Monday, August 29, 2005

When in doubt

The return trip to Aunt Judy's takes longer than my voyage into the storm. More cops have hit the roads, with their rain ponchos, like yellow toy ducks littering the streets of Hattiesburg. More roads are blocked. The check points actually become choke points for traffic as the police try to get a grip on the situation. It becomes routine: drive up to the officer, "Can I see some ID?" He gives me the stink eye when he sees an Atlanta, GA, driver's license. And he checks to see I have Atlanta, GA, license plates. "Looks like I picked the wrong week to move down here," I say. Then he nods, returns my wallet, and I'm able to move another mile before repeating the process.

But night is falling. And the darkness isn't calm. Or inviting. No power in this ravaged concrete jungle. No street lights. Few other cars. Between trying to avoid these pseudo military excercises in futility and trying to find a cleared road back to Judy's, I get lost in a foreign town on foreign roads.

Keep the green compass on my rear view mirror on W. Move parallel to the major highways. Dodge the power lines. Every dead traffic signal becomes a four-way stop. I try to remember the eight or twenty turns I've taken in the past hour, but I find myself outside a frat house in the middle of the University of Southern Mississippi.

Then I spot a gigantic ass-hauling, country-music-blaring pickup truck. Massive knobby tires. Tailgate spangled with several different flavors of dried mud. Gun rack. And six guys crammed into the Extended King Cab.

Bingo! Red necks.

These guys know the roads like I know computers. They're cutting through parking lots. Heading the wrong-way down unused access roads. Throwing up a constant spray of mud and sod and pine straw. Driving across open rain-soaked fields on the lightless campus of USM and inching our way back toward familiar highways unimpeded by cops or national guard.

An hour of very long short cuts later, I'm pulling into driveway of Aunt Judy's candle-lit house.

When in doubt, follow the red necks.
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