Tante set off early the next morning, not out of any sense of decisiveness or goal, no, but because she was hungry. Ravenous, in fact. The rabbit stew that Copper had shared with her was warm and nourishing, but not plentiful. She’d always been kind of high strung, or at least that was the term the elders in the Outback had used, their sense of metabolism a bit different from that of western medicine.
Haile once offered her a long, drawn out explanation of the western viewpoint, quite limited, really, even if it did make sense in terms of her appetite. High vibrational energy, that “high strung” thing, required lots of fuel, it was why she’d always been so thin, despite her intake. If she was going to have to walk very far, well, she was going to need to gas up.
She farted as the thought crossed her mind.
She managed to find some nice grubs under a log near the yurt, enough to get her started. She looked up to Sol to get her bearings and started walking, westward, one shoe sticking ever so slightly, each step picking up bits of living soil, fungal spores and nematode eggs, billions of bacteria, expanding their horizons, reducing the drag, helping out while hitching a ride. They suggested she do the same.
The walk from the park to the highway was long, but she quickly fell into the rhythm of it, enjoying the forest of the Eastern US even more than that of the California Coast, even more than Sydney, or the Outback. She thought she might like to see Europe, her father’s Homeland, maybe get more of a feel for the White Man’s culture.
Funny, Copper had put that White Man as the bad guy into her head, kind of the same way Yanaha did, even if Yanaha was more discrete about it. She was, after all, married to one. But the culture of this country, the one she would walk, was overtaking the world, killing it, blindly.
Was it the fault of the Whites? The men? The White Men she’d known well were really nice guys, even if thy were a little arrogant sometimes. She thought about Zeus, and smiled. She could see where he got his arrogance; he was hot. Still, much of his hotness was about his passion, and his passions were all about righting wrongs.
Arnold, well, he was just adorable. Not hot, no, but beautiful in a different way. He was passionate, too, in other ways.
She thought of Juno, kind of snooty, yup, but not really bad. And she was very beautiful, and smart, and sexy, but deep down, very nice, and well meaning. She couldn’t help being snooty, any more than Peacock could, and really, her tail hindered her just as much as his did.
Good and evil, right and wrong, beautiful and ugly, were they all just a matter of perspective? Red and blue, well, those seemed pretty objective, but then, Tante hadn’t quite figured out what those colors had to do with the election, the choosing of a leader. Perhaps each team had a uniform or something, she’d have to remember to ask Arnold, or Ja, since Haile was gone.
By the time she reached the highway, Sol was high in the sky, preparing to head west Himself. She smiled up at Him and stuck out her thumb, thinking of hitching with Baltha across the Outback, smiling again. It had been easy, and fun. It seemed a lifetime ago.
Sol ignored her hand signal, moved on without her.
So did countless cars, or at least more than she had any interest in counting. Holding her arm out got tiring, fast, and the asymmetry of it bothered her. Kind of like the one sticky shoe thing. She started trying to figure out a way to re-balance, to maybe walk in such a way that she could keep a thumb out and use both arms and maybe compensate for the slightly off footing.
She’d just gotten into a fun little spin that propelled her forward, while waving both of her thumbs from outstretched arms as she went, the g’s tended to offset the force of Gravity acting on her arms, when an ancient Mercedes going the opposite direction, really fast, like, light speed, she didn’t even see it at first, went into a skid, something she heard more than saw, sending it into a spin, opposite hers, that ended with it a few meters in front of her.
The passenger door opened up.
“Guten Tag altes Tante! Wohin gehst du?” A man with wild white hair and a thick mustache smiled up at her from the driver’s seat as she peered tentatively into the car.
“Ah! Sind sie einen Deutschlander?” Tante was overjoyed. She’d been thinking of her parents for some time, wondered how far they’d gotten learning each other’s language. Riding with this man would be fun, she could brush up on her German.
“Um, what?” He looked confused. “Don’t you speak English?”
Tante looked confused, too.
“Well, yes, but I assumed you spoke German. That was German, wasn’t it?”
“Um, what? No, I asked where you were going. Sorry if I mumbled a bit, the spin I took to get here was a bit disorienting.” He smiled at her.
He was cute. She hopped in.
“I’m going to Mendocino, which is in the opposite direction you were going, or at least I think so. I’m not sure why you went into that spin, for little old me.” She smiled, warmly. It felt really nice to have someone turn around for her, go out of his way.
“Und wo ist Mendocino?” He inquired, sweetly. Such a nice smile.
“Fickst du mit mir?” Smile or not, Tante was getting confused.
“Um, what?” He lost the smile, put on his own confused. It was a look that was tough for him, because he wasn’t, not very often.
Tante sighed. If the guy had known she was traveling so far, he probably wouldn’t have stopped. Still, it was nice of him, and she decided to just go with the fact that he apparently didn’t know he spoke German, at least sometimes. He clearly didn’t understand it when she spoke it.
