Sunday, September 8, 2019

Chapter 11, The Amazing Adventures of Ralph Kroder


                    No stop signs, speed limit


Concrete, thick blacktop, cobblestone, brick, gravel, hard packed dirt, sand, no road at all. Ralph had driven or ridden as a passenger on them all. This one, stone, with concrete curbs to keep water and mud from the road surface, angled for drainage, was much smoother than Ralph expected.
“Roman, you think?” -- My first thought. But I don’t know enough about Roman road construction to make that determination. Plus, I don‘t know where we are. -- “Well, it’s flat stone. Looks Roman. Or after the style of Rome.” – After the style of. Ha ha. No more Antiques Roadshow for you. -- “Wonder why people didn’t keep up the roads after the Romans went back to Rome and let things fall apart?” -- Nobody had an empire to connect. -- “Yeah, I guess that’s true.” -- There is a limit to how much barbarians, backwards people, whatever you want to call them, can rule. It takes educated, organized people to build roads all across a continent, like the Romans did in Europe. -- “They built roads in Turkey, the Balkans and North Africa, too.” -- Yeah, but those were civilized places then. Roman occupation made them so. -- “Scotland and Wales, not so much?” -- Britain is different. Civilization there was limited to where the Romans built towns. -- “All they controlled was where they sat?”-- Something like that.
Ralph kept an eye on the battery charge. He was not sure how much, or if, damage had been done when whoever sent the golf cart, and him, through whatever he was sent through. “Still well in the green.” -- How long can we run on a full charge? “Four hours at this speed. Less if we have to go faster or pull a load.” --Can we out run anything? -- “Uh, not really. Maybe a sloth.” -- Funny. We don’t have a trailer, so we can figure on four hours. -- “More or less. It’s charging while we’re moving, but discharging more.” -- Will it fully charge this afternoon? -- “Well, let’s see. It’s around ten o’clock now, so we’ll need to stop somewhere around two, maybe a little after. A full charge takes six hours, power off. So, eight o’clock, thereabouts. Might be going on dark by then. If we have to use the headlights, that will pull more power.” -- If there’s a full moon, or even more than half, that would give enough illumination. -- “If the road continues.” -- Right. We can figure on about sixty miles before we need to stop. -- “About that. You got somewhere you need to be?” -- No. I’m just kind of looking ahead.
Ralph snorted. -- What? Did I say something funny? -- “No, no. You know how sometimes something comes into your mind, but you weren’t thinking about the something or anything related to it?” -- Our mind, you mean. -- “Yeah, okay. You know what I’m talking about?” -- I do. -- Ralph was surprised at the sudden laugh in his mind. -- Who do you think brought up those thoughts? -- “That was you?” -- I don’t know anybody else who has been here for the last thirty-five years. When you weren’t thinking about a problem to solve, I figured you needed a little entertainment. -- “That’s what you call it?” -- Sure. Or maybe a diversion of thought. I mean, when you were sitting in some briefing, bored to nodding off, or a class you knew more about than the instructor, why not give our mind a little departure from reality? There’s nothing wrong with giving thought to weapons you would like to fire or vehicles you would like to drive, thousands of Russians charging across the Steppe and all you have is a platoon of rifles, grenade launchers and machine guns. Oh, and sex. Nothing livens up a boring anything like thoughts of good sex. -- “Well, you definitely did that over the years.” -- Thank you. -- “You’re welcome. And thank you for the imaginizing.” -- Well, I was bored, too. -- Ralph heard the laugh again. -- Cassandra would have been surprised if you had told her about the day dreams. -- “I imagine so. ‘I was in this boring class today, and I thought about us doing it on the kitchen table.’ Not exactly romantic.” -- Maybe not, but I do remember several times when we were in the kitchen and … -- “Nope. That’s enough. I don’t need any reminders from you. My own are depressing enough.” -- Yeah. You’re right. Okay.
Ralph drove in silence. After several minutes, his other mind said, You were talking about something coming into your thoughts and you weren’t thinking about the thing. -- “Oh, yeah. You remember Major Morton?” -- S3, 344th. He was a pretty good officer. -- “He was. Most of the time, he listened. I was working in the 2 Shop and got into a conversation with Morton. He got to talking about competition, how it was a good thing. I don’t disagree with the overall concept, but Morton got to talking about competition between platoon sergeants. I said the only person I am in competition with is me. He said …” -- It must be nice, knowing you can never lose. -- “You remember that?” -- I remember every dumbass thing every dumbass officer or senior NCO ever said or did. -- “That’s a lot of remembering.” -- Tell me about it. -- “Anyway, I lost a little respect for Morton. I mean, the idea that I have lower expectations for myself than somebody else has? Any platoon sergeant who’s trying to meet somebody else’s expectations needs to find another job.” -- He does. And before he gets somebody hurt.


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