Now I’m the criminal the border agents expected me to become, Sean thought. “Public drunkenness, failure to pay a fine, theft.” Time to get the hell out of Dodge. Sean headed back to the US, to the border between the Sault Sainte Maries. So much for Canada, he thought. At least I’m still headed west. He had to deal with the border again. US customs this time. Well, at least I don’t have anything they can arrest me for. I wonder if they’ll ask me for my draft card? I’m screwed if they do that. I mailed the ashes back to the draft board long ago. What if they don’t let me back in? A man without a country, that could be me.
The customs agents weren’t used to seeing a man on a bicycle crossing the bridge. They saw the bulging yellow bags on Sean’s bike, and they knew he had dope. “It’s all these kids go to Canada for,” agent Stimson said aloud, to no one in particular. Everyone had heard it all before. Everyone had pulled dope out of car trunks, glove compartments, door frames, and spare tires. They’d seen it all. Almost. No one, including agent Stimson, had ever seen anyone brazen enough to load a bicycle full of dope and just ride right up to them.
“We’ll have to inspect those bags,” he told Sean, hoping this hippy would run, hoping he’d have a little fun.
“What’s this?” he asked Sean. “Oh, those are soybeans,” Sean told him, and Sean was enjoying this. “And this is brown rice, and this is granola, and these are alfalfa seeds.” Sean smiled. He saw the agent frown, “We’ll have to open these.” Sean didn’t like the idea of having his food pawed through, but he knew there was no choice. Nevertheless, he complained, doing his best to make the clown think he was hiding something. “Well, I’d rather you didn’t, you know, it’ll be messy.” The agent took the bait, dumping each bag out one at a time, sifting through each one, but there was nothing there but soybeans, brown rice, granola and seeds. “What did you say these were again?” he asked. “Alfalfa seeds.” Stimson could tell this hippie was jerking him around. He’d could always have the jerk held, say he’d detected an odor of cannabis. Instead he said, “We’re gong to have to keep these. Can’t tell where you got ’em, or even if that’s what they are. Too risky. Agricultural rules. Well, Sean thought, that takes care of that. God knows when I’d ever have been ever to stop somewhere and sprout them. I can’t eat them this way. The less weight the better. He smiled. Agent Stimson saw the smile, and he wasn’t about to let a hippie get away with anything. “We’ll have to inspect your bike,” he said. What’s in these tubes.” “Tubes? You mean the frame?” Sean bleated. “Yeah,” agent Stimson said, “you could have all kinds of things inside the frame.” Sean just stared. It wasn’t something that had ever occurred to him. “How could I, where, how could I get anything in?” he stammered. “Well,” agent Stimson said, calmly, “what about right here under the seat.” He bent down and looked underneath. Hmm, well, nothing here, damn it.
“Have a seat,” he told Sean. “We’re going to take a look at this. I’ll bet this seat comes off. Who knows what we’ll find.” He imagined the hippie was squirming now, sure he had him. Sean, however, was not looking forward to reloading all his gear. Stimson took the bike into the interrogation room. Sean pulled out a paperback from his back pocket and read. Stimson took the seat off, and looked inside, tapped the frame all around, and decided that was enough. He kept his eye on the hippie, but he was too young to be so calm if he was hiding something. “Alright,” he told Sean. “Here’s your bike, and all your stuff is on that table. You can go.”
Sean grabbed a leaflet he found and used it as a scoop to get all the grains back in their respective bags. At least they didn’t mix everything up, he thought. He reattached the saddlebags, gathered up all his tools and loaded them back into the small basket under the handlebars. He refolded all his clothes, and had to roll the blanket up again, laying it out on the floor and pulling it tight, banding it with bungee cords. He strapped it down under the spring on his luggage rack, in between the saddle bags. Giddy up, he thought. And, Hi-yo Gypsy, away. He rode back into the US, back into Michigan.
There wasn’t much to see in Michigan’s upper peninsula that wasn’t beautiful: lots of birds, water, and trees, but on the road and along it there were also lots of trucks with camper shells, and lots of Winnebagos, the RVs, not the Indians. It was cold at night. Sean began the afternoon in shorts and a t-shirt, but ended up with a long-sleeved shirt and long pants by nightfall. He rode for days, weeks, crossing into Wisconsin, then quickly into Minnesota. Every state looked the same close to Lake Superior. Beautiful, Sean thought. Gorgeous country up here. I had no idea. Looks more undeveloped that I thought anyplace in the US was. And colder. The nights seemed to be getting colder as he went. He rode, days and nights, stopping to buy a piece of fruit and a small carton of milk for his granola every morning. In the afternoons he continued cooking brown rice and soybeans, then cooking some more for dinner. He slept out of sight. There weren’t many towns, gas stations, or restaurants as he got farther from the lake. He stopped in a bar one chilly night, on the road to Hibbing, Minnesota, asked if they had any coffee. They didn’t. Didn’t seem very friendly to Sean either. That night he wore socks, two heavy shirts, and long pants over his shorts. It was getting harder to pedal with all that on. The lights of towns and homes were farther and farther apart as he continued west.
