I think I’m haunted.
It started innocently enough. It must’ve been around 1994. I had a map of Texas spread out on the dining rom table, trying to plot a west-east route for an unsupported run across the state. The ex, who had grudgingly agreed to come along, was still hoping I’d change my mind.
I was plotting the legs across West Texas, a long expanse of nothing but Interstate 10. I was stuck. There was too much distance, and not enough water. I looked at her. “I don’t think I can do it,” I said. She looked relieved.
At that moment, the ghost of Eleanor Roosevelt flashed across the TV screen in the living room, with a quote. “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” she said. We looked at each other, and that was that. In a lifetime of weird coincidences, this was probably the weirdest. The trip was on.
A few months later, we arrived in Kent. We had just finished around 40 miles from Van Horn. It was June, we were out of water and hadn’t eaten in about six hours. The map had shown Kent as having a store. I anticipated a glorious truck stop with fountain drinks, showers, maybe a Subway, and summer sausage and cheese on a butcher block. A nice man would greet us and say, “You look tired. Why not sleep in the back of the store?”
Instead, Kent was closed.
It was just a little mercantile that had shut down about an hour before we got there. Nothing else around for about 40 miles. We were screwed.
The freezer outside the store with bags of ice was unlocked, so we had ice for dinner. We were sooooooo hungry. And then.
A family pulled up on the way to Disneyland. They had hoped to buy gas but found nothing but two hopelessly sunburned, malnourished waifs sitting on the curb. The parents, who were with two little kids, raided the treat supply. Yogurt, cheese and crackers, fruit, juice cartons. Best meal ever. We thanked them profusely as they drove off. Then it got dark.
If you’ve never slept in a ghost town, I would urge you to continue this practice. It was pitch black darkness. We were sleeping in nothing but a sleeping bag liner (a sheet stitched together — sure this will be fine! I had thought in the store.) We could hear dogs or coyotes or god knows what it in brush off to the side of the store. Snakes? Scorpions? Ghosts? Eleanor? There was no sleep that night. I hated Kent. I really really really Hated it.
The morning came, the ex bailed (yes, this is the real reason she divorced me) and I continued on for Louisiana. That was pretty much my last encounter with Kent.
I was driving I-10 once with Mo and stopped to show her where the demons resided. To my surprise, the store was now just a skeleton. Anti-nuclear graffiti covered it (the apparent byproduct of a fight over whether to make the ghost town a dumping site. “No nuclear waste aqui!”
It had a creepy aura; like something built on an Indian burial ground. Bad juju, Mo said. We left. And that was pretty much my last encounter with Kent.
I was driving through West Texas yesterday. A lovely day, perfect weather. Until I cleared the Sierra Blanca hills. There in the distance was a wall of black. The wall got closer. I stopped in Van Horn for gas and the unfortunate double junior bacon cheeseburger (did i mention gas?) and continued. The black cloud came closer. I was driving into a bad horror movie.
Suddently, the skies opened up and I was in a flood zone. One of those rains so hard that you can’t see the road. I felt myself hydroplaning constantly as the rain accumulated on the interstate. Luckily, I was right next to an exit. I blindly pulled off the freeway, turned left to go under the bridge, and there it was:
This was weird. I drove over and parked under the awning protecting the long-since abandoned gas pumps to wait out the deluge. Same old abandoned building. Same graffiti. Same unease in the pit of my belly. I waited for the storm to subside.
And then a truck pulled up out of nowhere.
The guy came from a little dirt road paralleling the store. Huge black pickup. Trump bumper sticker on the back window. He parked a couple of feet away from me and stared. Just stared. Sunglasses in a sky of black. No expression. Just a blank store. Seconds went by. I froze. I was thinking this would be my demise. Killed, body dumped, nobody would be the wiser.
Then he took off. Floorboarded the truck, peeling out at 40 mph, vanishing into a wall of water down the access road. I took this as my cue to get back on the freeway, where if you’re killed at least you can call AAA to pick up the corpse. And that was that.
Was he even real? The whole Kent thing is a little spooky. Eleanor? Disneyland family? Nuclear dumping? Storm forcing me off the road and back to the store? Black pickup out of nowhere? Can you have a ghost town without ghosts? Mo was right. Bad juju indeed.
1. Never run across Texas in June.
2. Ignore Eleanor Roosevelt if she comes to you in a vision.
3. Steal children’s yogurt whenever possible.
And that was pretty much my last encounter with Kent …