True in Some Sense

Stranger on the Road; Chapter 1

Saturday, June 26, 2010, about 5:00 PM

The rain starts just as Gidget’s little compact makes its way out of Portland and starts down I-5 South. Traffic moderately heavy, but everything keeps moving. Despite only limited automotive experience, Gidget manages to keep the car under control.

A few minutes out, the girl by the side of the road draws her attention. Young, strawberry-blonde. Ill-dressed, caught in the rain with her bag and her thumb out. Too much highway for anybody to stop.

Gidget stops.

The girl seems grateful for a ride, and is happy to go as far south as Gidget will take her. Gidget says she’s just going south, so she’ll take her to her destination.

Once introductions are made — the girl’s name is Ashley — she determines that said destination is just outside of Yreka, CA. Over the course of conversation, she also determines that Ashley is just seventeen, and that she’s upset about something. Precisely what is unclear, but she plans on visiting her uncle.

After stopping in a town to consult the library and gather some food, they determine that it’s about five hours south — a little over 300 miles. Despite Ashley’s protestations, Gidget says she’s just headed south, and so it’s no trouble.

So they head south.

Close to about eleven, Ashley calls her uncle — indicating to Gidget that this was an impromptu trip. They arrive in front of a rundown rambler in some junkyard, and Ashley’s uncle comes out to greet them. Upon meeting Gidget, he invites both of them inside to have some soup.

Gidget is somewhat alarmed, but after being assured that she won’t be a bother, she shuts off the engine and makes her way inside.

Following after Ashley’s uncle — having introduced himself as Billy — and Ashley, Gidget peeks into the living room and is sidetracked by a bunch of stray water cooler bottles in the process of being lashed together, along with other junk and half-finished projects. Billy enters after her, and when she explains her interest, he says he’ll explain at the dinner table.

Upon arriving, he procures drinks and bowls of soup, and proceeds to explain that he currently plans to travel to the Gulf Coast. Given that BP oil is just leaking into the Gulf at present, he figures that salvage rights are in effect, and if he collects it and either uses it as fuel oil or resells it, there won’t be any trouble. He plans on a totally green operation — a raft built out of water cooler bottles, netting made of recycled materials, and a homemade centrifuge similar to that proposed by Kevin Costner — and would reinvest any profits he makes into alternate energy technologies. Gidget says she is intrigued by the idea.

After Billy asks Ashley about how things are going, he comes to the conclusion that he knows Gidget from somewhere. Finally, it dawns on him, and he leaves the room very excitedly, returning with a dog-eared copy of the Paris Match. He places it on the table, revealing an old photograph of a science conference. Front and center are Dr. Robert Frye and Gidget. Though surprised at the revelation, Gidget does answer Billy’s questions to the best of her ability. After Billy leaves the table to put the magazine away, Ashley asks how there could be a picture of Gidget in such an old magazine. Gidget lies, saying that it merely looks to be old, the way some European media just happens to look old despite being recent. Satisfied, Ashley excuses herself to get ready for bed.

Billy returns, and asks a few cursory questions about Gidget before insisting that she stay. When he asks about her programming, he comes to the conclusion that she ought to learn if she is unique, or if there are other robots based on her design. Perhaps that is the reason for her road trip. She thinks about it, and agrees that it might be a possibility.

Indicating that he awoke early, Billy excuses himself for bed, but lets her know where everything is and where she is welcome to stay. He indicates that he will see her in the morning, and that she is welcome to help him with his work. He then bids her good night. When Ashley returns, she says she will probably be awake reading a little while before going to bed. Gidget then gathers some of her things out of her car before similarly going to sleep for the night.

Before going to sleep, she reflects upon the lie she earlier said to Ashley. Though not necessarily proud of it, she feels a certain sense of understanding the human condition and a certain contentment with it before drifting off to sleep.

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