By the time Michael and Rebecca passed the Colorado border into Kansas, Rebecca had sung the entirety of Pajama Game, No, No, Nanette, and Flower Drum Song, with Michael reluctantly singing along when Rebecca noted his lack of enthusiasm.
“At least Otis appreciates the entertainment,” Rebecca said after singing I Enjoy Being a Girl. Otis promptly thumped his tail on the backseat at the mention of his name.
“Just because I didn’t say bravo after each performance doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate it,” Michael said, “but I would like to listen to the radio for a bit, if you don’t mind. Even a prima donna must rest her voice once in a while.”
A small hmmph came from Rebecca, but she let Michael fiddle with the radio station until he found one with a suitable frequency, which was playing the Box Tops. “Now this is I can listen to,” he said, which elicited a smack on the arm from Rebecca. He put up his hands in feigned supplication. “I can only listen to show tunes so much before I lose my mind. Being crazy and crippled doesn’t sound like a good combination for a passenger, does it?”
Rebecca rolled her eyes. “Actually, I think an insane version of you would be a much better companion. At least crazy you would have better taste in music.”
Michael chuckled. “Nah, pretty sure I’d still hate musicals.”
Rebecca simply rolled her eyes and smiled.
They finally stopped for the night at a particularly drab motel, and Rebecca hoped the rooms aren’t nearly as greasy as the outside appears to be. The staff were pleasant enough, in brusque sort of way, and it was a miracle that the motel would even let Otis in—otherwise they would have kept on driving to find one which would allow pets (at Michael’s insistence), or else end up sleeping in the car, which was something Rebecca was not fond of doing. At least it was, to her estimation, only a couple of more days until they reached their destination.
“Could be worse,” Michael said. “At least it’s not haunted.”
The room itself isn’t as bad as Rebecca imagined, but it’s much too chintzy for her taste. Michael was too tired to care, and Otis was simply Otis. Rebecca, to her credit, soon didn’t even notice the drab wallpaper or stained curtains—she was much more interested in picking up where she left off with Michael, and he was more than happy to indulge. Rebecca caught a glimpse of the stars from the window and heard the soft hum of civilization outside before she smelled his skin and felt his warmth and saw nothing but stars while her lips were otherwise occupied.
The next morning Rebecca and Michael resumed their trip, only stopping a mile onwards to restock supplies—Rebecca initially wanted to have breakfast at the greasy spoon next door to the motel, but Michael declined, saying it wouldn’t be fair to Otis.
“I don’t know about you,” Michael said, “but I think it would be rude.”
Rebecca raised an eyebrow. “It would be rude to leave your dog in the car while we eat?”
Michael’s seriousness remained unchanged. “Yes.”
Rebecca simply nodded.
They continued on, pressing through what seemed a never ending flatness, only intermittently seeing signs for small, sleepy towns and old farmsteads dotting the landscape. The route they took rarely drove through cities, and even then it was hardly a spectacle. It was mostly freeway, with only the skyline to be seen—not much in the way of awesome sights.
While driving through Missouri, after having some respite in St. Louis, an idea popped into Rebecca’s head.
“Want to see an old friend?” she asked. “Well, two, I guess.”
Michael crooked his head. “You mean the Major?” He paused, and added with a smile, “Snoopy too?”
Rebecca smiled. “Yep. I have their addresses, so we can make a visit.”
“Do they know?” Michael asked, but was already sure of Rebecca’s answer.
Rebecca shook her head. “I’d rather it be a surprise.” She winked, and added, “Since we’re going up north, we’ll stop by Maggie’s place in Virginia—the Major, as you know her. Then we’ll swing up to New Jersey, say ‘hi’ to Snoopy, and all will be well.”
Michael raised his eyebrows. “Sounds like a plan to me.”
“Do you think we should’ve brought her a gift?” Rebecca wondered aloud as she and Michael approached Maggie Doyle’s house. “You know, as an apology for arriving announced?”
Michael shrugged. “Seems a bit late to do that now.”
They sat on the street opposite Maggie’s house, which still maintained its Norman Rockwell quality from when Rebecca last visited. It would of course be strange if Rebecca encountered anything but the sleepy sweetness she saw across the street, but Rebecca would not admit to worrying that she somehow went to the wrong address, or—even worse—Maggie had moved. She wouldn’t be able to tell as she had not received any news via letter (since any mail would be in Marblehead), and she never bothered to ask for a phone number. Swell.
“I will defer to your judgment on that, Mike.” As she climbed out of the car, she added, “Otis can come too. She won’t mind.”
She and Michael soon found themselves on Maggie’s doorstep, and Rebecca ringed the doorbell, hoping Maggie was home. She had half a mind to camp out until she spotted the woman in question, but fortunately the door was promptly opened by a familiar major.
Maggie gave Michael and Rebecca a scanning, quizzical look, and shook her head. “I suppose I should ask why you’re here, but that can wait. Come in.” She waved her hand for the pair to come in. She looked down, and smiled. “The cats won’t bite your furry friend.”
“Hi to you too, Maggie.”
Michael, Rebecca, and Maggie sat in the living room, overlooking the street into Walter Reed Hospital. True to Maggie’s word, although the cats were curious about Otis, they didn’t particularly care about him either. Maggie thoughtfully prepared a refreshment tray of various foodstuffs and coffee, which Rebecca and Michael gladly received.
