I stand under the harsh lime yellow glow of the streetlamp. Headlights appear in the distance and make their way down the road. Stepping out to get closer to the road, I stick out my thumb in hopes of hitching a ride. The driver looks at me, looks away, and continues driving down the road leaving me under the streetlamp. My arm falls slowly and its hand snakes itself back into the pocket of my torn jeans to protect them from the sharp chill of the air.
A gust of wind blows, sending the crisp amber, apricot, and scarlet leaves skittering across the road. I shiver and squat down to rest my tired legs, watching the road for another chance for a ride. Suddenly, a set of bright headlights appear in the distance. The vehicle is still far away so I can rest until they get a bit closer. Sighing I look up at the sky and take a deep breath. The vehicle is not too far away now the rumble of its tires on the worn asphalt makes its way to my ears. I get up and stick out my thumb once again in hopes of getting a ride, watching the headlights come closer and closer. The headlights belong to a enormous semi truck, it seems as though it is not stopping as it rolls past me. But gradually it begins slowing down until it hisses to a complete stop. Stepping away from my spot under the streetlamp, I jog on over to the passenger side of the semi truck, open the door, and hop in.
“Thanks man, I’ve been waiting there for hours.” I say turning to face the driver. He looks like he’s in his late thirties- early forties, he has the body of a walrus (and the breath of one too), his wife beater is stained yellow at the armpits, his hair is grey with flecks of black, and he has a receding hairline.
The driver grumbles and spits a thick black wad of chewing tobacco into a grimy tin can in his cup holder. It splashes into the already half full can and sprays me with dozens of droplets of saliva mixed with chewed tobacco. Disgusted, I quietly wipe the grime from my clothes. The truck driver then puts his meaty hand on the shifter and puts the truck into drive. The motor hisses and moans but it reluctantly pulls the truck forward and rolls down the long and empty road.
We sit there in silence for what seemed like ages with only the splashing of tobacco juice as we hit the many potholes that cover the road or an occasional cough to break the silence. Eventually we come to a railroad crossing. The lights are blinking and a train whistles from not far off. As we wait for the train to pass the driver turns to me, “So where ya’ headed?” he asks me in in a gruff voice.
“I don’t really have a specific place I want to go, I just need to go somewhere. Ya’ know?”
He nods, “Yeah ah hear ya’ brother.” He’s silent as the train finishes passing us and the truck drives forward.
“So you got any family?” He asks casually
“No. My family, God bless their souls, are in a better place now.” I reply feeling uneasy.
“Oh… I’m sorry.” he replies
“It’s fine. So where are you headed, if you don’t mind me asking?” I ask
“I’m supposed to be bringing this shipment to Franklin, Tennessee.” He responds while keeping his eyes on the road.
“Wow that’s pretty far away from here... Don’t you miss your family when you have to drive so far away?” I ask him.
“Nah. I don’t got no family.” He replies.
“Oh… Well that’s rough… anyways uhh… What’s your name?” I question him.
“My name’s John. John Jameson, J.J for short. What’s your’s?”
“My name? My name’s Fred, but most people just call me Freddy.”
“I guess I’ll call you Freddy then.” J.J responds. He then turns on the radio and started flipping through the radio stations before finally stopping at some country station. We sit in silence for a bit, listening to Country Roads by John Denver.
After the song ends J.J turns down the radio and looks over to me, “I’ve got a question that’s been buggin’ me for a bit,” He pauses, “You’re so young, what do you need to hitchhike to get away from?”
“I’ve just got some problems back home I gotta get away from.”
J.J looks at me concerned, “Well shouldn’t you try to fix them? Hitchhiking isn’t that safe for a youngster like you. Aren’t you afraid of strangers?”
“Well, problems seem to follow me, staying home isn’t going to fix that.” I pause and slide my cold hand into my pocket. “And I’ve never really been afraid of strangers. In fact, I kind of look forward to meeting them.” I say as I slip the blood caked knife out of my pocket.