I-40

byharding©

We almost never started our two and a half thousand mile trip because Mom wasn't looking when she pulled onto I-40 coming out of Wilmington and a double-trailer semi almost side-swiped us. With the semi's horn blaring Mom swerved right, the 1975 Chrysler Town and Country fishtailing. We were running out of road fast, and even though she braked hard the brakes on the car were shit. The final part of the semi roared past and I reached over and turned the wheel, because Mom was like a rabbit in headlights as the end of the filter lane came up.

"You want me to drive, Mom?" I asked.

She shook her head, blonde curls whipping across her face as she shook it too hard. She was pale. "I can drive my own son to San Diego."

"All the way?" I teased.

She shot me a glance, color returning to her face. "You can take over when we stop for gas. And I'm a good driver. Never had a single accident."

That was true, but I couldn't remember the last time she drove any distance. Didn't have to; living in the small house in Devon Park she walked most places she needed to go. All that walking maintained her figure in a way her driver friends envied.

I leaned over and glanced at the fuel gauge. We were almost empty. Typical Mom. Anyone else would have filled the tank before starting a cross-country trip. It wasn't as if she didn't know we were setting out, but that was Mom, never with any plan, almost as if planning for something might make it not happen. Shows what she knows. I believe she'd been planning this trip in her head ever since she made the mistake of marrying Hank. Mistake rectified now, Hank was fish-food somewhere out in the South China Sea. Not even my real dad, Mom had always encouraged me to call him Hank and not Dad or Pop. I hardly missed him. Hell, I'd hardly ever seen him, he was always off somewhere, more than he had to be. And he wasn't a lovable man. Not even a likable man.

My real dad was also been Navy, also lost at sea, but at least he had gone down fighting in some meaningless skirmish out east, gone at twenty-two, leaving a twenty year old girl with a three year old kid. Me. Sometimes I thought I remembered him, odd scraps of memory floating to the surface, but more often I knew I didn't.

"We'd better pull over sooner rather than later, looking at that gauge," I said.

Mom laughed. "Oh, that doesn't work worth a crock of shit, Joe. There's a quarter tank left yet."

I sat back in my seat, slipped off my boots and put my stockinged feet on the dash. Mom glanced over but said nothing, concentrating on the road now it was too late, the faded station wagon - yellow over brown over rust - holding a steady fifty-five. I think. The needle on the speedometer had a habit of hunting fifteen miles an hour either side of true, wavering up and down.

Five minutes later as a sign for a stop came up Mom was intending to drive past but the engine misfired, caught again, misfired one more time.

"A quarter tank?" I said.

"I haven't driven this thing in years, Joe, how am I supposed to know?" She eased us into the exit lane and we coughed our way to the pumps. I climbed out, fed gas into the endless tank, stopped at $30 which was stupid because we'd have to fill up again anyway but money was tight and I couldn't bring myself to top us all the way up.

Mom got out and rested her hand on my waist just above my jeans. "I'm gonna go pee, Joe. You want anything?" Typical Mom again. We were twenty minutes down the road and she hadn't thought to pee before we left home. Make that ex-home.

"I'm fine," I said, watching as she made her way to the restroom. She looked young enough to be my sister rather than my Mom. Short, pretty, stacked up top but narrow across the ass, I'd always considered her the sexiest woman in the world. Not beautiful, but pretty, which in my book was even better. My experience with beautiful girls only made me believe they thought a whole lot too much of themselves.

Still only thirty-five Mom received a lot of attention after Hank died -- a lot, I think, before he died -- but she had other plans. After Hank went missing she discovered he had taken some complicated advance on his pension so there was no money coming in, and the house in Wilmington had two mortgages outstanding. Mom's younger sister Sarah lived in San Diego, all the way across the country from Wilmington, and Aunt Sarah had said she would love Mom to come and stay with her. She could even fix her up with a job. Mom handed the house keys over to the bank -- actually, slipped them through the door while they were closed for lunch -- and we hit the road.

