Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Hitchhiker

           The clouds began to brake, slowly drifting apart like algae on a pond.  The broken edges glowed pale blue, back lit by a full but hidden moon.  Their heaviness produced a misting rain, which at times became intermittently heavy, washing the dirt and grime from the quiet stretch of highway.  State highway 15 is a narrow two-lane bypass between Ellingsburg and Camronton.  The road twists up and over a hilly, mountainous terrain of deep forest.  Tall ponderosas and great wild oaks stand as giant sentries in the dark and rain.  A military style gunny sack rests next to a small silhouette seated by the highway.     

            The figure sits wrapped in a thin parka, hugging its knees with its chin sunk deep into its chest.  The mist collects and beads down the yellow plastic parka, like condensation off a Coke bottle.  Hours pass and the clouds shift and move over the lone figure.  The rain continues to fall but the loner is motionless.  Rain water collects in shallow streams along roadway snaking past the loner’s size eight boots pressed firmly in the mud.  The clouds brake momentarily, exposing a brilliant white moon.  The figure lifts its face to the pale light.  A pre-teen boy’s swollen and teary eyes reflect the painful night sky. 
           The wind shifts and the watchful moon is gone again.  A rumbling rises from down the hill, a low rumbling that rolls like thunder up the mountain pass.  The Boy’s small frame stands up.  He turns to face the darkness down the road.  He recognizes the rumble as the throaty growl of a diesel engine.  He can see, in the night, the faint glow a headlights some distance away.  The gaze of the yellow lights casts golden highlights on the trees below.  The boy gathers his bag and extends his arm and thumb toward the road.  He edges himself onto the blacktop highway as the lights of a tractor trailer come around the bend several hundred yards down the road.  The boy is determined to not let the only sign of life, on this ghostly night, pass him by. 

            The rig growls as the air brakes snort and hiss.  The tires slowly claw their way onto the rough shoulder of the narrow highway.  The rig stops a few feet short of the boy, who stands unflinching to the beast before him.  His arm and thumb still extended.  His head still lowered, cowled beneath the yellow plastic parka.  The drizzling rain streaks softly through the bright beams emitted from the trucks headlamps. 

            “You jus’ gonna stand there in the cold an’ wet? Or you gonna get in cab?”  A voice came from the truck.  The boy still stood.

            “You wanna ride, donch’a? I ain’t got all night.” The voice calls out again from the darkness behind the light.  The boy steps slowly to the passenger side of the rig.  The door opens and the dome light inside the cab reveals a large man on the opposite side of the cab.  The sleeves of his denim shirt were rolled to his elbows exposing a tattoo of a Valkyrie on the battle fields of Valhalla.  The man’s long stringy hair was tied back beneath a bandanna depicting the American flag.  His intensely dark eyes rested like black pearls in white oyster meat and his long black beard bounced as he spoke.    

            “You sure picked a helluva night to travel son. Whatcha doin’ out in these woods all by yer lonesome anyhow?”

            The boy tosses the duffel on the floor board and climbs into the rig.  The bench seat was covered in a colorful wool blanket. The boy props his muddy boots on his green canvas bag and folds his hands between his knees. 

            “Where ya headin' son?” The man’s voice was gritty and rough, echoing in the night like a John Deere rolling down a gravel country mile.  “You don’t speak much do ya, son? You gotta name, boy?”  The boy doesn’t speak. 

            “How ‘bout I just call you ‘Little Bear’? Huh? You like that, Little Bear?” The man reaches over and slides the hood back off the boy’s head.  “Why don’t ya let me get a look atcha?” The man rested his arm across the seat back and stroked the boy’s hair.  The boy doesn’t move.

            “Hell, son, there’s bird shit on this rig older ‘an you, but that’s alright, you are a good lookin’ boy.  I bet you from Camronton.  Ain’t nothin’ in Camronton but whores and junkies. How ‘bout we find out which one are you?” The man removes a small towel from his lap, exposing his genitals.  The boy doesn’t look.

            The man stops stroking the boy’s hair and reaches behind the seat.  He produces a silver Magnum revolver and presses it to the boy’s head. 

            “Perhaps you didn’t hear me proper.  Now, you get o’er here and give this hog a tug before I cover this highway with yer brains.”  The man’s roared loudly. The boy slid slowly toward the man.

            “That’s a good boy, Little Bear, come to papa.”  The man relaxed his arm again across the seat back.  The revolver loosely grasped, pointing toward the passenger door.  The boy was closed enough to the man to smell his pungent odor.  He turned toward the man and watched him take in a deep breath,  lean his head back, and close his eyes. 

            The boy carefully reaches unnoticed to his size eight boots.  Still watching the man, he came up quickly, shoving a twelve inch buck knife through the soft meat under the man’s jaw.  The boy came with such force the tip of the wide blade pushed through the top of the man’s skull from the inside.  The man’s eyes pop open and the gun fires, blowing out the passenger side widow.  The man’s screams drown in a muffled, wet gargle. His black pearl eyes roll in their saltwater beds, unaware of what has happened.  The boy watches and smiles, as the man’s body convulses.  The boy pulls the knife from the man’s face and plunges it hard into his chest, slicing his heart in two.  Blood pours from under the man’s chin and mouth.  The boy reaches over and opens the driver side door.  He pushes the man’s heavy body onto the wet roadway.  The body hits with a thud, still twitching.  The black eyes seem to look upward to the boy.

            The boy looks down to the man’s body as the blood pools around it in the rain, “My name is Azrael. I’ve been waiting for you,” the boy says, “and you have been judged.”  

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