Classic EssaysFiction

Riding Around

by Dean Darcy


The dog is asleep on the porch, the cows are in the moo yard, and the horse is in the stable. The truck clears its throat, coughs, then starts. The moon comes from behind a cloud to tag along for another late night ride to nowhere.

He drives around late at night, trying to see things more clearly, hoping that his movement through the cool, soft, night air will create unseen eddies and currents that will swirl through him and bring a deeper vision.

He takes the least traveled back roads far out into the country until he reaches the abandoned railroad tracks. He slowly turns the truck and lines up the four truck tires on the tracks; then stops, gets out, and lets more than half the air out of the tires. He gets back in the truck and puts it in drive. Without touching the gas pedal, the truck moves forward at four miles per hour. He carefully opens the door and climbs into the bed of the truck, then reclines with his back against the tailgate and looks up at the stars. The moon is riding shotgun. It’s a smooth, quiet, liquid ride, and he knows there is nothing ahead on the unused track for miles and miles.

Unwanted, trivial thoughts are tossed from the back of the truck as he whittles his consciousness to a point. Eventually he is left with the one true thing, the uber issue, the standard below which everything else is arrayed: Race. It was hard for him to achieve this understanding because for all his life he had been told that the one true thing was unimportant. Some misguided people even said that it didn’t exist. It may not have been as important in the distant past, but he now realizes that in his lifetime nothing could be more important.

Later he gets up and leans over the roof of the truck, resting on his forearms, and watches the silver lines slide under the truck. The truck rolls slowly and smoothly through the empty moonlit countryside. He can smell the earth, farmland, confederate jasmine.

His racial clarity of thought is like an unseen force, like water flowing underground. He knows that this final, ultimate concept is capable of bringing about huge changes. Like a shared dream, those who understand the singular importance of race also understand that it demands action. With enlightenment comes responsibility: If you are one of the few who understands, then you have to do all you can to save people. His nights of riding around are over; there is much work to be done.

As the truck slows going up a slight grade, he sees where an old logging road crosses the tracks up ahead, and he climbs into the cab. He stops the truck, takes the air compressor hose from the back, and fills the tires.

Driving home in the fresh night air, he feels complete, at peace, and ready for the important challenges ahead. The truck stops in the yard with a sigh as the moon goes behind a cloud. The sow is in the oink pen, and the dog is asleep on the porch.

He walks in.

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6 April, 2011 2:25 am

I love the smell of confederate jasmine.

Your article strikes a chord.