He walked throughout the Midwest on blacktop roads and two lane highways; skipping stones, a satchel on his back. He’d traveled from Nebraska across Iowa and into Illinois; taking his time, had nowhere to go.
The young man carried a compass with him. His daddy had given him that instrument, said put it to good use. That was before he died, knew his son was a traveler.
And he didn’t have any money on him, no identification, just a bag of books. Walked ’round with Ulysses, Moby Dick, Farewell To Arms, and On The Road. He read them one at a time, all the way through. When he’d finish one he’d go onto the next one.
The bag was heavy. Carried a change of clothes in it as well; a razor, tooth brush. In the mornings the kid would brush his teeth and clean up in public bathrooms of small towns. It felt good to wash his face in the sink with hot water; nights were getting cold.
Some days he wouldn’t walk at all. Just sit there in the park reading his books. He’d go to the library, the art museums, and over to shelters sometimes for food from a pantry. He was always asking for peanut butter and grape jelly with white bread. Most of the time the places had some on hand. He’d have to talk for a little while. Tell em he was safe. Just walking through. They’d heard it all before. Nothing was new.
He just kept on walking. No place to go. Followed a compass his daddy had given him. Everything was due east. Eventually he was staring at the ocean. Read pages of Melville. He felt at home.