When he got back the boy was still asleep. He pulled the blue plastic tarp off of him and folded it and carried it out to the grocery cart and packed it and came back with their plates and some cornmeal cakes in a plastic bag and a plastic bottle of syrup. He spread the small tarp they used for a table on the ground and laid everything out and he took the pistol from his belt and laid it on the cloth and then he just sat watching the boy sleep. He'd pulled away his mask in the night and it was buried somewhere in the blankets. He watched the boy and he looked out through the trees toward the road. This was not a safe place. They could be seen from the road now it was day. The boy turned in the blankets. Then he opened his eyes. Hi, Papa, he said.
I'm right here.
I know.An hour later they were on the road. He pushed the cart and both he and the boy carried knapsacks. In the knapsacks were essential things. In case they had to abandon the cart and make a run for it. Clamped to the handle of the cart was a chrome motorcycle mirror that he used to watch the road behind them. He shifted the pack higher on his shoulders and looked out over the wasted country. The road was empty. Below in the little valley the still gray serpentine of a river. Motionless and precise. Along the shore a burden of dead reeds. Are you okay? he said. The boy nodded. Then they set out along the blacktop in the gunmetal light, shuffling through the ash, each the other's world entire.
They crossed the river by an old concrete bridge and a few miles on they came upon a roadside gas station. They stood in the road and studied it. I think we should check it out, the man said. Take a look. The weeds they forded fell to dust about them. They crossed the broken asphalt apron and found the tank for the pumps. The cap was gone and the man dropped to his elbows to smell the pipe but the odor of gas was only a rumor, faint and stale. He stood and looked over the building. The pumps standing with their hoses oddly still in place. The windows intact. The door to the service bay was open and he went in. A standing metal toolbox against one wall. He went through the drawers but there was nothing there that he could use. Good half-inch drive sockets. A ratchet. He stood looking around the garage. A metal barrel full of trash. He went into the office. Dust and ash everywhere. The boy stood in the door. A metal desk, a cashregister. Some old automotive manuals, swollen and sodden. The linoleum was stained and curling from the leaking roof. He crossed to the desk and stood there. Then he picked up the phone and dialed the number of his father's house in that long ago. The boy watched him. What are you doing? he said.
Cami told me about this book last week. I had never heard of it, but I went and googled it and became intrigued, so I stopped at the library and checked it out. I think I will purchase it.
At first I was not sure I was going to like the book. The grammer annoyed me. The puncutation, or lack of it or total randomness of it annoyed me. Sentence structure annoyed me.
Then I turned to the second page of the story. And all those things quit annoying me as I became engrossed in the story.
There were times that I felt as if I were reading an endless journal of someone's worst nightmare. Endless days of walking. Fear. Hunger. Cold. But still I read because I wanted to reach the end. The goal. The place where everything would be alright again.
You can find reading questions here. They are all questions that I had as I read.
This is going to be one of my favorite books. There is one thing that allows a book to become one of my favorites. The characters. The characters are so real, so compelling, so alive that they become a part of me. So much a part of my life that I cannot forget them when the book is finished, when I want it to go on and on and I am sad to turn the last page. This man and his son are those kind of characters.
Now I am going to say something about the last scene in the book. If you do not want to know how it ends, then skip this-
After I finished the book and was thinking back on it, I thought about the scene after the father dies. This is not the ending I had hoped for the entire book. In my mind they would get to the coast, find people like themselves, and wake up from the nightmare that was their life. But instead the father dies and the boy is left alone. Until he is found by a family that takes him in and loves him and teaches him of God. As I thought about it, I thought about how like our lives this is- We have a life that we do not remember, we leave that life and that Father and begin to live with a family that loves us and has waited for us and hopefully teaches us of God. But we do not forget the Father that is no longer with us and we still go off by ourselves and talk to Him.
And in the end everything will be alright again.