MacIntosh story continues: SUMMER WAYSIDE
Wayside follows Allen Connellys transformative journey from a
nontraditional family to independence. Allen has just graduated from high
school and his adoptive aunt and uncle expect him to attend the University of
Pennsylvania where his uncle graduated. But since the loss of his parents,
Allen has only dreamt of traveling Route 66 to spread his wings. Unbeknownst to
his acquired family, he leaves without revealing his plans. Aunt Rose helped to
curb Allens impulsive nature in the past but now, as the west beckons him
onward, repressed anger issues rise to the surface. Allen attracts trouble with
a vengeance and soon discovers his strength is not necessarily in his fists.
Summer Wayside takes the reader on a summer excursion of
self-discovery, hope and second chances.
* ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ * ~ *
Allen Connelly, Who are You?
Two hours out of
Philly and still on edge about the journey ahead. Id studied the map and
knew I had ten hours before I could call this an official break-away.
Documented, on the record book. Independent. A certainty ran through me that
Id not confused the issues. I hadnt made a blunder but, even so,
reality wasnt painless.
If the road is
easy, Id said in my high school graduation speech, then youre
likely going down the wrong road. Clever, I thought at the time. Knowingly, not
original. Even with a heavy dose of bravado at my back, a worm of doubt made my
skin feel clammy. The historic road sign I sought, although a long way from
vision, with its bold black lettering, would settle the anxiety. Thered
be no turning back. An open highway.
gateway to freedom.
he note I left
behind was nothing more than a short, sweet good bye. Not a thorough
explanation. How could I explain it all a small piece of paper? It wasnt
a question about deserting those I had grown to love. It all had to do with a
matter of dire need. The real me had to be uncovered, the past forgotten or I
would be swallowed by the ugliness of it.
The death of my
parents had taken a toll. Left me bitter, hating my father and looking at the
world from a dark light. Id carried this loathing way too long. The
pretense of adjustment, of healing, of caring, was a big fat façade that
took every ounce of energy I had to project a sense of well-being. I
couldnt handle it any longer. If there were any chance for me to get
well, I had to find out by myself what really lay underneath my skin. Otherwise
the urge to strike out, destroy, kill might reach a boil and irrupt whenever,
where ever the opportunity presented itself.
nearly four in the afternoon, a glimmering blue sky with bright tangerine
streaks settling on the horizon made me feel like Hercules. I surveyed the
landscape and conjured stories in my mind about other travelers. Who were the
passengers? Where they were headed? Family, friends, lovers? The sun was
hanging lower, though, and I had to squint to see the cars ahead. Luckily, not
too many. A car approached the entrance lane and seemed to slow instead of
accelerating to get on the highway. I guessed the driver was gaging my speed.
Had to decide whether to let me pass or accelerate into the lane. It caused me
to tip my wire framed sunglasses up for a better look. I waved the driver on.
Then I did a double take. Murky green, a fifty-seven Chevy sedan, designer
wings on the trunk as though the damn thing would fly. Dirty, mud on the
fenders, a big crease in the drivers side bumper. Like neglected grass
begging for water. Green, the puke of a drunk. Green, the same color and model
car my father had driven.
My father. Michael
Connelly. Ex-cop, ex-husband, ex-father. Ex-abuser.
My foot pressed
the accelerator. Ram the bastard.
I gripped the
steering wheel, took a deep breath and felt the warmth of the leather cover
Id applied the week before school ended. I eyed the hood of my blue
mustang. Shined to a mirror finish. Spit-shine clean the way I liked it. I
gazed in the rearview window. No cars in sight.
A trickle of sweat
eased down my cheek and I pressed the gas pedal harder. The tail lights of the
green monster flashed. Too close?
rolled down and caught on the edge of my lip. The sting of salt.
I could only fool
myself for so long. Tears ran freely. It hurt like hell to admit I wanted
yelled in the wind. Focus. Get a grip. I eased off the gas pedal and twisted
the volume knob on the radio. Let it Be, Let it Be.
The gas gauge had
held steady until the third hour out of the city then seem to fall in fast
increments. Less than a quarter, than all of a sudden on the empty line.
