A man walks out of a bar with his friend to enter a ship departing from the Bahamas. “Do you want a cigarette?” Asked the friend. “No,” said the man, “I don’t smoke.” Then he thought, “I am going to go tell that woman from back in there that she is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen.” So he did, and she asked him if he wanted to split a cigarette. “Well, sure,” he said.

We picked Chad up from a bus depot in Des Moines. Grandma made a delicious meal of green beans, mashed cheesy potatoes, banana pudding, and pork tenderloin. Lio stuffed a massive pile of green beans down the hatch and began running in wild circles around the living room, which usually means he is ready to nap. He collapsed on a pillow on the floor and lay motionless for a moment. “Do you think he’s ready for his N-A-P?” I ask Hawk. “No nap!” Cries the weightless lump on the floor. Crap! I think. He can spell!

In the van, Lio and I giggle and talk about bulldozers and fire trucks and Lio recounts the story of riding the lawnmower with Grandpa the day before. “Rode lawnmower with Grandpa,” he says. “Loud. Pushed the button with my knee. Lights.” He is thrilled to get a lawnmower ride from Grandpa each time we visit.

Right before we pull out, I think I saw a flake of snow. “I see snow!” I call to Hawk as we’re loading up the van. “I see snow, too!” he shouts back. Hawk finds the Chiefs on the radio, and it begins to rain in sleety, frigid droplets.

Chad tells us it’s snowing back in Omaha, just two hours away. With silent resolve, we plug into the van and set off toward Rock Island, hoping we’re chasing Fall and leaving winter behind, at least for a few weeks.

Lio is weary. I velcro his blackout curtains to the ceiling of the van, separating him from the rest of us. It’s the keenest tour improvement we’ve made all year. While he’ll rarely fall asleep when he can see other people and make eye contact, he’s usually out like a light about three minutes after I put the curtains up. It’s magic! Today, he fusses, and says, “No house.” (The “house” is what’s formed when the curtains go up – usually he adores his little house.) “DVD player,” he says. “Cat and mouse, please.” He wants to watch Tom and Jerry. Since our show went til two last night, and we got home at three, went to bed at four, and got up at seven fifteen (Hawk) and ten fifteen (me), I don’t feel like listening to tired wails quite yet. I relent and hook the DVD player up to the car lighter, and set it on top of the toy shelf in front of Lio’s car seat. A minute later he gasps, “Cat fire, momma!” and six minutes later he’s sawing logs clutching his stuffed fox Woo Woo, cozy under a blanket, nestled within stuffed animals in his own private house. That’s what being a kid is all about – tiny, fun spaces to call your own, and feeling safe and comfortable in them, with your mom right outside the door.

The sleet subsides, then turns into rain, which trickles off until it’s the tiniest of droplets, then nothing. The landscape of eastern Iowa bends and folds, some trees lime green, some bursting already into red and orange hues. I remember again and again that it is October, that we left two years ago from Iowa in October, thinking we’d be chasing Fall, but instead, finding ourselves in the beginning of winter everywhere. Last night, in bed after the show, I scooped the tops of my feet into the bottoms of Hawk’s, reveling in their absolute heat, convinced I’d found the warmest spot in the house.

We’ve been on the road for almost five weeks, with seven left to go. The rain quickens once more, and we carry on, floating along on the freeway, admiring midwestern views and slowly leaking out of the middle of the country.


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