The ringing phone calls me back from the edge of eternity.
"Uncle Jack? You there?"
"Bob--Bobby McGee. I got this creepy feeling something ain't right here, Uncle Jack."
"How the blazes you reach me, anyway?"
"I don't know: somehow I got your number."
It haunts me: before it's done, how many will trace that ribbon of highway to and fro? A damned treasure map published by me and my friends for generations to follow: looking for freedom; ignoring the yellow line. Snares and traps, making twice the children of hell we are ourselves. Damned shame. "Okay, Bobby: so where you at?"
"I don't know, Uncle Jack. I'm on the road--3,400 miles down the old Lincoln Highway near the eastside of beginning or the end, depending which way you're headed: I'm lost."
"Tell me what you see."
"I'm parked off the road: a wide, dark tunnel's ahead where a sign points, 'Hell's Kitchen'."
"You're a mile west of the beginning, Bobby: you called in time. Anything else?"
"Yeah: I'm scared. "Graffiti's scrawled above the entrance: 'Abandon hope, all who enter here'. What in hell's that supposed to mean, Uncle Jack?"
I shiver in the sweltering heat: how can sweat be so cold? My hairs bristle at the howl of a frightened dog. "What's that?"
"Beatrice's dog, Dante. He's been freaking ever since we reached the tunnel."
"Who all's with you, Bobby?"
"I started alone in San Francisco; not for long, though. Two hours east I picked a girl up coming down from Lincoln--Lincoln, California."
"What's her name?"
"Janis--Janis Eadie. I met her on another trip coming west from Kentucky, but we separated near Salinas. Funny we'd meet up again, don't you think?"
"Nothing funny about it. Who else?"
"It gets weird. We picked up this guy at Cheyenne, Wyoming--Woody Nelson. He spent the night in Lincoln Court Motel there. He's an Okie from Texas, kind'a musician-poet-philosopher type. Calls us a hard travelin' band of gypsies, bound for glory."
"I doubt it. Where'd you get Beatrice and that dog?"
"Oh, she's my cousin: we linked up in Nebraska? She's my navigator."
"Don't tell me: does she live in Lincoln?"
"How'd you know?"
"Never mind. Anyone else?"
"In Abbottstown, Pennsylvania, we picked up Max Kowalski and his friend, Bennie. That's fifteen miles east of Gettysburg. Kowalski's a crazy ex-Marine; keeps talking about a date with destiny in San Francisco--thinks he's on I-70 heading west. I keep telling him he's going the wrong way, but Bennie just eggs him on. It's a van-full of kooks, Uncle Jack."
"I remember Bennie. What's their connection with Lincoln?"
"It's spooky. I was joking about that, but guess what? Max was a hotshot driver at the Lincoln Speedway, and Bennie's his mechanic. Whatcha laughing about, Uncle Jack?"
"Frankly, Bob, I've traveled each and every highway, but I don't remember this. Something is happening, but I don't know what it is."
"Yeah. I was afraid of that."
"There's this light at the end of the tunnel? Janis Eadie's real excited about that. Everyone says that's the way to go--shoot straight at the light, except Beatrice. Dante keeps howling, so she says turn around."
"What do you say, Bobby? What are you looking for?"
"Home: and I got a feeling this ain't going there. They all keep talking about freedom? Like the only way you get it is having nothing to live for and nothing left to lose. But inside me, there's this battle, tearing me apart like a civil war. I feel like I'm in Limbo, or the Twilight Zone. I thought like you, on the road I'd find freedom--but it ain't here."
"'Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom': I know that now. Under God, we'll have a new birth of freedom that shall not perish from the earth."
"Didn't Lincoln say that?"
"Something similar--he paved the road to freedom for a lot of folks. Go back with Beatrice, Bobby: you don't belong here. Turn around, and don't give anyone a ride until you meet up with Jesus. When he gets in, let him drive--all the way home. You'd better hang up now: someone's calling you."
"Thanks, Uncle Jack. I'll be seeing you."
"I don't think so, Bob."
The phone goes dead and I sit in darkness. I wish to God I was with you all, getting one more chance to turn back, one more chance with you and Bobby McGee. Just one more chance...
2 Corinthians 3:17 NIV
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