Speedway Gas, two miles said the red and white sign. Hungry, too. I hadnt
eaten since graduation lunch and even then didnt get my fill. The
excitement of leaving had my stomach in a knot. Aunt Rose had asked if I
didnt like the restaurant shed picked for the celebration. White
tablecloths, wine glasses, two forks. How could I tell her it didnt
matter where we ate, what shed chosen. My thoughts were all about the
Dust curled up as
I eased off the road and turned into a crushed stone drive as the motor began
to choke. The smell of gasoline hit hard when I rolled down the window,
Fill up, please, I said.
An attendant in
dark coveralls with the Speedway logo on the chest pocket rubbed his hands on a
thick, greasy blue cotton towel, Regular?
place near I can get a burger and a beer?
left. He dropped his chin lower, looked at my face. Got proof?
Dollys an ass kicker about legal drinking. She dont let anyone pull
a fast one on her. The guy stretched his back straight as though proud of
the information on hand.
sleep well tonight, I replied with a grin.
He scratched his
head and streaks of oil glistened on his light brown hair.
Wise guy, he
said. Dolly aint no whore. You some kind of smart-alec? He
pulled the nozzle out of the tank and gas dripped down the side of my clean
Mustang. Nine bucks, he said with a grimace.
I handed him the
waded bills Id crunched in my hand, rolled up the window and hit the gas
pedal. A little more dust wouldnt alter his appearance.
I pulled to a stop
at the edge of the drive and took out my notebook to enter my first road
expense. I didnt have unlimited funds and planned to spend wisely or I
wouldnt meet my goals. California destination approximately twenty-five
hundred miles. Price tag approximately one-hundred-fifty dollars. Then I had to
consider food. Id packed three apples and two cans of Coke. On apple
gone, one empty can in the paper sack. If I spent five dollars a day on food,
Id have enough money for gas and ten days of eating. The five
twenty-dollar bills I had hidden under the floor mat could not be touched
unless a dire emergency evolved. So far, Id never had a dire emergency in
all my life that costed even a cent. Where luck had not necessarily been my
friend with family situations, I did have the advantage of an aunt and uncle
who saw to it that I had what I needed. Now it was my turn, my time, my place.
accounting in order, I stared back at the gas station attendant who still had
his eye on me. Old enough to drink, dumb ass. Thats what I meant,
I said to the rearview mirror. But why waste words.
Hello real world,
and slapped the steering wheel. My first encounter with being away from home
and only in Donegal, Pennsylvania. Not a virgin when it came to misspent anger
but this time, it made me laugh out loud.
Was this the kind
of attitude Id deal with the further west I roamed? Commencement honor
boy. Baseball regional champion. Beyond the confines of the familiar Philly
neighborhood, I had to accept the fact nobody knew who I was and they cared
even less about my ego.
Hungry pains had
an unexpected calming effect on the bristle raised by the attendant who
didnt understand my sense of humor. Dolly? Why didnt the off-handed
comment fly over his oily head? What did he see about the world that Id
turned a blind eye to these last four years?
thirsty. A beer? Bold. It slipped out as if it were a routine habit. The
straight and narrow had got me this far. Did the quest for freedom included
drinking when I wanted? But then again, why not? I could afford to relax a
The restaurant had
little curb appeal but an empty stomach doesnt discriminate. It was
nothing more than a vintage building, Quonset hut style, small and long, with a
rusty orange-red tin roof and weather-beaten painted siding but so chipped it
appeared more gray than white. A hand crafted wooden banner of orange, blue and
white letters hung over a double door where duct tape held together the left
window pane. Dollys. Inside, another sign over the bar read
Delux Burger and Fries, $1.50. Id forgive Dolly her
spelling if the hamburger tasted as good as the aroma of grease and onions.
There were no illusions on the premises about health department accreditation
or weekly white glove inspections. I wasnt there to eat off the floor so
cleanliness didnt matter.
double cheese, mustard, no tomatoes, I said to the skinny middle-age man
with a wide forehead and sparse gray hair. I straddled the bar stool before I
gazed around the long, narrow room.
Schmidts? I asked.
Skinny leaned into
the counter and laughed. You got any ID?
