We match the address in our hand to the one posted on the brick pillars before us. The pillars are met by neat, green hedges. The gate is already open. Meandering up the driveway we survey it all, gulping in the freshness of the air, registering the sound of babbling water and singing birds. We gape at the acres of lawn, at the criss-cross patterns from the mower that line the knolls.
We pull up to the mansion, the palace built of bricks. We giggle and guffaw, eyes wide, like children encountering Candyland. Like Richie Rich. Like that movie Blank Check. All of these metaphors we use to try to express the whole scene. The ‘L’ on the front drive exudes greatness.
“Like Gatsby,” someone adds another metaphor as we stare and awe.
“Talk about new money,” I exclaim, and this realization makes me laugh.
In Fitzgerald’s time, the term ‘new money’ would have been used as an insult, wielded by someone who was born into money; someone who’s smooth hands had never been sullied by toil.
I imagine a young man with an Indiana drawl, a farmer’s son, behind the wheel of a semi; stopping at truck stops much like the ones we stay at; waiting for the voice over the intercom to announce his turn for a shower; buying coffee from a convenience store. I imagine him tinkering in his garage, combining oils, analyzing viscosity with homespun methods, hitting the road, testing his concoctions, sealing small accounts with a smile and shaking hands with truck stop clerks. Could he ever have imagined the life he was carving?
Well done, Mr. Lucas I say to myself. Well done. Then a sun-tanned woman with smiling eyes emerges from the house and says, “Well y’all coming in or what?” and we follow her inside.
When we leave a day and a half later, having soaked in as much of the estate as our bones could handle, we return to our shoebox-sized trailer to resume our journey. The forecast warns of a storm approaching. We smile, buckle down, and drive headlong into it.