“Ever been to Cali, Julie?”
Another sigh. “Heck no! You kiddin’? I hardly been out of Ohio, Toot!”
“Would ya like to go, Julie? Maybe take off for a month or two and then I’ll bring ya back to your ma and dad?”
She was shocked and yet I could tell she was running it through her mind – me, her, and the highway – as she said, “Toot, they wouldn’t ever let me go!”
“Who said they’d ever have to know?”
“Toot, I couldn’t…!”
I always sprung fast then gave them time to think about it. I dropped the subject and told her road stories for the next fifteen minutes.
“Sure does sound like fun,” she moaned in a yearning, childlike voice.
“Listen Julie, I’ve got some work to do. I’ll be checkin’ outta this town by noon. You change your mind ’bout goin’ for a ride, you call me. Right now, gimme an address so I can send money to buy ya a new skirt.”
She was silent for a minute then she said, “Daddy would kill me! It was an old skirt anyway and…and maybe the stain will come off in the washer!” She talked real fast like I was gonna interrupt her or something.
“Well in that case Julie honey, I really enjoyed talkin’ to ya, sorry again ’bout the skirt, maybe I’ll stop by this hot dog stand again someday and I’ll drop on by the bank and say hey, okay?” I talked like I didn’t have no more time to waste on her. She said a meek little good-bye.
Next day the phone woke me up at seven-thirty a.m.
Julie was all breathless. “Toot, how do I get to where you are?” She was talking loud and there was lots of noise behind her.
“Julie, where are ya, girl?” I sat up abruptly.
“At the pay phone in front of the taxi station.”
“Hang tight. I’m only six blocks from there.”
I jumped into my jeans and boots fast as lightning. And soon I found her there in front of the taxi station, tall and thin and causing a lot of commotion in her snug jeans with her suitcase beside her. Her cheeks were flushed and her hair was piled real pretty on her head. Wow – I hadn’t snagged such a fox since the one that had been waiting for me when I’d gotten out of Leavenworth. That one had been keeping tabs on me for four years, writing me letters at the Big House and all that hokey. Funny, but she’d been so afraid of leaving Kansas that I’d kept her close to home, eventually drowning her in a mud puddle and burying her in her own backyard when I was sick of her. Julie though – I’d probably keep her around for a while and take her all over. First things first, though. I christened her The Fox.
“Toot and The Fox,” she said with a shiver of juvenile excitement. “Kinda like Bonnie and Clyde.”
Being on the road with The Fox was like being with a kid – she was all wide-eyed and having to pee all the time and wondering when we were gonna be there. Everyday, The Fox would thank me for “taking her for a ride” and assuring me that when I brought her back and her daddy found out she had been with me, he would know she had been safe and sound and well taken care of.
Maybe that was the funniest thing about The Fox – she really thought I was gonna take her back home someday. She believed that until the very end. And even though I knew the truth, I sure couldn’t see bursting her bubble or anything.