I ran my hand
through my hair and eyed the guy. Double fries, and then reached
for my wallet and flipped it open to reveal my drivers license. Time on
Skinny slid the
cold, sweaty can down the bar and it stopped just at my left hand.
The red and gold
labeling reminded me of Gary, our family friend, who always brought a six-pack
to Aunt Roses house when he came for dinner. Gary never offered me a beer
so I had no idea what to expect. Ice cold, the first gulp went down easy.
Thirsty, I took a second long pull and the bitterness caught me by surprise.
But I wasnt going to spit it out. Skinny had his eye on me. I gripped the
can, brought it to my lips and guzzled again.
As I waited for
the burger, I surveyed the low lighted diner. The dim illumination helped cover
up for lack of housekeeping. The décor needed attention, too. Wall paper
with dogs in a field, edges coming apart. One wall painted yellow with grease
streaks visible. Ten black plastic and gray metal barstools, with three women
spilling over their seats, to my right. Four empty tables in the center, four
booths along the back wall. The lone customer in a booth farthest from the
front caught my attention.
A barrel chested,
bald guy had a newspaper spread out in front of him. Blue short sleeved shirt,
denim jeans. Wasnt he the driver who second guessed his highway entrance?
Somewhere along the way, Id passed him. The green sedan. The trigger car.
I turned away in
time to see my order placed on the counter. The bartender studied my face with
his fingers on the edge of the plate.
big, he said with a sly grin that revealed a missing tooth.
Did I have
something written on my forehead? Kid from out of town. Not old enough to be
alone? A run away?
needed to be double fisted. The patty as thick as two regular burgers with
bright yellow cheese running down the sides. Lettuce and several slices of
grilled onions with a thick bun to hold it all together. I couldnt cut
through the layers in one bite but I wouldnt dare use a fork and knife.
said the woman who had just paid the bill for her and the other two stout, pink
faced women. They chuckled as though some great joke had been shared between
Sisters of Aunt
Bee from Mayberry.
I nodded and
decided the surly gas station attendant was right. Decent burger. Not a place
to bed anyone, let alone Dolly.
Have a nice
evening, Maam, I said with a grin.
water with that? chimed in the barkeep.
Schimdts. Spoken without consideration.
By the time
Id finished the last French fry, Id returned the second empty
Schimdts bottle back down the bar where it rested in front of the sink
where Skinny stood washing glasses.
A look of disdain
crossed his face but I didnt take it personal. I understood why a guy
like him felt a need to show his talents. Why a guy like him didnt like a
young kid who drove a spic and span Mustang, had walked in like he owned the
place and upstaged his bar trick.
It wasnt a
bar trick, though, on any level. It took nothing more than a steady hand, eye
coordination and practice. He knew that but still took my effort as disrespect.
At least the grimace on his face suggested his revulsion.
Id learned what the
flick of a wrist could do from playing baseball for the last six years.
Id paid attention to finger work and dragging distance. Taught by a real
athlete, not a trickster. My uncle. Patrick MacIntosh, best ballplayer in
Philadelphia, who now sat in Philly, in his bedroom for the better part of the
day and didnt know if hed wet his pants or been left out in the
I put five dollars
down on the counter and nodded to the barkeep. He eyed the money and nodded in
turn. And for some unknown reason, I took a few steps toward the back booth
area. A few more customers had come in, two not so old, construction looking
guys. And that guy with the green sedan sat there, all contended, reading his
newspaper, grimacing about the world.
He glanced up,
pushed his paper aside. Something about his dark eyebrows, long, shaggy.
Something about the cold glint in his eyes. A dare you look. A
dont give a shit look.
I covered the
fifteen feet in a flash. Running to home base. No need to slide in. Fist
out. No time for him to react. I cold-cocked him in the nose and blood spurted
onto the table. And then I turned and ran out as if my pants were on fire.
An hour later, I
pulled into a rest area, leaned back in the sit and cried for a second time
that day. Eighteen and a half year and crying like a kid. Snot running down my
face. Choking back and losing control. Revengeit scared the hell out of
I hated my father
for what hed done to me and my mother. But why did I have to take it out
on an innocent man in a dingy restaurant in Donegal, Pennsylvania?