By Jessica Sumner
It was dark, and very misty, and it was very late at night. Late that dark and misty night…yep, cliché, terrible. You can’t leave out the mist, though, because it’s all the mist’s fault
that anything happened really. It was late when she was driving her husband to work at the local Wal-Mart (that sound very hick-like…maybe it kind of is). He worked nights, so it made
sense that it was night. When she turned left at the fogged green blur of the arrow she made her way to the on ramp. It was a sharp curve and she liked to stay in gear and stay at the
same speed and navigate it as best as she could in the car she had. She did this every night. Her husband probably wouldn’t like knowing she was doing this that night with all the
fog. He probably wouldn’t like knowing a lot of what happened that night.
She had briefly met a young man earlier that month and seen him a few times with her friends, so as she
turned the sharp corner as sharply as she could make it and glimpsed backwards at the young man standing on the on ramp with a thumb out she really thought it was him. In her review mirror, as
she saw his gesticulation of “aw, come on!” she felt fairly certain it was him. The young man who opened the car door was a bit older, and quite a bit dirtier. Young, still, but that
didn’t stop her brain from screaming What have I done?
“Thank you so much!” he said to her jubilantly.
“I’m only going to the other side of town, I hope that helps you,” That sounds good, and it’s
true. I can’t really say ‘I thought you were someone else, please leave’ so now what? “I’m pretty sure there’s a law about being stopped on on-ramps, so...” she said, pleased with how calm
“You would not believe how many people don’t stop. I’ve been out there for three hours!” the young
man told her. She was listening with part of her mind. The other part screamed, What have I done? And with a baby in the car! Oh please let this be something out of the
movies with good hitchers that are charismatic and have great stories to…did he just say something to me, oh yes.
“Three hours,” she huffed, “and you’d think it would be better right in front of a Wal-Mart!”
“I know, right?” he passionately agreed. The passion made her a little scared. Think about
something else, it’s only ten minutes! “Where you heading?” she asked. Cliché, yes, but that was the clichéd dialog when the hitching character was quirky and adventuresome.
“Oh, that’s pretty far,” she endured too much silence after that, “Where did you start from?”
She was quiet for a little while longer. It sucks being a girl. Why do I have to be the
afraid one? I wish I could just go hitching to Seattle, or better yet… Touchy destinations flooded her mind. It was time to talk again. She wondered how old he was. She
did not ask this.
“So did your last ride poop out on you?” Poop? Where did that come from? That sounded
“Something like that.”
More silence, the word “poop” resonated in the air. Or at least to the driver, it did.
They drove for more minutes in silence. Does it always take this long to get home? Oh please
don’t let anything happen. Aw hell, I don’t even know how fast I’m going! Freaking speedometer thingy, what did my husband say I needed for the car in order to fix that? I’m totally
endangering myself, aren’t I? Oh, he would be so pissed if I told him about this that’s going on right here, right now. It’s been a while since anyone has said anything. Remember the old
movies where the friendly trucker in his too tight white tee shirt, jean, and a “trucker’s” hat on picks up a man with fray edged clothing. He wears a blazer, perhaps. With one of those
old 20s hats that are really cool. What are they called? Oh yeah, pageboy. What was I, oh yeah, what do they talk about?
“How was the weather up in Seattle?” she asked.
“Can’t complain,” he replied, “Heading south now.” Cliché. Cliché. Cliché.
“So, anyway, where I’m going is right by a casino, so perhaps you’ll have better luck.”
“Oh, can I get coffee there?” More enthusiasm.
“Probably,” she said thoughtfully. I sure know there’s alcohol there!
“Is it on the 101?” he was not as enthusiastic. More the question that someone who was doing what he
was doing would ask as an essential question.
“No, the casino’s a little ways up that road, the one I need to turn on.” She pulled the car to a
stop at a red arrow this time. He looked around him. This is getting complicated. Or the end of the road, where he might gut me or something! Oh God, please don’t let him gut
“There’s a Chevron right there, I can get coffee there!” There was the enthusiastic tone; the
frightening enthusiasm that should exist past nine pm. The kind of enthusiasm the soft music intended to put her daughter to sleep didn’t normally bring forth.
“Yeah,” she said as the arrow turned green. She had meant to drop him off in front of the well lit
closed drug store. “This is where I meant to drop you off anyway,” she pulled into a small parking lot behind a building that blocked her view of the freeway, or anything for that
matter. Ok, why did I park here? The light from Chevron is coming over here, but I could have just as easily parked across the street. It’s dumb girls like me that get
gutted. Oh man, I’m getting gutted, aren’t I? At the last second, yep, that would be a total cliché. A sucky cliché. Oh, just let me get home alright! Just get out of the
“Pumpkins,” he said, referring to the band playing on her car stereo.
“Yeah!” she enthusiastically grabbed the CD she had from the same time period, “Check this out!”
“Oh man,” he said loudly, “I went to go see these guys up in Seattle.” He went on to tell her all
about the concert. It took maybe a minute more, but that minute changed the experience entirely. There was no gutting, only a drifter with an interesting story. After the story she
said good-bye and good-luck to him. Maybe that’s a reason to believe in human beings. That the majority are not serial gutters. Maybe we should all be more kind to strangers
instead of judging them.Maybe I just got lucky it wasn’t a gutter!
© Copyright 2016 Jessa Sumner. All rights reserved.