I sat and listened to tales of angels and helpers, natural pathways to enlightenment, and Esoteric Christian and Para-Masonic teachings. I couldn’t help thinking that people drag their spiritual belongings with them no matter where they go. I didn’t exclude myself from that either.

The night ended late (I have no idea what time) with the group—Jerry, Philomena, Charlene, Betty, Mutt and Jeff, Marlboro, and Lord Loam—piling into the vehicles and heading down the dirt road, their bobbing headlights exposing the eyes of coyotes and rabbits, leaving Gizmo and I to watch the dark sky blanketed by stars in the moonless night.

Bright and early the next morning—it couldn’t have been more than a few hours after the group left—an old Chevy pickup truck came bouncing up the road. I had just gotten up and dressed and was pulling on my boots when Charlene climbed out of the truck and onto the porch. She poked her head in the door.

“Good morning,” she said cheerfully. “Glad you’re up. I was hoping you had time for breakfast. There’s a café down the road a ways. How ’bout some coffee before you head out?”
“That’s about the best offer I’ve had in a long time,” I answered. “But I might have to take a raincheck. I’m a bit worried about Gizmo. I’m hoping I can find a little feed for him up the trail.”

“No problem. I brought a bale of grass hay along. That should keep him occupied while we go have breakfast.”

“Well, if you put it that way … I reckon I can’t deny him a good meal then, can I?” I smiled.

I finished pulling on my boots and got up to help her with the hay. I knew that Gizmo wouldn’t be able to carry any of it later, so I threw the whole bale into the corral, where he began tearing it apart, grabbing at the leafiest pieces.

We climbed into the cab of the pickup, and before we pulled away she looked at me and smiled. “You don’t even know my name, do you?” she asked in a mocking accusation.

I blushed.

“It’s Karen,” she said and held out her hand.

I took it and answered, “And I’m John. Nice to meet you.”

“I know,” she replied.