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Sleep, when he tried it, refused to come. There were too many unanswered
questions rocketing around in his brain. Well, he had to find a road,
sooner or later, so it might as well be now. Perhaps the more distance
he put between himself and the wreck, the better it would be for him. He
took a final drink of water from the creek and stood up, his sore,
battered muscles protesting violently. Then he began to stumble through
the adumbral forests to find a road.
It was getting light when he found the highway. It was small and narrow,
bedded with pebbly asphalt with a faded white line down the middle that
told him it was not a first class road. It stretched ahead of him,
dwindling among the thick hemlock forests and dwarfed by the steep,
wooded hills. He grinned, wondering vaguely which direction he should
travel to get to Everett. Finally he pulled a quarter from his pocket
and flipped it into the air. He caught it deftly. Heads, I go to the
right; tails, I go to the left. Heads won and he started off toward the
right, the stiffness and the weariness dragging at him like a weight
tied to his legs.
While he walked he studied the pictures in his wallet, noting happily
that it also contained twenty dollars in bills. That was comforting.
In the daylight, the picture of Beth that had looked pretty in the flame
of the lighter, became beautiful. Although it was a black and white
photo, Nick decided that her hair was brown. It swept about a soft,
heart shaped face like a cloud. The image was smiling at him and he felt
that if she was not his wife, he hoped that she was his girl.
It was late in the morning when he found the service station. It was a
small, lonely, isolated place that sported two pumps and cramped looking
lube rack. Through the open door of the washroom, Nick could see the
shoes and coverall legs of the attendant as they stuck out from under a
Ford. Nick found a dime in his pocket and treated himself to a cold
drink, while he tried to figure out where he was.
Across the highway a marker told him that he was on Route 87. He pulled
a Pennsylvania map - not entirely sure he was in Pennsylvania - from the
rack inside the door and, unfolding it, found Everett. The route 87 ran
through the town, but it was difficult to puzzle out whether he was
north or south of the place. He refolded the map and stuffed it into his
pocket for further reference, and glanced around. On the far side of the
office was a door marked "MEN", that was just what he wanted. His
clothes, his hair and his face needed a few emergency repairs before he
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