I thought the four-part story was over. Alas, this is a tale that keeps on giving…
While driving home from work I noticed two dark, human-shaped objects walking southbound on the shoulder of I-65…. Woah, rewind. I’m getting ahead of the story.
You’ll recall that I was trying my hand as a car salesman for the past month. After having no substantial luck finding rides while attempting to hitchhike out of Montgomery, Alabama, I bought a well-worn car. It had eventfully/eventually delivered me and Whit home from the Southern hell trap. I had exhausted my use for the car and it was now time to get rid of the 1997 hunkofshit Honda Civic.
I intentionally bought this less-than-good car with hopes of turning a profit (or breaking even, at worst) when I returned home – as opposed to losing the same amount of money on a rental car altogether. After a month of no Craigslist serendipity I gave up on the idea of selling the car for profit or even breaking even.
Before driving the car to the BMV to transfer the title into my name I gave her a test drive through my neighborhood. I hadn’t driven or fired up the car in a month; she struggled to turn over. I backed her out of the driveway and found the brakes to be alarmingly soft. At 10 MPH I found that her brakes were completely nonexistent. I aborted my mission to take the Civic to the BMV and pulled her back into the driveway. Pic-a-part offered me $185, $633 less than the total expense of the car, and a free tow. I was hoping that the junkyard would come take her without a title. Since it was late on Thursday I procrastinated and scheduled myself to ditch the car the following week.
Three days later, while driving home from work I noticed two dark, human-shaped silhouettes walking southbound on the shoulder of I-65. At 9 PM my flashing hazard lights shone through to the hitchhikers amidst the southbound blur of red taillights, mercury-orange highway lights, and meditatively blinking construction cones. I quickly scurried out of my car in the less-than-a-second break in highway traffic and ran back to the shadows. Joker and Harley Quinn were their names. I asked them where they were headed. Their destination rang inversely familiar in my ears despite the raging snarl of passing big rigs, “Montgomery, Alabama.” I offered them a ride.
Joker told me that they were headed south from their starting point, Hamilton, Ohio…two hours southeast of Indianapolis. They had been travelling in the wrong direction, no thanks to dead cell phones or the misinformative man they asked directions from. On top of that misery, they hadn’t scored a single ride. Walking…in the wrong direction. If this doesn’t make sense to you, well, it didn’t to me either. Bottom line: they were stranded on the highway and were walking for 115 miles…they needed help.
Despite their all-black baggie clothes, sinister names, standoffish attitude, perfunctory conversations, minimal interaction, and strange yet somehow believable story, I recognized a desperate situation. I have driven hitchhikers to Louisville before, had no obligations on Monday, and was willing to do that. But, frankly, I was tired after working 30 hours the past two days and didn’t want to drive. “I can’t take you too far…” I carefully considered my next words and wondered if they would be a reflection of a well thought out idea, “But I know a car that can.” I took them to my house.
The risk to them was huge. I informed them of my thought process, that they would be driving a “stolen” car as far as the authorities would be concerned – I had no title or legal statement of ownership to give them. Neither Joker nor Harley Quinn had a driver’s license. And there were no brakes except the emergency brake.
In other words, they’d have to stay on the highway to avoid the need to brake, which increased their chances of getting pulled over with no license plates, which would also screw them over with no license or title (legal statement of ownership) on the car. They had no money for gas and would have to busk or beg – probably not a new concern for them. But they wouldn’t get smashed walking on the highway. Did I do the right thing? I don’t know. But I think so, according to our parting conversation.
“When you get to Montgomery, scrap the car. Don’t drive it more than you have to. A scrapper will probably take it off your hands. You can make $200 off the car, which, I’m sure, will help you out.”
Looking at Harley Quinn, Joker said, “Yea, we could take our baby girl to dinner.”
Harley Quinn softly refuted, “She doesn’t care about dinner. She will like to go to the toy store.”
Joker agreed and they got into the car, southbound for home.
A little ditty from the River:
Have you pleaded
For the embrace of Shade
As Sun does his linger?
Inhaled pure ether?
Felt the touch of warm
Hands down warm hips
On a steel, cold train?
Joined the dalliance of eagles?
Danced the song of black coffee?