“It’s in California. Three thousand miles, probably not what you had in mind when you slammed on the brakes.” She frowned.
“Oh, I didn’t slam on the brakes. Helga is one of those smart cars. She slammed them on when she saw you.” He smiled again.
“The car saw me? And decided to stop?” Tante really knew very little of automobiles and their technologies, much less of their personalities.
“Well, that was nice of her, but she probably didn’t know how far I have to go.”
“Far? Three thousand miles? Not too far, I don’t think so, no,” as he shook his head in the negative, the car downshifted, and sped up, concurring with the driver with the new resonance of its engine.
“Wow, that seems really far, to me, at least for a car! It will take, like, forever!” Tante had very little concept of distance, and as an old Crone a little more than a year old, well, her timing was also way out of whack. She’d learned that long before.
“It’s all relative. To you, a young old Crone far from home, everything seems out of reach, far away. To Helga, an old young car at home in the cosmos, anything is possible.” He caressed the leather covered steering wheel.
“So why did Helga stop for me?” Tante had gotten used to rejection, it came with the skin she was wearing. The idea of a car with intent was new, even if she did totally grok the MTJ. It had free will, for sure.
“She wanted to. She saw you there spinning, and decided she wanted to share your orbit. You were the first being she’d come across spinning the opposite direction she was. You made her curious,” brilliant eye twinkles stood in for upturned lips. He was a doll. Tante wondered if he, or dolls, would be offended by the comparison. She thought not.
“Wow. I never really thought about human made things having much choice in matters. I mean, I know the powers of the earth, I’ve felt them. Most cars seem pretty dead.” She thought about it a while. “Of course, Haile’s Studebaker back in Australia did offer a pretty warm embrace.”
“Some things take longer to form relationships with. But believe me, everything and everybody has a choice in every situation, always, no matter what scale. It’s all about the interaction. Helga passes most hitchhikers by; when she saw you, she decided to get acquainted.”
Tante felt skepticism creeping in. Did those people working in cubicles doing meaningless work all day really have no choice in the matter? Did the ant, following the pheromonal trail of its siblings follow blindly, never altering course? Was the order given to shoot to kill always followed, without question or remorse? Did everyone pay her taxes, were they as inevitable as death? Was death inevitable? It sure didn’t seem like it, not if there was a Taphao Tong. Was she simply the mindless drone of some omnipotent force that compelled her to act one way or another, against her will?
Hell no. Not the Auntie Christ, and not Copper, and not Yanaha or Arnold. Certainly not Ja. No, she was a being of free will, and that’s all there was to it. She could choose.
“Will Helga really take me all the way to Mendocino?” Tante suddenly felt the cosmos opening up to her, endless potential.
“Only if you want her to. It’s up to you, she’s willing, es sei denn, du wirst sauer.” He winked, apparently empathetic to the Crone’s tendency toward foul mood. “It is a big country, quite diverse. You might consider wandering around a while. What brought you to that spot in the road where I found you in the first place?”
She thought about it. He probably didn’t want her life story, although to her, that was what had brought her there. It was easy to think on such terms when one was only a year old. Her introspection was interrupted by a siren and flashing lights coming up behind them, the police car whizzing by. A penny slid off the dash as Helga moved over, landing in Tante’s lap.
Still she was confused.
The billboard in front of them showed an ad for Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale, scantily clad youngsters, dancing on the sunny beach. Finally, it dawned on her.
“My Sun Dance?”
“Ich weiß es nicht; es liegt an dir.” He gave her his best deadpan, not easy from such a jolly fellow. Tante knew in that instant that she’d learned something infinitely big, or maybe infinitely small. She supposed when it came down to infinity, everything was relative.
She saw Sol getting ready for bed through the windshield, thought maybe sticking with Helga and…..suddenly she realized she’d not been properly introduced to her new friend and mentally kicked herself for being so rude.
“Wow, I just realized, I don’t even know your name. But I remember, distinctly, you addressed me by mine when we first met! How did you know my name?” She was getting weirded out again.
“Ah, nein. My name is Albert A. Stone, but you can call me Al. When I addressed you earlier, I called you old Crone. That’s who you are, isn’t it?” He grinned at her.
“Yup, that’s me. How about I start my Sun Dance in the morning? The sun is going down, and I’m sleepy, I’ve got a lot to think about. My feet hurt. From what I know of Sun Dances, they’re pretty hard, and I’m hungry, and it’s getting cold out, my shoe is sticky, and my arm hurts, that’s why I was spinning, and……..”
Helga slammed on the brakes in front of the Akron Motel 6 and honked her horn.
“Du wirst sauer.” Al reached into his coat pocket and pulled out a credit card in her name, handing it to her. She already had ID.
She was the Auntie Christ.
The End is Near