Creative Non-Fiction Short Stories. :) Travel, Oldsters, Love, and Compassion.
At a gas station in Missouri, two hitchhikers approach me while I am filling up. They are in their 20s, with backpacks and a cardboard sign. They ask if I’m from Vermont. I am not. They ask why I have Vermont plates. “The car is from Vermont.” I’m not giving a lot of detail, but I’m happy to chit-chat at a distance. These two young men are looking for a ride cross-country. One says they are coming from visiting his grandmother. I ask, “And Grandma knows her Grandson is hitchhiking?” The guys laugh and trade a glance, “No, we had a car at the time, but the transmission went out and so…”
I am kind to strangers, but I am also a single woman traveling alone and I do watch my surroundings. I think of my self-defense first, but to be honest I really don’t want to give up the next 20 hours alone in the car. Sure, my favorite part of Ian Frazier’s “Great Plains” was about his hitchhiking journeys, but I would rather not have to ask if anyone would mind if we listen to to the Sound of Music Soundtrack just once more. I’ve been driving across America full of prayers, songs on repeat, podcasts about philosophy, and conversations with myself about how much I have changed, how grateful I am for the day, how beautiful the spring landscapes seem to me these days.
As the men sought a more adventurous and willing driver, a woman from the pump before me approaches with a wave. She says, “I saw those two coming up to you, but I had to go in and pay. I told the clerk I don’t know this lady, but those guys are talking to her. We had our eye on you. You never know. Just wanted you to know I did leave, but I was watching.” I beam. I ask if she’d like a book, trying to explain The Nice Thing About Strangers and how she fits the bill. She accepted it politely, if cautiously, and I thanked her for looking out for me. I hope if she reads it she will find some stories that remind her of herself. She was a very nice lady.