The U.S. of After Chapter 17
There stood Gabe in front of me.
He looked a little cleaner this time, and I started to say somethin’, but he cut me off.
“Clayton,” he said, his voice soft and deep as if it came from underground somewhere. “I thought I told you that your destination should be Jerusalem.”
I stood still as a stone statue. My throat was dry from not drinkin’ anythin’ for a few days. He moved over to me, his boots crunchin’ some broken glass on the pavement. His eyes squinted slightly, and he put his warm hand on my shoulder.
“I heard that there’s food and water in New Orleans,” I told him.
“New Orleans is only a way station for you, Clayton. It is a means to an end. If you will go south to the Red River, you will find your way, but it will be hard. You will find many dangers, but God will guide you. Float the river to the Big Easy.”
“I’m so thirsty,” I said. I felt as if I’d faint, but he held my arm.
“Look in the trunk of that car,” he said, a grin formin’ on his mouth. “Ask and you will receive. Now go and do the will of he who sent me.”
I thought about the prayer I muttered when the meteor flew overhead. I was so thirsty. Nothin’ else really mattered to me. A dyin’ man only thinks about what he wants at that moment for comfort. I suppose my greatest wish was water.
I went and opened the door of the car and popped the trunk. I shuffled my feet to the back of the blue Ford Focus and lifted the lid, my arms feelin’ all rubbery. My heart missed a beat at what I saw. I then pushed the trunk lid down to notice that Gabe had disappeared again and in his place stood Amy, her face weary and sweat-smeared.
“Found some water,” I said softly.
She brightened, a flower bloomin’ in a desert, and walked around the car to stare blankly at the three cases of bottled water sittin’ in the trunk. She put a dainty hand on my shoulder and laughed that attractive laugh of hers. I swear I thought I was goin’ to get a kiss just then as she focused her beautiful sea-green eyes on mine and got real close, her full mouth openin’ slightly. Ralph’s voice ruined it all.
“Man!” he shouted, lookin’ in the trunk. “Jackpot!”
In a few seconds, Ethan was standin’ to my right, hands on the edge of the trunk , feelin’ the smooth metal. I had a strange thought that his hands didn’t look worn as soldier’s hands should. He had fingernails that looked too neat to be the fingernails of a government trained killer.
“Good job, Clayton,” he laughed. “That will last us a while.”
We all commenced to openin’ up the thick plastic holdin’ the bottles together in neatly packed four by eight rows. We drank two of them immediately, lettin’ the warm wetness roll down our parched, cracked throats. We stayed there for a few hours, some of us sittin’ on the open trunk and others on the pavement. We had to come up with some kind of game plan, but I knew that I had to follow through with the will of God. I would go to New Orleans via the river and then possibly Jerusalem. Like I had anythin’ better to do.
I asked Ethan about it, since he was a soldier and all, and he suggested we skirt around McAlester and then move south along the Indian Nation turnpike and that it went straight to the Red River. From there we could head to New Orleans eventually. I hoped he was right.