comments_readers: If you haven't done so already, you need to read the previous two volumes (Halona 1-3, and Halona 4-6) first or this one might not make much sense.
We were about 20 miles out of Billings. The traffic seemed heavier than I expected, at least westbound like I was going, and especially considering the time of day. You don't expect to see a lot of cars out on the open freeway away from any cities in Montana when it's 11:30 on a weekday. The traffic wasn't heavy at all going the other direction, which made it seem odder still. Must be some big doin's goin' on out west in Bozeman, I figured.
I figured wrong. Right before I got to the blue sign that said "Rest Area - 2 miles", cars were starting to be lined up on the shoulder, and most of the heavy traffic I had been seeing was pulling up and adding to the line.
I cruised on by. When the entrance to the Rest Area came into view there were red and blue flashing lights—it was the State Patrol, and they were blocking off the entrance. One patrol car was parked sideway across the ramp, and another was inside the Rest Area. A big crowd was gathered around the two patrolmen who had gotten out of their car inside, and outside a couple of patrolmen were working their way down the row of cars parked on the shoulder; people were getting out and milling around to talk to them. Not a safe situation out on a freeway with the highest speed limit in the nation!
Well, this certainly put a crimp in the plans! I pulled onto the shoulder just after the exit ramp, shut the rig down and started walking back to find out what was going on. I can't say in hindsight that I should have done anything differently—it was absolutely the logical, natural thing to do. However, it did cause the metaphorical shit to hit the metaphorical fan.
I saw some movement over in the rest area, and as I turned to look, the crowd of people gathered around the two State Troopers was evaporating and reassembling into a mob headed my way. A deep ditch prevented them from getting up onto the highway shoulder where I was walking, so they ended up standing there yelling and waving their hands. As I moved back toward the ramp, so did they, and of course that meant my protective moat would be gone if I kept going the way I was heading. In fact, some of the creative ones had already figured things out and were running back toward the ramp so they could come around.
Shit! It's nice to be popular and all, but I gotta tell ya, when you have a bazillion unruly people acting like they want you, it kind of makes a guy shy. I turned and ran back to the rig.
"What are you gonna do?" Halona said as I came on board.
"I have no idea, Halona. This is some scary shit."
"They don't want to hurt you, you know. They're just looking for you to help them."
"Yeah, I know, but out here on the Interstate seems like a bad place for people to be milling around. Somebody's gonna get hit or something. I guess this rest area thing wasn't such a good idea."
There was a knock on the door. I looked out and saw it was one of the State Troopers. I opened it and said, "Hi, sorry, I guess I made a mess."
He said, "Oh!" and turned away to face the brush alongside the road.
"It's the glow," Halona said. "Nobody can stand to look at you."
She was right, even she was keeping her eyes averted while we were talking. I said, "Would you talk to him? Maybe your glow isn't so bright."
She hopped down the stairs, and I saw her having a face-to-face with him. I just retreated into the living room of the rig to wait.
What a gem! What could this little teenage girl not do? I don't know what she told the trooper, but the upshot was we would move the whole shebang to the city park in the next town so they could clear this dangerous situation off the freeway. Little burg called Columbus.
This story is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events or locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
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Changes last made on: Thursday, May 26, 2011