Watched a guy, his little hippie girl and their dog packing their stuff across the parking lot, dusty and dirty, as I filled up the tank. He smiled and commented on the Beast as they trudged by, so I asked if they were on their way to spend time with their family for the holidays. He stopped and rubbed his head, fidgeted with the sweat-stained bandana, then tied it back on his forehead. She reached over and slipped her arm around his waist and smiled up at him before she looked back at me. A shadow of concern crossed her freckled face.
“Actually, this is my family,” he told me as he changed the dog’s rope into the other hand so he could put his arm protectively around his woman’s shoulders. “Neither of us have seen our folks for a couple of years now. Sometimes things just ain’t the way you think they oughta be,” he said with a shrug. “Sometimes you just do the best you can with what you have, you know? We’re on our way down to the park. They’re handing out sandwiches down there and tomorrow there’s a shelter that serves up turkey and all the trimmings, and it’s going to be a glorious day!” He shouted at the bright blue sky as threw his head back like it was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen.
His girl rubbed his back, pet the dog then signed to him before I realized she was deaf. They exchanged a few words with their fingers before he reached down and kissed her.
“No, baby, this nice lady ain’t hassling us. Judging from her dirty-ass bike and all that shit she’s got, I’d say she’s a drifter just like us, ain’t that right?” he asked me with a laugh.
I told him he was right and we chatted a bit about the different states they’d wandered through, weather and various highways. He talked about how hard it is to hitchhike with a dog, so mostly they have done their traveling by foot. They’d picked up work for a time as field workers (the Mexicans really hated us, he explained) or roadies with a small carnival but those were short-lived stints, mostly because of Angelique’s hearing. “Folks don’t realize she can’t hear a damned thing. I mean, nothing! Deaf as a stump, and even when they know, they forget. Working around equipment is dangerous; there’s been a few accidents, real close calls. Money ain’t worth losing my Angel over.” He smiles at his girl and a softness comes over his weathered face. “Don’t you find life amazing?” he asks out loud, though I realize he isn’t really talking to me. “Just how did her mother know she was going to grow up to be an angel? A name like Angelique? Have you ever even heard that name before? But she surely is my angel, that’s a fact. She’s saved my life for certain.” He brushes the stringy blonde hair out of her pretty face and reaches down for another kiss. A touch of sadness crept over me as I watched the dog lay down at their feet and Marcus told her he loved her with his fingers. I started digging around for the ten spot I knew I had stashed somewhere and asked if I could share my cash with them.
“Naw, we’re good,” he waved me off. “We have a job doing some landscaping in a couple of days. It’ll work out great; Ang will clean up the limbs I’ll be trimming and I can keep an eye on her. She’s a killer artist, she can draw anything, can’t you Ang… and someday we’ll find a job like that for her. Something she loves.” Suddenly he cocked his head and stabbed at the air with his finger as if he’d just come up with a brilliant idea. “You know, on second thought, yeah, I’ll take your money. My girl deserves a treat. I think we’ll stop by Wally World after those sandwiches,” he explained as he signed to her. She giggled and clapped. “I’m gonna get her some paper. Her sketchpad got wet in the rain a couple of days ago. We dried out some of the pages but mostly it’s all wrecked. She loves paper. Pencils, too. Hey, wanna come to the park with us? It’s just a block down,” he offered.
I had a commitment two towns away so begged off. Marcus reached over and shook my hand, Angelique smiled and waved goodbye. Stomping the Beast into gear, I wished I had more money to offer before I realized… it wouldn’t change their situation one bit. Their joy had nothing to do with money, or the lack of. They have love… and for now… that is enough.