Simon's Story

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Simon had been hitching, hopping town-to-town. Folks was easy going, long as you were open to their evangelising, which didn't bother Simon none. Thing was, he didn't mind sitting and listening, it was all new to him anyway. Out on the highway it was a hundred degrees. He had put Atlanta behind him and was walking along the I-20 heading east. In response to his outstretched thumb a sedan pulled in; Simon ran up and leaned in through the passenger window.

"Where you heading, son?" The driver was late middle aged, rugged but carrying a few extra pounds. He had a kind face. The cabin felt cool; the air running full.

"Well sir, I'm looking to make it to Myrtle Beach, "replied Simon.

"Myrtle, hey, well this is your lucky day, son, I'm heading right there myself." He reached across and popped the door, "hop in."

Simon got in. The car pulled away. The driver closed the window. The chilled air felt so good after the heat. Simon pulled a bottle from his pack and took a long swig.

The driver said, "sure is a hot one. My name's Bernie. You got yourself a name, son?"

Simon nodded, saying, "Simon Grant, sir."

Bernie continued, "you look pretty young to be out on the road hitchin' rides. You know it ain't legal to solicit rides in Georgia, right?"

Simon looked surprised, replying, "no, sir, I did not know that."

"Yes sir, title 40, chapter 6, uniform rules of the road, article 5, rights and duties of pedestrians - pedestrians soliciting rides or business states, 'that no person shall stand in a roadway for the purpose of soliciting a ride'." Bernie chuckled. "Used to be a cop, but don't you mind nothing, Simon, the law got better things to do than bust kids taking rides, least ways not this old boy scout. Nowadays my wife, Barbara, and I run a small hotel just South of Myrtle, and that's right where I'm heading now. Been up in Atlanta meeting up with some old buddies." He paused, drumming his fingers on the wheel. "Guess we've got about six hours drive and other than being stretched out on Myrtle beach beer in hand, I reckon sitting on in here's a-good-a-place to be, seeing like it's so darn hot out." For a moment silence took over, just the drone of the tyres and the hum of the air con. Bernie looked across at his passenger, "so how come a young fella like you is hitching to Myrtle?"

For a while Simon stared out of the window. He hadn't done much talking of late, but Bernie made him feel comfortable, and they had time to kill.

"Well sir, I guess it started with a bright red Alice band. I was five years old and back then we lived in a small town in Texas called Henrietta, not too far from Wichita Falls. Well me, mom and my brother Marty had been down town to pick up groceries, an' all, and I had seen this pretty Alice band. I asks mom, 'can I get it?' she smiles and says, 'is it for you?' and I says, 'no ma don't be silly, it ain't for me, it's for Debbie - Debbie's my sister, see. We were real close and I wanted to get her something for when she got back from school."

Pausing he looked out the windshield awhile. The black top struck out into the distance shimmering with the heat inexorably moving him forward in space but back in time, a chance to start where he'd left off nearly fourteen years earlier or may be, just another set-back.

Breaking Simon's reverie, Bernie asked, "well, did you give her the hair band, or not?"

"No, sir, I did not get to it. It was a fair day and mom had me and Marty out in the yard playing so as to get us from under her feet, an' all. I heard the school bus coming and I hurries indoors to get the band. I shouts to mom that I'm going to meet Debbie and off I goes, quick as a jack rabbit. Now I don't think of anything else save getting to Debbie and surprising her with my gift: well I thought she be pleased as punch. Straight out into the road I goes right into the path of Mikey Phelan cruising by in his truck. He hits me and I goes spinning into the air and slams down in the ditch. Well, they all thinks I'm dead, an' all, seeing as I ain't moving none. My leg's all in a funny position tucked up under me, and my face's all bloody from contusions."

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