“I don’t recall the first ride I got that day I ran out of gas. I have no recall. I do remember the ride back to the Rover! Someone could have gotten killed!”
– Michael Bradshine.
Michael walked up the ramp to the gas station, Where he hoped someone would have a gas cantainer he could use.
He noticed a dusty, 1973 Chrysler Town and Country stationwagon with Alabama tags, parked in the front of the station, a duffel bag in the back and, judging from the quick-release antenna flagging the passenger window, a CB radio mounted inside.
Another, shorter antenna, suggested another two-way radio.
Passing by and looking inside the front window confirmed a Motorola. contractors?
Upon entering, he notices three men standing awkwardly to the front, near the door and finds himself greeted by an eager Station attendant.
Attendant: Hello there! what can I do for you? ( cuts eyes at three men slowly drinking sodas and appearing to be looking out the picture frame window.)
Michael: Wail, ah rayn outta ga-us down th’ road.!
Michael paused and looked at the men.
Assessment: three unshaven men wearing jeans, cowboy belts with buckle, cowboy boots and southwestern short sleeve shirts. Cowboys don’t wear short sleeve shirts, So these are travelers.
The One standing askance to the right, nearest the door, Is wearing a faded Army Field Jacket, Bearing an Army Engineer patch on the upper left sleeve. Hmmm! Does not seem the Engineer type. Why does he look disapproving? And of what?
A peace sign necklace around his neck, contrasted a Missing right finger to the first knuckle; the trigger finger?
His left hand displayed a ring with this insignia:
That explained the duffle bag in the car outside, He is a hitchhiker. Not just any hitch hiker; this was, perhaps, a homeless vet Who had run into some misfortune?
Michael: Không phài lá, nó? ( nice day, ain’t it?)
No one answers. Michael notices, however ,the Back of the Vet’s neck turns red.
Interesting! he understood Vietnamese, but does not want to respond.
Judging from the appearance, Michael correctly pegged him as a Vietnam Veteran-One that probably had, maybe, already suffered so much maltreatment from American War protesters, He did not want his two hosts to know he had been to ‘Nam. He needed the ride.
But the ring….where did Michael see that insignia before?
Michael figured he would offer the Vet a ride if he was going that way.
” Nice day ain’t it? wheecha way you fellers hedded?” Michael drawled in his best Alabama accent.
The faces of the three men lightened up and Michael noticed the Vet also lightened up.
Driver: We’re hedded ta Sacreemenno, Me an’ muh bruthuh heah ( brother nods and smiles agreeably. Michael looks at the Vet.)
Michael: Ahm hedded baaeek ta kintuckee muhseyuf!
Vet: you from kantuckeh? (offers hand shake.)
Michael listens intently to this accent. Unmistakably a North Alabama accent.
Michael: Naw! Ahm from Sayund Heel, Nohth Aluhbama!
Vet: Ahm from Huntsfull! Ahm shor you know whur thet is!
Driver finishing his drink: Wayell, we bettuh git goin’!, gottuh lawng ride ahayed! Taykin the bayk road heah..gonna put us behind but we gonna visit sum freeuns!
Nice tawkin weeya!.”
Well, there goes that chance of catching a ride back to the Rover! they are turning here and going north west.
Michael: Yeah! You fellers tak keer!”
The three men leave and the vet hesitates at the door, looks at Michael and drums his fingers rapidly on the doorway and eyes Michael to see if he understood.
Michael does not respond.
It comes back to him: The ring’s insignia is a Masonic emblem. At least twice-somewhere- he had seen it.
Dang! This vet knows the code developed by certain P.O.W.s in VietNam. ! He just tapped ” be careful! Crazy people out here.”
The station attendant looked relieved.
Attendant: whew! I was getting a little nervous! Those guys might have had guns.
Michael smiled. The vet was…or still is a Military intelligence officer. Judging from his lean, well toned body, he did not need a gun. The missing trigger finger was interesting.Was the vet a captured Sniper?
Viet Cong just killed snipers and were done with It …death by slow torture; it was a vendetta-a mutual vendetta!
Where had this Alabama Veteran been?
There is not power in just a ring; but there is power in a ring on the right left hand!
