On the way from Evansville to Louisville, Roger thought about what he knew about Dale, Mikey, and Stew Uttley – from when they were three boys growing up with his father in Burdoo to who and where they were now. He’d have liked to tell it out loud, but thought better of troubling his new friend with the names of a bunch of old men she didn’t know from Adam.
“Hey Roger,” Monica said eventually, “I want you to do something for me.”
“Yeah – I’m gonna give you the phone and you just say, ‘Listen Larry, she’s gone. Leave her alone,’ and then you hang up, alright? Will you do that for me please?”
“Listen, Larry,” said Roger, “She’s gone. Let her alone.”
“Yeah. Good. Let her alone. Or leave her be.”
“Leave ‘er be.”
“You’re not a cowboy, Roger. Just say, ‘Leave her be.’”
She dialed and passed him the phone.
“Melinda?” came the voice on the other end.
“Listen up Larry, Monica is gone.”
“Who is this?”
“Leave… You leave her be.”
“Leave who be?”
Melinda/Monica hissed in the seat next to Roger and he fumbled the phone into her hand.
She ended the call.
“Are you Melinda?” asked Roger.
“To him I am,” she replied.
“No, you did fine, thank you Mr. Roger Junior.”
“Yeah, my father was Roger, too.”
Monica turned to look him full in the face and made her eyes all wide.
“I figured,” she said in a low voice.
“You know, when my dad was a kid, he had three friends.”
“Aw,” said Monica.
“Yeah, and one of those kids… those guys… old man now… well, he lives in Denver. He’s like my uncle. Uncle Mickey. I think I’ll visit him on the way out to Albuquerque. So I was thinking… If we’re still, I mean if you’re still going. To New Mexico. If you’re not doing anything…”
“Sure,” said Monica. “I’ll come.”
“Haha,” laughed Roger.
“You’re awesome,” he said.
“I can rent us a car if you’ve got the cash to pay me back. Or half back.”
“You’d pay half?” Roger was surprised.
“It’s a deal.” Roger found himself shaking her hand.
“But not a date, right?” she said, holding his hand steady a moment, “I don’t have to pretend to be your girlfriend or anything do I?”
With a final pump of his big hand with her small one, she let him go.
Roger put his hand on his knee. He looked at his boots.
Yeah, they’d drive Denver and drop in on Mikey Uttley. Why hadn’t he thought of paying the old man a visit before? Maybe if he called in advance, Mikey could arrange for his brother Stew to be there, too. Stew flew in all the time from Arizona, Roger knew. Both men were retired. Mikey used a cane.
“You know what?” peeped Monica, “We could just drive to Albuquerque.”
“Through Grand Junction,” said Roger.
“See? You know the way.”
“Little pricier than Greyhound,” hemmed Roger.
“I get discounts,” Monica said.
“We’ll see how it goes in Denver, okay?”
Roger wondered why Monica was taking to him so familiarly. Well, he had invited her to Mikey’s. But now it was a long road trip together? Did she want something? Did she want Roger Jr.’s sexy body?
“Okay yeah right. Hey. What are you laughing about?” asked Monica.
“Nothing,” Roger replied.