Chapter 7: Words to the Wise
Trevor stumbled over the threshold and into the General Store slash Hotel. Few lights were on, but he caught a glimpse of a desk light illuminating the back part of the store. Ten-gallon was sitting there, a small pipe in her fingers, wafting smoke creating a surreal halo about her. An unmarked bottle and a half glass was within easy reach.
She lifted her eyes from her work as he approached. Inspecting him for over a minute she finally commented, “You look like someone just crapped in your cheerios. Grab a seat and take a load off,” pushing her half glass towards him.
After contemplating life for a moment, he took the offered drink and knocked it back. What followed was a short but violent coughing fit as he struggled to regain his breath. Finally, “In all that is holy what is that?”
“In China, we would call it Bai Jiu. Here we call it Moonshine, or White Lightening. Here, take a hit of this, it will help,” offering him her pipe.
Generally, Trevor would not behave so bold, but it’d been a long disappointing day, taking the pipe he inhaled, shocked to find it was not tobacco. At least he was smart enough to hold his breath this time, turning red he offered back the pipe.
Ten gallon took the pipe and waited for his reaction in silence. Going back to her papers in the interim.
Relaxing, he let out the smoke in a stream over their heads. Settling in the chair, content in the quiet, until Ten Gallon took the unmarked bottle and filled the glass and pushed it toward him. Satisfied she leaned back in the chair and let the calm stillness wash over them again.
Drinking part of the proffered glass he gazed at her with troubled eyes, “Tell me, do you understand what it’s all about? Life I mean. Why are we here? You must have some knowledge to seem so calm.”
She smiled at him and with a simple, “42.”
Shaking his head Trevor had to ask just this way, “42? Douglas fricken Adam’s 42? Is that the best you got?”
Smiling again, she played a game with him. Puffing on the pipe torturing him with the silence. Satisfied she gained his attention, she continued between puffs, “In binary, 42 is 101010, which is the code for the asterisk. An asterisk is normally used as a ‘whatever you want it to be’ key, or a wildcard. 42 is the designation for asterisk, ergo; the answer is simple, life is whatever you want it to be.”
Trevor blinked three or four times. You could almost see the thoughts racing through his head, connections being made that’d never been there before. Minutes passed that seemed like hours as he worked through this meaning in his alcohol soaked brain, “Bloody hell, that has to be BS!”
Giving him an evil little cackle as she answered, “Of course, it is. That is all urban legend. Douglas Adams himself, before his death, said he just picked a number that sounded funny. Think, what if he didn’t? What if some cosmic force beyond our understanding was driving his hand? Think of it. Douglas Adams, profit to the next millennium!”
Laughing louder as Trevor moved to leave, she motioned him to stay, “Wait sit down. Tell me what’s actually bothering you, and not just your existential problems, give me something a bit more concrete to work with.”
Settling back down he began, “I am here for two reasons. One is business and easy enough to handle. The other is personal and a little more... tricky, I’m searching for something or someone. I’ve a lead but it’s not much to go on, all I have is a name; ever heard of someone called ‘Old Sits’? I was told, he might have the information I am searching for.”
She chuckled again, shaking her head, “You city people, you just don’t understand a small town. Of course, I know Old Sits. Anybody that lives here, or probably within an hour of here knows Old Sits,” she took another drag on the pipe, handing it back to him.
He took the pipe. Feeling better either because of the information or because of the drink and smoke it was getting hard to tell.
“So where can I find him?” taking another hit.
“I said I know him, not where he lives. He comes into town from time to time, to buy booze and food. More booze than food. I see him with the new lady in town. Opened a rock shop down the street a few days ago. I think she is still moving in. She sells crystals on the other side of the bank.”
She laughed again to herself, “Get this her name is Crystal too. Talk about karma.”
Handing the pipe back he took another drink of the glass, more of a sip. He had learned his lesson, “Just the other side of the Bank. Looks like I have somewhere to visit tomorrow.”
She smoked some more, “Listen, don’t let life drag you down so much. It is way too short to be wound so tight. Remember, reality leaves a lot to the imagination.”
He blinked a few times attempting to clear his head, “Is that Confucius?”
She laughed again, “You really don’t know shit from shinola, do you? You know crap of your own pop culture. That was John Lennon.”
At this, he finally laughed. Like his head was filled with helium, floating up to leave, “Tell me, what is your name anyway?”
“’Round here people call me Grace. Where I came from, Zhēnxiàng. I suggest you stick with Grace, much easier for you to pronounce.”
“Thanks... Grace that was some awesome Ganja. You grow your own?” he turned to leave.
“Naw, I took it from my Grandson. He needs all the brain cells he has. Can’t afford to kill a single one.”
Wobbling toward the door, “I need to clear my head and I need to think. I’m going for a walk.”
“Hard to get lost here if you stay on the road,” she called after him.
He stopped for a moment glancing back at her, “How many roads must a man walk down?”
They said in unison, “Bob Dylan!” with that, he headed out the door.