We were supposed to leave early, but I knew Mom wouldn't get her act together in time for the planned start, so it was mid-afternoon before we left town and almost immediately got creamed on the interstate. We were meant to pack the night before but had lounged around, making the most of our last night in the house, drinking a bottle of white, laughing at old memories. In the morning we packed the cardboard boxes holding Mom's few belongings into the back of the station wagon. I tossed my small tote bag in and, more gently, the hard case holding my Martin OM-1 which Mom had bought for my fifteenth birthday. It replaced the cheap Guild I'd had since eleven. I hadn't asked for it, but Mom said she couldn't stand to see me playing a piece of shit guitar so well. I had no clue how she'd gotten the money together to buy it but that guitar was my pride and joy.

I removed the hose and waited as Mom came out the restroom and went inside to pay. When she came out she slipped into the other side of the car and I smiled and got behind the wheel. I had some news of my own, but didn't want to give her any more pain just yet. The pension and mortgages weren't the only things Dad hadn't paid. I'd had a letter a month before saying my Navy scholarship was being pulled. I'd either have to pay my own way for my last two years of college or quit. I knew this wasn't any kind of choice at all, didn't yet know exactly how to break it to Mom.

I had $20 in my jeans pocket. After I'd come down on the bus the day before I helped Mom search the entire house. We upended sofas and chairs, I wriggled my hand down the back and side of every piece of furniture in the house. Mom opened every jar and pot she might have hidden some cash away in. We had sat late last night counting it, her entire worldly stash coming to $742.36 - $45.98 was in coins we'd managed to recover from down inside the furniture, so I guess Hank hadn't left her completely penniless. I worked out we'd use most of the money filling the car with gas on our journey across America. The old Town and Country wasn't what you might call environmentally friendly. It drank more than Dean Martin at a night in Vegas.

Mom called me when Hank died but I told her I didn't want to go to the service. She said fine, she wasn't going either. That didn't surprise me. Why and how she'd put up with him all this time I don't know. When my real Dad died Hank took her under his wing. I think Mom was grateful, and Hank wanted a ready-made family and some regular sex when he was on shore leave, but he was an outright pain in the ass.

Fifteen years Mom's senior, Hank was authoritarian, pig-headed and so far up his own ass it was the only thing kept his hair brown. He'd tried to raise me as a Navy kid and I hated the idea, left home as soon as I could. I wouldn't miss him -- in fact, I was glad he'd gone. I was pretty sure Mom wasn't going to miss him much either.

That first night we pulled of I-40 just past Winston-Salem and drove into woods away from sight. Mom went into the trees to pee again and then I did the same. She had made sandwiches for us before leaving and we'd eaten a few on the way, still had some left and I wolfed a couple down while Mom nibbled at a half.

The Chrysler was one of those cars that appear to be about two hundred feet long, half of it hood, but when we pushed Mom's few belongings packed into cardboard boxes to one side and I slipped my guitar in front and rolled out a double camping mattress there was only just about enough space for both of us to stretch out. Mom's five foot three fitted easily. My six-one not quite, legs bent at the knees, feet pushing against the tailgate.

Mom changed out of her clothes and got under a thin blanket while I walked out into the trees to give her some privacy. When I returned I turned my back and pulled my sneakers and socks and jeans off and rolled them up and placed them on the front seat, climbed in the back door and slid under the sheet. I hadn't slept this close to Mom in years, and the presence of her barely clothed body so close to mine was uncomfortable. Mom didn't seem to notice anything out of the ordinary, talking about how excited she was to be going to Aunt Sarah's. Sarah was four years younger than Mom, and I hadn't seen her in five years. Last time we went to visit I was deep in the throes of raging puberty and spent most of my time jacking off to fantasies about my Aunt. Mom and Sarah were two of the most gorgeous creatures in the world. To my mind anyway. Not that I'd ever jacked off thinking about Mom. Well, not as much as I had thinking about Aunt Sarah. Like I said, raging puberty -- it wasn't my fault!

It was hot in the car, a humid August night and after a while Mom sat up, reached over and opened the window her side. Then she reached over and wound down the one on mine. I lay rigidly on my back, trying to ignore her swaying breasts encased in a white lace bra inches from my face. Mom had always been the same, didn't seem to have any personal inhibitions about her body.

It was better with the windows down, a breeze blowing through, but the cicadas were still loud.

