I was running a little late down the long stretch of cracked asphalt in the tule's. "Not much out here except a few black and whites grazing next to the barbed wire fence," I thought. "There's a shortcut coming up on the right...I never took it, but I think I know where it will dump me out - only a few short of my dates house." Streaking along towards the turn in my primered 33', I noticed a buzzard perched on one of the old gray, splintered fence posts. His glare somewhat unnerving as I flashed by. Feathers ruffled to life in the jitter of my rear view mirror, as the wind from my ride hit him. I chuckled to myself, "I don't like those nasty birds anyway." I tapped the brake pedal to wink my teardrop blue dots at him, and smiled once more. Yeah...I was feeling pretty cool!
As I approached the turn I stabbed the brake pedal to slow and easing it into a lower gear I tightened my grip on the banjo wheel and made a hard right up the dark, unfamiliar road. As I pushed on the accelerator the 97s popped and spit up through their naked openings, though as to say, "Not this road." I pushed harder to clear their throats and the rear tires let out a chirp as the flat black chopped coupe lunged forward. Up through second and third as the speedo nervously twitched and the fresh air blew through the open windows. This was a good choice I thought.
As I headed down the strip of weather beaten asphalt, I noticed it was covered with Sycamore's and Willow's that seemed crouched overhead along with some phone-lines pulsating and keeping pace next to me. I spotted peeking though the trees not a half moon, not a fingernail moon, but a full moon with a wafer of clouds skimming over top.
As the miles ticked off, the wind blew harder and became bitter cold, the shadows grew longer onto the occasionally potholed roadway. Time seemed to slow to a crawl, the resonating sound of the engine became hypnotic as the sky darkened to a deep black. My mind wandered to what might come later, maybe a race, but, first things first, I need to get there.
The thought of picking up my date late, was pierced by the beam of my headlights reflecting off a hitchhiker ahead. Strange, someone would be out here on this Godforsaken road. I guess I'll stop, give the poor guy a lift. I eased on the brake pedal and started to slow, edging toward the right sloping dirt shoulder. My ride rumbled to a stop, at the narrowest point in the road next to him. Leaning over, I yelled out the passenger window, "Need a lift into town?" He stood in the ground fog, shivering. Not a word came out, but he raised his head with a nod as to say, "Sure." I unlocked the door with a click and he eased his way in, first with a dark red stained leather glove holding a small dirt covered shovel, then his rather thin torso. I slid the gearshift into first and cracked open the throttle and sidestepped the clutch. The right rear tire complained and threw dirt skyward...we were on our way.
I asked again, "Going into town?" "Why yes," said the hitchhiker, with a crackly voice. "Good," I replied. "Well, then," he said, "I have one word for you, drive like the wind."
I caught my breath at the sound of his voice and my foot pushed harder to give my coupe more lead. It's low slung pointed grill split the air with ease. The wire wheels dug in and pushed me ahead with the spooky stranger. I asked, Why were you out here?" He gave me no answer, just a raspy cough rattling up through his lungs.
The hitchhiker was clad in a hooded barn coat, covering an ancient pair of overalls, out at one knee and a blue work shirt from which the collar was stained with sweat and dirt. The brightness of the night showed me these perils as clearly as by day, which was, perhaps, more alarming. It showed me, too, the face of the stranger. His cheeks were growing tight as the wrinkles etched deeper by the mile as he glared wildly through the quivering windshield. I could not see the color of his eyes, they seemed as black as coal, hollow and cold as steel. I asked if he had the time. He whispered, "You ask about the time...time is short son."My forehead began beading with perspiration and I could feel the wetness rolling down my back against the naugahyde tuck n' roll.
"You feel a little sick?" asked the stranger wetting his lips with his tongue. I began to hope for the best, fear for the worse. I could be gone with a capital DEAD. As more miles ticked off, he seemed to become struck stupid, all he could do was keep his eyes on the road occasionally whispering to himself. My life was flashing before me and wondering how to get out of this situation.
Then, staring straight ahead, I rounded a corner and saw the faint orange glow the the towns lights through the coupes wiper-less windshield, I thought, do I look over at him? With my head fixated hoping he wouldn't notice, my eyes gave a quick look, not once, but three times...he was gone, just a crumpled piece of paper remained in his place. I took my foot off the gas, the flathead popped once or twice and creped slowly to a stop in the center of the road. I reached over, pealed open the wadded paper and read. "Happy Halloween'en, friend, thanks for the lift!"
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