Rebecca joked, “I hope you weren’t going on a date tonight—that would be twice now I’ve ruined one.”
Maggie chuckled. “No, this time you did not, thankfully. Richard is feeling under the weather, so we moved the date to next week. But, it appears I won’t be lacking company.”
Rebecca took a sip from her cup and smiled. “Sorry for coming by unexpectedly. I would have notified you, but...” she dragged off, shrugging her shoulders.
“Well it isn’t the first time you did it. I expect this will be a common occurrence.” Maggie took a bite out of a chocolate chip cookie and continued, “I suspect I’m not the only stop on your tour? Who else are you meeting?”
Michael chuckled. “Are we that obvious?” He glanced at Maggie, who now bore a curious raised eyebrow. “I guess we are. We’re just planning on seeing you and a pal of mine, and then back to Rebecca’s home. No idea what happens next though.” He shrugged, and looked at Rebecca. “It’s the truth.”
Rebecca scratched Otis’ head and added, “We’re just playing it by ear.” She smiled at Michael. “I’m probably going to enroll in medical school, and Michael…” She trailed off, not quite sure what to say. She and Michael did not really discuss what exactly would occur once they arrived in Marblehead, and would, as Rebecca said, ‘cross that bridge when we get there’. Only it was now clear that the bridge stood right at their feet, and they had no choice but to traverse it or stay exactly where they were. At least it was with Maggie, she thought, and not her parents. That would be a disaster.
“I’ll just stand around looking pretty,” Michael finished, causing Rebecca to blush. “Not too bad of a gig, I’d say.”
“I would think you’ve more than earned it,” replied Maggie. “I think it’s best if you two took it easy for a while—you don’t need to have everything figured out immediately.” She glanced at Rebecca, causing her to fidget. Maggie moved her eyes to the clock, and frowned.
“It seems we’ve lost track of time,” she said. “I would offer you a spot here, but I’m afraid I don’t have any room at my inn, so to speak.” She stopped, and made her way to the kitchen. Rebecca could hear her rummaging through her pantry, wondering what Maggie was concocting up for her Michael’s journey. Maggie came back with a tin in her hands, and placed it on the coffee table. “If I can’t have you stay, I at least ought to feed you.”
Michael grinned and poured his head into the tin. “Thanks for the food, Maj—I mean, Maggie.” He stuffed a cookie into his mouth and handed the tin to Rebecca. Rebecca covered the tin, and said, “Thanks Maggie. For everything.”
Maggie Doyle smiled.
The day after their meeting with Maggie, Rebecca and Michael continued their drive up through the Atlantic seaboard. They only had one stop left before arriving to Marblehead—Newark, New Jersey. Of course, this time they remembered to bring a gift for their unsuspecting host.
Michael was adding a last minute note in his card to Snoopy as he and Rebecca drove through the turnpike into Newark.
“Do you think this looks right to you?” Michael asked. He had finished writing in the card, and showed the result to Rebecca. It read:
Sorry I’ve been suck a dick, and I’m sorry I haven’t written to you.
That was certainly in character. It continued:
I really hope you won’t rip this up into pieces, because I put a whole lot of effort into finding it. I promise I won’t let you down again. Seriously, I’ll write you every day if it makes you happy.
I hope you like the candy bar.
Very laconic, but suited him, Rebecca thought. She handed it back to Michael. “I think it’s just fine. I’m more worried about your choice candy bar though.” She pointed to the hastily wrapped candy bar in Michael’s lap. “Are you sure that’s his favorite? This may be your only chance to get back into his good graces.”
Michael scoffed. “Uh, yeah. It’s only one of the things he ever talked about. Hershey is the way to this kid’s heart.” He shook the bar for good measure, smiling at Otis. Otis wagged his tail, and Michael patted him on the head.
After ringing the doorbell, Rebecca and Michael stood on Snoopy’s porch, waiting for Snoopy—or anyone—to open the door. Michael was busy smoothing his hair and clothes, and was making an effort to wear his prosthesis alone instead of his cane. Michael wobbled only slightly, and Rebecca gave him a smile.
“You’ll do fine, Mike,” she said, patting him on the shoulder.
Rebecca held Otis’ leash, and offered it to Michael. He took it, and scratched Otis’ ears. Suddenly, they heard footfalls heading toward the door, and soon Rebecca and Michael were face to face with Snoopy.
Snoopy gave Rebecca and Michael an ocular eye pat, and then did it again, as he was understandably nonplussed at their appearance. Once he understood what wax in front of him, his face changed into a bright smile. He grabbed Michael into his arms, holding him tightly.
“I can’t believe you’re here Meat!” he said, his hands on Michael’s shoulders. “I thought you hated me man.”
Michael shook his head. “Of course not! I was just a--”
“Just being an asshole? Yeah, I figured.” Snoopy smiled. “Hey, why don’t you two come in? We have some catching up to do.”
Michael paused before following. “I have something to give you, man.” He fumbled into his pockets, and took the card and candy bar, handing them to Snoopy. Snoopy opened up the card, and laughed.
“Apology accepted, Meat.”
"So where are we going now?" Michael asked, as he and Rebecca hit the road once more. It was only 50 miles until arriving Marblehead, and the evening was young as they ripped through the highway from New Jersey into Massachusetts.
Rebecca simply replied, "Home".