Mom tossed and turned a while, every now and then nudging against me. Her arm, a thigh, her ass when she rolled onto her side, a breast when she rolled the other way. I lay still, trying to ignore my erection and pretend it was nothing at all to do with her. Somehow, finally, I managed to sleep.

I woke to gray light filling the unshaded windows, a painful erection, and Mom snuggled tight against me, her arm draped over my stomach, me scared if she moved she might brush against my cock straining inside my shorts. I rolled away so my back was to her, but she mumbled and cuddled even closer, her arm wrapping back around me and I suppressed a groan because her hand was so damn close. I wasn't sure sure, but I think if she touched my cock I'd come there and then. She felt good pressed against me, belly to my back, her thigh over mine, her hand just above my navel, breasts flattened on my back. I lay rigid, scared if I moved my cock would jerk free and slap against her hand.

I lay that way for an hour until she woke, bleary and happy and rolled away from me as though realizing what she'd been doing. I pretended to be asleep while she clambered out the back and pulled on her skirt and t-shirt from the day before. I'm sure the smell of my arousal must have filled the car, and my shorts were damp where I'd leaked pre-cum all over them.

I waited for her to go pee then pulled on my jeans. When she came back she kissed my cheek and hugged me, saying she'd slept better in the back of the car than she had for years. I went to pee too and we set off, me driving. Mom hadn't mentioned driving again since I took over, and I was happy to do the whole journey if she needed me to.

The Town and Country ate gas like it was still 1975, the tank giving us only 250 miles, so before long we stopped at a service station again and both of us used the restroom to wash. I stripped off and wiped myself down, wiped my cock and balls still heavy from my earlier arousal.

That night we repeated the same moves, pulling off the interstate somewhere past Nashville and driving down smaller and smaller roads until we found somewhere we wouldn't be disturbed and parked up. There was still light in the sky by the time we'd eaten the bread and cheese we'd bought in a market, and Mom asked me to play her something.

She sat on the grass leaning against a tree, knees drawn up almost showing her panties and I tried not to look. It was hard not to look. Her legs were slim and shapely, thighs hollowed at the top where the short skirt showed a view along them. She leaned forward, arms around her knees, breasts flattened against her legs, and she was surely the most perfect creature that ever existed, pink sunlight catching in the blonde curls framing her face.

I busied myself tuning up, started in on an old delta blues I'd learned years ago, trying for the authentic sound and failing to find it in my head. I was the wrong color, age and background to get anywhere near, but Mom smiled and watched my fingers fly and clapped each tune I played. When I stopped after forty minutes she said, "We ought to drive back to Nashville, Joe. You're good enough to be in the Grand ol Opry, you surely are."

"That was blues, Mom," I said.

"I know what it was."

"They play country in Nashville."

"You could do country-blues. Like that guy you played me. The one you like."

"John Hiatt?" I said.

"Like him."

"That'll be the day," I said. "If I ever write a song half as good as John Hiatt I'll try for a record contract."

"Good." Mom nodded like it was a done deal. She got up and brushed her skirt down. I studied her, unable not to, noticing her nipples showed through her top and wondered what the hell she was so happy about. Maybe the music had done something to her. Maybe I'd need to play less around her.

I was sitting on the lowered tailgate and she leaned past and offered me a chunk of bread, some cheese and a slice of sausage, sat beside me and we ate our supper out in the open while the air thickened around us, cicadas singing their own kind of blues. I wondered how long they'd be with us, exactly where we might lose our little friends on the route across.

When it was time to bed down I wandered off again but Mom shouted after me.

"You don't have to go all prissy on me, Joe. You've seen me naked before, come on back."

"I've not seen you naked since I was ten," I said, but I stopped and turned around. If Mom didn't mind I wasn't going to deny myself the please of watching her undress.

"I've not changed too much since then," she said, "so I guess no surprises, eh?"

She pulled her blouse over her head, revealing a considerable white bra. It probably needed to be, the weight it had to support. Mom had always been big up top. I've no idea how big, I know nothing about cup sizes or measurements. But she was big. I tried remembering how her breasts looked naked, from the last time we shared a bath, and couldn't. They obviously didn't have quite the same memorable effect on me back then as now.

Mom unclipped her skirt and stepped from it, folded it carefully and leaned into the car to place it in a box. Bending forward her panties drew into the cleft of her ass, their round, firm cheeks good enough to eat.

