Allen and Rory had always dreamed of hiking the Appalachian Trail, but walking back to Virginia from Arizona was now before them. They started walking and sometimes slept in hotels, other times by the side of the road, but they rarely talked. They wanted their experience of seeing Rory’s brother to become an illustrated history of their time with him. They took turns leading the goat who always knew where to find good food and clean water. They decided to stop for awhile in Memphis. After being silent and walking for nearly five months a few days around the Mississippi River would give them a chance to recharge their batteries and find a soulful recovery for their final push to Williamsburg.
“Don’t drink from the river,” said the goat.
“Why not?” asked Rory.
“Microbeads, they are in the water and killing the fish.”
“Good advice, thanks,” said Rory.
“Guys, I’ve got to be going. My future takes me to other souls and you guys are on your way. Remember, the goat leaves, but I never do. Keep plugging along. Everything will be alright.”
The bearded goat walked away and disappeared into Beale Street before the Rory or Allen could say a word. They looked at each other and saw a sad sight. Not only was the goat gone, leaving them a little shaken, but their clothes had the look of a 1,500-mile walk. They were tattered and worn. Up a side street was a vintage clothing store, so the ragged pair made their way inside to get some new clothes. Given their haggard look, the store owner gave them a suspicious look. She eyed them like an old time saloon owner who had a couple of desperate looking cowboys enter her establishment.
“We are looking for some new clothes that are good for walking. Can you help us out?” asked Rory.
“Sure, but you can’t try anything on until you clean up,” said the owner.
“You wouldn’t happen to have one a shower, would you?” asked Allen.
She grabbed her phone and called someone. While she was busy, Rory and Allen looked around the store. It wasn’t the clothes that caught Rory’s eye, it was something from his high school days. Sitting on a shelf behind some old army coats was an antique reader. The machine would show one line of text at a time and finishing a passage the reader would take a comprehension test. With each test passed, the machine could be set to a faster speed.
“Allen, remember this? I loved that class,” said Rory.
“Turn it on see what happens,” said Allen.”
Rory hit the switch and instead of the screen lighting up, an envelope popped out of the slide slot. Derek and the Dominoes singing “In the Presence of the Lord” played on the store’s sound system, Allen looked around for the goat, and Rory tore open the envelope. He could hardly believe letter he was reading.
“Rory, I once told you that you were not challenging yourself. Now you are wrestling with a crisis of meaning and I am here to tell you to slow down. Look around, there is beauty in ease. Mrs. Linkenauger…”
“Look at this,” said Rory as he handed the note to Allen.
The owner of the store approached Allen and Rory. She said, “I get the impression you guys just need a break. When I write about this in my chronicles, I hope it’s not something I regret. Come on.”
She let them go upstairs and wash the last couple of months away.