AUGUST 1, 1986
EASTBOUND INTERSTATE 80
VIA FAIR OAKS, CALIFORNIA
Justin Cody had finally had enough. Big Francis had finally pushed his limits too far one too many times. Cody hated Francis—always had, as far as he could remember, but when you live under someone’s roof you sorta have to live by their rules. Especially when it’s your dad’s roof. Well, that was kind of the joke, really. Big Francis was the lord of the manor only because he was the loudest and most oppressive person in the house. And until Cody was sixteen years old, he was the tallest person in the house, but now at 6 foot 3 inches, Cody stands the tallest. Unfortunately for Cody, he still has the body of a too-skinny teenaged boy weighing-in at a mere 118 pounds. Even towering five inches taller than Big Francis meant nothing when he was outweighed by seventy pounds.
No, Cody was never going to win any fights with Big Francis. Francis knew it, too. That is why he constantly threw out the taunt, “Anytime you think you’re big enough to take it outside with me, you just let me know.” Big Francis probably would have peed his pants with joy if Cody ever took him up on the offer; it would have given him permission to take out years of aggression and disappointments in his own failures as a father, an artist, a writer, a musician, a friend, a provider, a man. Francis always stopped short of actually beating Cody or his sister, Sara, but always made good use of his two-inch wide leather belt, and of the back of his hand.
His most effective weapon, and certainly his most terrifying, was his voice. Loud and booming, putrid smelling, and always spraying spittle, Big Francis could reduce any adult to a mere child, and mere children to infants. The vibrating and deafening resonance of his voice was bad enough, but Big Francis had a knack for tearing into one’s deepest subconscious by reminding them always of their ridiculous shortcomings: “You call that raking?!? Fer cryin-out-loud, it’s taken you three hours to only do half the yard and THAT’S the best you can do? Just like your fucking report cards. You can’t do math and you can’t rake fer shit!! Why don’t you go to your room and try to clean it, if you can wrap your mind around something that complicated”
Yes, Justin Cody had finally had enough. He piled most of his belongings into his three-quarter-dead 1972 Opel Manta and took off for the other side of the country.
I always wanted to see New York City. Although, 3,000 miles from Big Francis may not be far enough.
The Opel had been rusting in the driveway for the past two years. Essentially a gift from Sister Sara—bought for only one dollar, and only because the DMV needed some form of sales slip to change ownership—the Opel never got much use…until now. Both the Opel and Cody have found their purposes.
Cody packed his homemade acoustic guitar—one of the few useful gifts from Francis—and about four changes of clothes, including a winter coat even though it was August. He would need it eventually. He brought his Walkman cassette player, headphones, a small box of tapes ranging from Rolling Stones and Genesis albums to bootleg Grateful Dead concerts, and a carton of Camel filtered cigarettes. He had roughly $3,600 in cash from the LSD empire he left behind for his friends to manage, plus an extra 4 sheets of acid to try and sell along the way.
Selling acid was a goldmine in the suburbs of Sacramento. Nobody else seemed to have it, and whoo-boy was there ever a market for it. Cody and his friends would go to Grateful Dead concerts, buy sheets of a hundred hits for fifty or sixty bucks, and then come home to sell each hit individually for two to five dollars, depending on the buyers. The groovy, mind-expanding neo-hippies got it cheaper than the meathead beer-swillers who just wanted to get fucked-up.
He also had about a quarter ounce of some nice sticky-green bud. Cody sold the marijuana, too, but he never really made much money from it, on account that he smoked more than he sold.
Cody didn’t have a driver’s license–Hell, he even know how to drive. He’d had a few crash courses in parking lots, taught by friends more stoned than him. Still, Interstate 80 is a nice, long stretch that should give him plenty of room to learn, especially in the deserts of Nevada…if only the Opel will get him over the Sierra Nevadas. Even getting as far as Lake Tahoe would mean getting out of Sacramento and away from Francis.
Nope, not good enough. Gotta get far away. Far enough away that any sort of temptation to return is completely unfeasible. Far enough away that the memories of a former life eventually erode and leave no traces. Far enough away that the slate is wiped clean and nobody knows or cares a thing about me, or where I came from.
This was the beginning of a long, strange journey. An escape from one life, and an eager start to a new one. With burning clutches lurching an old beat-up car over mountains and across deserts.