Published in the Piker Press
I popped out my thumb and was hoping for a quick lift. Those down-and-outers were lurking about all day yesterday and through the night too. I just don’t have the strength to listen anymore- too tiring. And it’s demoralizing. I have places to go and my time around here’s become droll.
A real yawner.
The morning traffic’s noisy and harried like usual at this hour, what with folks off to their tight-noose jobs and the weather finally tepid. And off to the malls too and other destinations I suppose. So be it. I’ve no ill will. Let people live as they live, right? I’m no longer impatient about them not responding in kind.
Abstention from interference.
Yesterday I buried the little money I have with my books and sentimentals, nothing of any value to anyone but me. I’ll return and dig them up on my way out there I suppose. Or after I transition to the great beyond.
Whichever comes first.
The knapsack’s light which means easy tripping, but my thumb attracts nothing. Those down-and-outers hold signs listing their burdens and suffering, often sitting on their rumps for hours. Not my style. I don’t care if I get picked up. Or when. I’ll pose here a while, for my own entertainment.
Hey, if I didn’t laugh at myself who would?
A Toyota pulls up. No, a Prius. Didn’t Toyota get fatally maimed awhile back with some design flaw? Apparently not. This car looks new.
The man behind the wheel strained his neck out the passenger side window. “Hurry up son if you want to get going,” I jumped in front, threw my sack in the back and said “thank you”. It felt good to sit on the cushiony seat and the aesthetics of the vehicle were pleasant enough. And this guy came off as nice enough. Not like a week or so ago when that drunken, redneck, looking-for-trouble kid picked me up.
“Where to?” He looked me up and down. We set out on the interstate due west.
“As far as you’re going. Where are you going?”
“Fairview. To work.”
“Oh, that’s good then.” I showed him my smile.
“Well where you going?”
“To Fairview then.”
He changed over into the fast lane, gunning the little econo-model. These are the cars people buy and think they’re saving the world, right? Well I won’t bring that up. He started wringing his free hand- was he grasping for something to say? I admit I’m used to it. And can’t say I’m not glad. But I don’t find a need to engage much, silence is fine. The man started fooling with the radio, his cell phone wiring coming out of his head, his papers and Burger King refuse littered the back seat. Busy. Funny, I almost remember that. I leaned my head on the headrest and took in the passing panorama. I’ll miss this place, it’s prettier than most.
“You work around here? Have family here?”
“Well, I have some around here. I work when I need to. I’m just visiting.”
“Well then how do you make do? I mean, what do you do for money?”
I paused for the right words. “I don’t need much. I make do without money. It’s the kindness of people like you who are generous enough to give a lift and some company,” and other niceties thrown in.
“So what are your plans then? In Fairview?”
“I don’t have any plans. I’ll know when I get there.”
Confounding people is something I’m used to. It doesn’t give me much pause or concern. I confound me too! I’ll use my time in Fairview to find a shower, a couple of hours work and perhaps a friendly meal with another roamer (when will they learn not to carry their money with them?) That’ll suit fine. I’ve further to go see and need to hightail it back to the desert, stat. Things have gotten too green here. When my thumb’s out again, I’ll hopefully get a bored and overworked trucker looking for a little excitement (and this time not asking for more), who’s going for the long haul. It’ll give my itchy feet a rest from this endless itching!
Things were easier back when I was a rubber tramp. But keeping up with the old beater was impractical. Going overland is less of a hassle. Besides, cars cost money. I sure the hell ain’t gonna stay in one place in one job just to keep one running!”
I’d rather not put socks on.
We crossed through the gap and headed down the mountain to Fairview, exit for the center ahead. “Where do you want to get off?” he asked.
“Wherever you’re going.”
I looked at him and could see he had enough. “You can drop me off right at the exit, at the market, wherever you want.”
This satisfied him. He was ready to be done with me. He pulled over at the end of the ramp. “Here?”
“Wait a minute son,” he held out a tenner.
“No need. Thanks for the ride.”
I crossed the road and headed into the market. I asked for and was pointed to the restroom. I sponge washed myself, took off my bandana, ran water through and combed my hair. I changed my pants and went out to a booth. I dropped my knapsack on the bench, pulled out a book and opened the zippers to reorganize my gear. The waitress came over with her pad and pencil. “Can I have a minute? I’m still trying to get myself together.” She smiled—an affective one too— with a curious and warm eye contact. I looked up to a man coming my way, the guy from the Prius, who now looked askew and beaten-down. He cautiously sat down at my table.
The waitress came back with two ice waters. I slurped some down and the guy ordered two coffees.
“Coffee’s okay with you?”