Michael: yeeeup! Good thang they didn’t! Ahm hopin’ you have a ga-us can, ‘coz I sho don’t!
Attendant: got one without a cap. Two and a half gallon can. it’s the best I can do, just bring it back when you return to fill up.
Michael walks back down to the road. Stops, looks both ways. Nothing as far as the eye can see.
Well if there is nothing either way, where did this corvette suddenly come from that is screeching to a stop?
Michael gets in and barely says, ” thanks for stopping.” Before the Driver takes off accelerating to a fast, unnecessary speed.
Michael looked around quickly.
Assessment: 1968 corvette, Barbarella, 400 horsepower, 427 cu.inch engine, 3 2bbl Holley carburaters. Usually owned by young men too inept to handle this jet rocket and thus they usually lost it- and their licence. Also owned by professional men, usually middle aged Doctors, who used it to find blonde women.
The stereotype of ” Blonde” found nourishment from this, with no mention that blonde women are still the most preferred on the white slave market.
Hi sweetie! Want a ride?
Stopping to give a ride to a stranger is not in character with Corvette owners; heck not even family members are allowed in these surrogate mistresses!
Did some Good Doctor die under mysterious conditions? Look no further than who inherited the Barbarella for the culprit.
Michael also sized up the Driver, who appeared to be in his mid-thirties, about 5’9″, weighing about 145 lbs, his clay brown hair was shoulder lenth, giving him a mod look, but was obviously a wig.
He was fashionably dressed, wearing Levi jeans, a Navy blue neck bandana,with a flowery sickle cells design-made popular by Hippies,– was neatly tucked to the right side and pulled up high, obviously to hide something: a scar?
Michael looked at the driver’s shoes. Addida’s Rom leather sneakers, something a professional could wear, but professional men would not wear these because of the noticeable Scuff marks, on them.The heels were worn down evenly as was the soles- he was flat-footed and this guy wore about a size11 shoe, where an 8 and 1/2 or 9 would be more proportionate ..Was he a Doctor? Lawyer?
Michael had a simple test:
” what have you got under the hood here? ” he asked, feigning real interest.
Driver: (snorts a laugh) You like fast cars?
Ok! He is not a Professional person, or one familiar with the Barbarella. No one calls it a car. The owners always say,” my Corvette! ” So where did he get this ‘ fast car’?
Driver: relax! That seat lets down, if you just want to rest; Care to smoke a joint?
Michael: No thanks.
Driver: how about STP? You do STP?
Michael: I don’t smoke weed, I don’t do drugs, I’ m not queer, and if that is a problem, I’ll be getting out right here.
Assessment: Driver was not seen down the road in any direction, then appears suddenly and screeches to a stop. Obviously preplanned picking up a rider…..me?
Driver: No Problem, Michael! ( steps heavily on the gas.)
Assessment: driver races off before my door is shut, wants me in a prone position,wants me hallucinating on a narcotic, races unnecessarily, does not want me to jump out. Will soon reach for some hidden object to strike with.
Now this: calls me by name. I have not told him my name.
Driver: I not only know your name, Michael, I know you are headed to the Swartzenwald in West Germany, Not far from Oberammagau.
Been there lots of times.
Looks at Michael to see response then sniffs.
(hmmm! No smell of fear yet; what is going to scare this earthling?”)
Driver: Michael, do you know what highway this is?
Driver snorting: Don’t you read the papers?
Assessment: Hitchikers found dead, mutilated , body parts missing, no suspects.
Michael: I don’t get much time to read the newspapers.
Driver: you don’t know where you are Michael? ( sniffs- no fear yet)
Michael turns his head to the driver to confront him.
In spite of what the driver hoped was a shock tactic, Michael remained calm and forceful.
” Something I should know?”
Driver: yes, this!
( opens his right epicanthic eyelid and rolls his eye around his face nearly to his ear, meeting Michael eye to eye, pari pasu.)
Driver: I am psychic, Michael.I know quite a bit about you! Let’s just say you are on the wrong road today.
Michael unflinching: Let’s just say, if you were that psychic, you would not have picked me up.( smiles )
Next: “This does not end here! Michael!”