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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An Arkansas Hitchhiker

Rambling west on Highway 64 through the country of Arkansas, I picked him up. It had been awhile since I had trusted that subtle gleam of hospitality with the entire risky venture of picking up hitchikers. For one, it was his suit that won my four wheeled generosity into stopping. Second, it was the clear fact that he had just stepped out of a church across the road.

It was Friday and I was on my way to Searcy, Arkansas to visit some friends. I was getting over my cold, with my tornado survival luck in mind, and my sickly sojourn in Memphis behind me now. Earlier that day, I had constructed a rack in Forrest City and now I was free for the weekend, not to mention alive and well.

Learned scholars blared from my car speakers. As much as I find it hard to believe, I've gotten a little burned out on the radio or my CDs for long highway trips. I've discovered audio books straight from the library. And then, found to my excitement...entire lectures on history, philosophy, literature, and art...and people...ages and ages of all the great thoughts uttered by people. Some brainy intellectual with a speech impediment was lecturing very nerdily about Plato's Forms and Ideals. You know, the whole bit about all of us being stuck in a cave and we only seeing the shadows on the wall...that being the majority's view of reality. His voice was almost annoying at first. But then after a while it was as though this large insect was speaking through the car speakers, this large man-like insect in a tweed suit and gigantic glasses stuck in the dash of my car talking passionately about Plato.

The afternoon sunshine dazzled the miles and miles of fields that I whipped past. I immediately take to the wide, sprawling scenery once across the Mississippi. One can breathe almost deeper and see the horizon.

Up across the highway, I saw the hitchhiker. An old black man like a dandified scarecrow in the afternoon's golden light. Again, my eyes leapt to his suit. A burnt orange color. Those types of suits that elderly African-American men sport to church and revivals. He had this black derby hat pulled down snugly on his head. A gentleman I must say. And in an exclamation of excitement, I knew I had to pick up this gentleman. I pressed the brakes hard, and reversed in the middle of the highway, all the while managing to hush my CD player, not many people are interested in Plato. Besides now I had someone else to listen to. I rolled down the window and he asked me where I was headed. "Searcy", I said. There are times in my life, when I have this vague notion of the black wise man. You know the quintessential Morgan Freeman. That if I listened to what this repressed folk icon has to say than it will be a fountain of wisdom to follow...something like Plato but a bit more rustic and down to earth. There has been a time or two, I have been wrong with this notion.

He got in and immediately the aroma of whisky hit me. He was a drunk African-American gentlemen in a burnt orange suit.
"Where ya going?"I asked.
"I've never heard of it."
"Just drive...I'll show you where to go. It's not far."

I asked him where was he coming from. He said a funeral.
Not more than two minutes passed and he told me to turn left. And we were shimmying through this small town...McCrory...I think it was called. There was a cop car on the corner and my passenger began spilling out obsenities right and left. He was using every expletive imaginable. But it wasn't an angry bucket full of cuss words..it was a matter of fact ones. He just amiably said..."See that #&!!*$# cop there...that's a..." And he continued saying things that my mother would have kicked him out of the car for, if ever my mother picked up hitchhikers to begin with.
He was only informing me of the cop, educatingly. Like an encyclopedic tour guide giving me the tour of McCrory with the only words in the encyclopedia being 4 letter ones.

I changed the subject.
"This funeral? Who passed away?"
"Oh, this friend of mine."
"That's not good. How'd he die?"
"He took his own life."
"Oh,no! That's sad. I'm so sorry."
The man didn't seem to be that bothered. Only drunk and more into cussing policemen.
"Why do you think he committed suicide?"
At this point we were passing a large old bank in the small downtown section of McCrory. He pointed.
"Because he owed all this damn money to that #$%!*& bank..and another %$%$#% bank across town." He pulled a funeral program out of his pocket. It was a picture of a white man about 40. He had a family. Then it had a text of some sort of eulogy inside. I caught a glimpse of the eulogy. The man liked fishing and storytelling. He had a goatee and he was a little heavy-set. Poor man. Hard to envision such a tragedy on such a glorious afternoon.

Then I turned a right out of the much-cursed about town of McCrory and was in mere seconds in Patterson. Population from the sign said about 400.
My passenger started talking about this woman up the road that works at a grocery store and how he was either going to have sex with her or had had sex with her. Probably both. I couldn't really tell. He wasn't exactly clear. The only clarity was his very explicit way of talking about sex with this woman who was apparently married. I tried changing the subject again.
"You married?" I asked.
"Naw!" he cackled.
And before anymore education into the lifestyles of the people of Patterson or McCrory could passed on to me, he said that this was where I could drop him off. He got out and then stooping back in through the window asked if I would buy him a soda. I had a can of Dr. Pepper in my trunk. I stopped the car in the middle of the main highway in Patterson, AR and popped the trunk. Got out and handed him a Dr. Pepper. As I got back in the car, he smiled at me and said, "God bless you."

I drove off waving and turning Plato back on. We're all people in a cave...people in a cave watching that light from the outside making shadow puppets on the wall.


Blogger ПАПА said...

As I know you have completely figured out..it takes all kinds to make this world go around and we are each one of them.

10:15 AM  

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