogspot.com/2015/03/just-write_19.html)
This week’s edition includes some iffy poetry by yours truly! (If I had days to work on it I’m sure I could come up with something better, but it’s almost midnight!) 536 words, completely unedited!
After two weeks in Barstow, I decided it was time to move on. They’d heard all my songs and stories, and the longer I stayed, the less interesting I’d be. Novelty is the bard’s bread and butter; if I ever come back, I don’t want them to remember me as boring.
So I caught a ride in a convoy heading south. Paid my way by riding shotgun, another pair of eyes to watch for brigands or worse, and more importantly, keeping the driver awake. In the before-times, Master Jorge said, drivers listened to a thing called radio on long drive. He’d been old enough to remember — barely — a world where people went on “road trips” for fun.
We left just before dawn, and rolled on through the Mojave as the sun rose, and I sang. The driver, Chhay, joined in when it was a song he knew. I did not wince; I was trained too well for that. There was no room to pull out my guitar, not a single square inch of space went to waste; it was a month’s worth of production to run the convoy to San Bernardino.
We had to stop several times, when the soldiers traveling with us cleared the road. With eight trucks, we were too big for most bandits to hit. But that didn’t mean we were going to take the chance, and the traps they’d set for solo travelers would have taken us out, too.
By the time we reached our destination, as close as anyone dared to get to Los Angeles, it was nearly sunset, and I was exhausted. But while Chhay and his fellow drivers would be heading back in the morning, if I wanted to stay in the settlement, I would have to ask permission.
Once I had made contacts, of course, this would be mere formality. But for now, this was nerve-wracking; an offense now could mean that I would never be allowed to stay here longer than a single night, and a bad reputation could spread before me like the Contagion.
After reclaiming my guitar from the niche Chhay had made for it behind the seat, I stopped only long enough to wash my face and change into my best performing dress before heading into the common hall to meet the settlement’s chief.
Esmeralda Dizon was a tiny woman, going gray, with a scarred face and three pistols that I could see. I bowed low, sweeping my hands out elegantly. “Journeyman Bard Awo Weheliye Geeddi, at your service.”
People were already starting to cluster around; I was probably the most interesting thing that had happened for weeks, even months, and they were eager for diversion.
Chief Dizon settled herself in her chair, and waved a hand at me. “Performer’s choice,” she said.
I thought only a moment before choosing; one of the favorites from my own childhood, one that reminded me that humans had not always crouched in tiny settlements, and that maybe once again, we could hope to reach for the stars.
“Humankind has but one final frontier
The silent empty vast expanse of space
Gather round all who wish to hear
As the Enterprise voyages apace.”
(Copyright Kit Russell, 2015)