She turned back and grinned. "Joe, do you mind if I take this off as well?" She snapped the strap of her bra, making a sharp slapping sound against her skin. "I was so damn uncomfortable last night. These things are not made for sleeping in."

"I guess," I said.

"I knew you'd understand." She reached back and unclipped herself, shucked her shoulders forward. For a moment the bra clung to her breasts and she had to tug it free. I knew how it felt. If I was that close to perfection I wouldn't want to let go either. Mom tossed the bra in back with her clothes, the movement setting her breasts swaying. I tore my gaze away, not wanting her to catch me staring.

Mom climbed in through the open tailgate and I went around the side and removed my boots and socks and jeans again, pulled my t-shirt over my head. I had been so hot the previous night I wanted to remove as much as possible.

I climbed in back after Mom, trying to half turn away so she wouldn't see the erection ridging my shorts. I drew the sheet down to my waist and rolled on my side facing the window. Mom moved too, pressing against my back, her breasts flattening against my skin, her nipples painfully obvious.

She kissed my neck and said, "You're the best son any Mom could have, Joe, and I love you more than anything in the world."

She lay there, skin against mine, and I knew I was in for another sleepless night, except the driving and the night before must have taken their toll because within ten minutes I was gone.

When I woke Mom was wrapped against me, snoring softly. I lay on my back and my cock had worked loose above the waist of my shorts, the head leaking against my belly. Mom's hand was inches from the tip and I lay rigid, not sure what to do. I felt as though I was on the verge of coming, and that couldn't happen. Mom's naked breasts pressed into my side, one either side of my ribcage. The blanket had slipped down and I saw one orb clearly in the gray morning light. Her nipple was pale, as pale as the aureole surrounding it, engorged a little and as I lay there she made whimpering sounds and moved her hips against me as though she too was aroused. She pressed her mound against my hip and I was sure I felt dampness. I moved, snuffling as though still asleep. Mom half woke and seemed to realize our predicament and turned away so we were ass to ass, but that was almost as bad, her firm round cheeks pressed to my skinny butt.

I worked my cock back inside my shorts, worried I was going to have to jack off when we stopped to wash because she was driving me crazy.

Each day as we drove we talked about all kinds of things. She told me more about my real dad, asked me about girlfriends and I told her some and she teased me, just like a girl, laughing and grinning. She wore one short dress after another, and when I drove, which was most of the time, put her bare feet up on the dash, showing off her slim legs. Her dress tended to keep slipping up and showing too much thigh and she was always pushing it back down, but in a jokey way as though she didn't really mind me looking. One time, east of Jackson, I almost rear-ended a truck because I was staring at her legs and she said "eyes on the road, buster," but laughed.

Near midday we came off I-40 straight into downtown Memphis. We needed to find somewhere to wash up. I felt grubby, having nothing more than a wipe down in three days, and I'm sure Mom must have felt the same way.

"We need to find somewhere we can grab a shower or something," I said as we circled the city streets.

"We can't afford to spend any money, Joe," Mom said. "We've barely enough for gas as it is."

"Don't worry," I said. "I've got a plan."

I drove around the center a while, eventually finding somewhere to park up, a disused lot where two shady looking guys took $5 off us. I figured maybe they hoisted some of the cars, but I felt safe they would ignore the Town and Country. I grabbed my guitar case out the back and Mom followed as we walked to Beale Street. I'd never been in this city before, but I'd busked plenty of places and knew the ropes. I found a good spot between the exit to a Mall and a small park where people were gathering to eat their lunch. Tourists milled along the street, wide-eyed, sated on Graceland and the blues coming from bars further down. I took my Martin out and laid the hard case open in front of me, begged some change from Mom and scattered $20 worth inside, added a ten note of my own to make it look like someone had been generous. I slung the strap around my neck, tuned up and swung into a raw blues. I knew I could play, knew I had a good voice, a rasp back under the words that added at least some authenticity. Mom sat on a low wall and watched, enchanted and enchanting. I sang to her, to no-one else, and after a while drew a small crowd. I received applause between songs and pretty soon dimes and quarters and even some bills were getting tossed into the case.

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