It became routine. Get up, ride for awhile. Stop and eat. Ride for awhile. Stop and eat. Ride as far as he could, eat, sleep, get up and start it all over every day. The miles flew by, and Sean was happy. Sometimes he stopped to wander through old ruins of houses. Sometimes there was a pond he could jump in. He sang songs, thought about things he’d forgotten, nursery rhymes, Captain Kangaroo’s riddles, and Tom Terrific. Rocky Jones and the Space Patrol with the booming voice over. He sang songs out loud: I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy, Bingo, Eency Weency Spider, The Farmer in the Dell, Hickory Dickory Dock, Hokey Pokey, If You’re Happy and You Know It (clap your hands), Ring around the Mulberry Bush, Old MacDonald Had a Farm, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, She’ll be Comin’ Round the Mountain (when she comes), Take Me Out to the Ballgame, This Old Man, Three Blind Mice, and even Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. It didn’t matter what. I didn’t even know I knew those songs, he thought. There was something about the rhythm of the pedaling, the steady push and pull. Sean decided it was like meditation. He had never tired that, but decided it must be something like this. Get your mind off of everything stessful; let it go; spinning, caroming through the dusty corridors. He felt better than he ever had his whole life.
I’ve always lived by others’ rules, he thought. He had always done what he was told. The nuns and priests had told him to love God is to obey God, so he had. They told him that heaven was the goal of his life and hell waited for him if he failed to follow the rules, the commandments, the laws. So he had. He had aspired to heaven, to see God, to experience the bliss and rapture of this God being’s presence in his life.
His parents told him to go to school, to do his homework, to babysit, to do as they said, so he had. The priests and nuns had made it very clear that, after God, one must obey one’s parents, and the law. Rules and laws told everyone what to do with their lives, he had understood that. His parents told him that, as the oldest, he must set an example for the younger kids, so he had. He did what he was told to do. Through countless sinks full of dishes scrubbed spotless, linoleum floors that shone cleanly through the Johnson’s Floor Wax, the near-spotless bathrooms, the hand-waxed hardwood hallway, the lawn manicured with a push mower, and the weed-free beds of flowers and tomatoes, he had done as he was told. He was as perfect as he could be, although his parents would dispute that. He had thought of himself trying to be the perfect son, the pious altar boy, the virtuous boy scout. Good grades, but bad dreams.
Often, in his dreams, he had been chased. At first there had just been the wolves waiting in the shadows, waiting for the hand to fall alongside the bed, or for eye contact. Sometimes Sean had lain awake hours at a time, trying not to look, holding his body stiff, arms tight against his sides, afraid the wolves would strike if he moved. In his peripheral vision he could sometimes see their eyes shining in the night. He knew they were there, snarling, waiting to bite and tear bloody pain into him. He kept his breathing even, and stared straight up at the ceiling until he passed out into fitful sleep. As he dreamt, he was still terrified. He was pursued by dark, threatening things that towered over him, chasing him until he fell into holes, terrified of pain at the end of the sudden stop at the bottom, but the darkness went on and on, and it terrified him, this endless falling. He never stopped, but he would suddenly know he was awake, and see the grayness of dawn. Sometimes he woke up sooner, with the urgent need to pee, but when he went to the bathroom it wouldn’t start, and he knew it was his fault, and he tried to relax, to let it happen, and eventually it would. The relief was wonderful, and he was happy, relishing the relief, the warmth, but he was still in bed, still half-asleep, and he knew he had to get up then, and tell his mother. She didn’t want wet sheets on the bed all night. And it got cold anyway. After awhile all that stopped. He sometimes had dreams about a girl in his class, and she lay there in bed with him, and they kissed and snuggled their bodies together. He didn’t learn what sex was for some time after those dreams started, but when he did, he finally understood the dreams. Sex, however, was forbidden, especially to teenagers, and girls didn’t like him anyway. Sex was just for marriage and making babies. Sean had decided he’d like to be married and make babies.
Maybe. Sean wasn’t so sure of that anymore. The world was facing enormous problems due to overpopulation. He didn’t want to add to that. He learned how to have sex without making babies, and that was just fine by him. Right now, however, he was all by himself, and, he was running low on money. Pretty soon he’d have to find work. He stopped at a gas station in the middle of nowhere one evening. The guy there told him to check out the carnival down the road. “There’s always work to do tearing it all down. Tonight’s their last night; they’ll be looking for people.” Sean thanked him, and practically burned rubber.