Chapter 1 (Written by Phoenix2020)
Nicholas, securely strapped into the pilot’s seat, stared through the tinted windshield. Unable to slow his racing thoughts, sleep had evaded him until he finally dozed off around 4 am. Not one to let time be wasted, however, he’d made good use of that downtime. He’d compiled a mental list of everything to check before hitting the road … gas, oil, clean air filter, wiper fluid, functioning septic system, first aid kit, etc. … and had, for the third time, gone through all of his meager possessions to ensure that he’d not forgotten anything that he couldn’t live without. Now, having checked and double-checked everything on his list, he sat motionlessly.
“Uh, dude?” Griffin, dressed like a pubescent Jimmy Buffet, arched one blond eyebrow in Nicholas’ direction. “Ground control to Major Tom.”
“This is so surreal!”
“Yeah, yeah. Have another guzzle of your cup o’ joe there and turn the key. I need to put Armpit, North Carolina in the rearview mirror!”
Nicholas ignited the engine, which purred like a kitten, punched the Spotify road trip playlist he’d already programmed (#1 on the checklist), and pulled out.
“I can see clearly now, the rain is gone, I can see all obstacles in my way. Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind. It’s gonna be a bright (bright), bright (bright), sunshiny day!” Now snapped fully out of his reverie, Nicholas sang out, right along with Johnny Nash, while Griff melodramatically faux-gagged.
“Rule #1, the driver chooses the tunes. When it’s your turn in the captain’s chair, we’ll listen to your crap … uh … I mean, captivating musical stylings.”
At the end of the rural road, Nicholas idled at the stop sign.
“Buddy, it’s going to be a really long trip if you keep going on hiatus. What now?”
“Left or right?”
“I don’t know or care. You’re driving. Drive somewhere. I assumed Mr. DetailedNotesAndChecklists would have at least the next six months mapped out. You’ve had since yesterday afternoon to figure it out!”
“I seriously haven’t even thought about where to go. I was too excited just to be going … anywhere!”
“Well, let’s hit the beach and head north. How ’bout that?”
“Perfect. You’re definitely properly attired. However, you may want to hit up a WalMart before we move north of the Mason-Dixon Line,” Nicholas teased. “Left it is. We’ll hit Hwy 264 over to Swan Quarter and take the ferry over to Ocracoke. That should be about lunchtime, and we can dive headfirst into that big cooler of deliciousness that my mom packed for us. Then we’ll head up the Outer Banks to infinity and beyond!”
Nicholas signaled and turned onto Hwy 13 as, right on cue, Johnny Nash segued into the classic Jackson Browne road tune …
“Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels. Looking back at the years gone by like so many summer fields. In ’65 I was seventeen and running up 101. I don’t know where I’m running now, I’m just running on.”
“Sing it with us, Griffin!”
“Running on, running on empty; running on, running blind; running on, running into the sun but I’m running behind.”