I didn’t want to hitchhike home in 100 degree Alabama heat with a six-week old puppy, so Whit and I found a man who called himself “Kill” and was selling a $1000 1997 Honda Civic with 236,000 miles. We contacted him around 4 PM, he agreed to meet us in 1 hour…we actually met four hours later. He informed me that he was flipping cars in the $500-1000 range. I hoped that maybe he’d get his Craigslist ads mixed up so I proposed an offer, “Well, Kill, I can’t pay the $800 [remember, his original ad posted the car for $1000] that you’re asking, but I can do $720.” Kill, confused, said, “Dude, I thought it was posted for $1000.” I said, “Nah, you had it listed at $800.” Twenty minutes of schizophrenic and internal debate later he agreed with himself that money talks and took the $720 that I offered. I was finally on my way north.
Fifty miles and 90 minutes later at 11:30 PM, just outside of Montgomery, the car lights flickered like the Krusty Krab did when the Hash Slinging Slasher came knocking; the speedometer spun in full 360 degree rotations; the engine puttered like a fasting man’s stomach on Good Friday; and my heart missed every other beat like the tires of a Big Wheel trike trying to gain traction on wet pavement. The car threatened to land my broke ass in the 15-foot ravine just beyond the skinny shoulder to my right. You understand the feeling, I’m sure….
Predictably, the car clocked out. As Whit and I assessed our situation and hoped for a long shot that I might be able to miraculously perform a successful round of surgery and blindly fix the pieceofshit car that I now own, John, a kind and well-dressed man, pulled over to the shoulder to help my chump situation out after excitedly hearing the story of my acquisition of Whit. He shined a light down in the engine and found the problem: the alternator belt looked like a frayed strand of yarn. He said, “That ther is yer probl’m. I wished I done had a couple quart’rs to help yer sorry ass out.” I said, “Thank you sir, but you’ve helped me quite enough already to diagnose my problem. The local authorities are on their way to help me out.” He left after he wished me safe travels in the name of St. Christopher, a welcomed prayer indeed.
[You may need to fetch your Southern English to Normal English dictionary.] On the scene came Sherriff Headley. Without the promise of Southern Hospitality (which, unfortunately, seems to be a sparse myth in my experiences with the South, save the seldom instances when the hospitality is truly overwhelming), Headley settled immediately into reaming me for my lack of foresight, naïve stupidity, and danger-prone purchase, “Now, son, you know this vehicle ain’t hi’way safe. Ya’ll gotttta get off this here road anyhow.” A little more southern bullying and unbearably extended vowels went on and on until he took a breath and I finally had the opportunity to coolly say, “You wanna hear the story of this dog?” Sherriff Headley didn’t appear the least bit intrigued but indulged the idea of being cheaply entertained by just another stranded-on-the-side-of-the-road story before a long shift ahead of him on a holiday weekend.
I told him the story. “Welll, goddderm. I been workin’ these highwayyys for fif’teen yers and ain’t never heard no story quite like that. Yer a godderm serviver. Now, under normal circumstancers I gotta get this car off my highway, but yer a godderm serviver and I trust that yer gonna make this her’ sitiation werk out.” [Enter the long western gait of Officer Chad] Chad: “Whatdawe got her, Headley’?” Headley: “One godderm interestin’ story and a serviver. Go ahead, tell my good buddy, Chad, her’ whatchu got goin’ fer ya.” I wished I had a translator but took this invitation as permission to recite my alibi. Chad was of supreme unhelp but he was moved in the same way that Headley was.
They resisted the temptation to tow, saving me hundreds of dollars that I wouldn’t have been able to pay. Long story short, Whit and I got a 103 MPH ride from the Sherriff to the local Waffle House. I asked and learned about the nifty speed radar systems, drug busts that roll through Montgomery on their way to the Southeastern capitol of drug trades in Atlanta, ticketing policies and procedures, etc. After Headley’s hard ass shell was broken down with the power of a pup, he was an all right kind of guy.
Once I thanked Headley and got to the Waffle House, the night shift employees sensed an unfortunate scenario…
I promise this story isn’t like The Land Before Time where there are seventeen million different movies for two reasons:
- This is a better story than The Land Before Time IIX.
- There’s only one more part to this story. Stay tuned for the conclusion.
Now for some original poetry:
The gods drank the purest of waters
And breathed out me.
When dry Earth tattoos my pores,
I speak with saints.
I figured that if I was one of the classical elements (Earth, Air, Fire, or Water), I’d be water and earth. Maybe it was just the River gripping my soul in that particular moment, which is not to say that sometimes I sure as hell feel like fire, or chill and graceful as Air, or strong and forward as water, or practical and basic as Earth. But on the River I felt smooth, laissez faire, go-with-the-flow, Zen, and extraordinarily balanced. As I stepped on land and felt the security of firm ground as the sand and the dirt wrap around me, I prayed thanksgiving and peace to my entire surroundings. It was a beautiful thing.