To bring the story back up to speed, I'm in Saskatchewan, it's June 6th, and my mother's retirement party has just ended. My brothers and I then proceed to drive back up to Someplace Else. We take two vehicles, and I wind up in the family van with the middle brother. (Known now and forever more as MB.)
We're about 20 minutes from Someplace Else when we see a vehicle by the side of the road, with its driver standing beside it, arms waving. We stop, and a brief conversation takes place. His car has been damaged from hitting... something... and we agree to give him a ride back into town.
The subsequent drive was one of the most amusing things I've ever experienced in a moving vehicle.
In essence, we had a long talk with the guy. Well, I say talk, but 'monologue' would be a better description. If someone is giving you a free ride, I think offering something of similar value is appropriate; in this case, we got a life story. (He overpaid, frankly. If there had been more time, we would have had to give him two anecdotes and a reminiscence for change.) He started out simple. He was in town for a band council meeting, and was heading back after visiting some friends. That much we got out of him between his attempts to phone his family. ("Hey S----! I just got in an accident, and the airbag caved my head in, but I'm fine. I SAID I JUST GOT IN AN ACCIDENT AND THE AIRBAG---" Imagine this three or four times.)
Next, he confided that he had two sons who would have been about our age--if they hadn't both died at young ages from horrible accidents, which he proceeded to describe. Which segued nicely into describing his daughters (one just finished a degree, the other's in law enforcement) and we slowly steered the conversational boat into less rocky waters. Then a tempest came out of nowhere, as he switched to the other family tragedy: his brother had been the victim of a hit and run, that, he told us, was probably not an accident at all but arranged to look like an accident by a man who had it in for him. Try bringing that up in conversation with people you've known for less time than it takes to watch an episode of the Simpsons. See how that goes.
The final bit came as we drove through the city to his room at the Ramada. You may have been questioning our choice at picking up a hitchhiker to begin with. Don't worry, so did our hitchhiker. Here's how the conversation went, as close as I can remember it:
"You gotta be careful who you pick up these days. Never know who you're going to get. One time, I was driving with my wife and my daughters, and they were just little things then, and we saw a hitchhiker, and my wife didn't want to stop, but I thought, well, he could use some help, and we stopped. And we drove him to Banff, it was just a few miles, and I told my wife that she had nothing to worry about. But that night, hey, we were watching tv, and he was on the FBI Most Wanted!
"It just goes to show you, you never know who you pick up. He could be dangerous, or have a gun."
"You don't worry about me, though--I don't have a gun."
"'Cept the one I keep in my pants, for the ladies. (short pause) And that one don't work so well no more."
Around that time, we reached the hotel. I think he sensed he may have touched a conversational line, so he apologized a few times, thanked us, and disappeared out of our lives forever.
But not our hearts. Or my conversation, for weeks after.
I read a lot, and I aspire towards writing. But there are very few works or writers I know that could get away with a character like that. And God bless 'im for it.
Next installment: At long last, Day 3. Also: drinking in the afternoon.
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