The weatherman on the radio was calling for rain as the truck pulled to the shoulder of the road. The old man's eyes held a smile for the hitchhiker as he said. "You know that I still have almost two hundred miles to go, but I'm a little heavy, I got to by-pass some scales up the road. I'm sleepy and it would help if I had somebody to talk to, you are welcome to ride." Hitchhiking was his only way to travel during the great depression, he knew about staying on the main roads, so he added. "We will be on back roads but where I put you out you will only have to go about fifty miles to get back on interstate twenty just east of Birmingham."
Tommy Ray looked at his map, he had a rule about leaving the interstates, but the old man was right. Freeport Alabama was about forty miles north of interstate twenty. One good ride or maybe three short rides would put him right back on a main interstate. He knew better, but the threat of the bad weather helped to override those small whisperings of past experience. He replied. "Well, if you can stand my company then I will ride to the end of the line with you."
The old man let the clutch out and the overloaded truck eased down the exit ramp and turned right. Gentle rolling hills with green wooded mountains in the distance. It would have made a nice landscape painting, Tommy thought and then shut his eyes for a nap.
Clouds hung heavy and low in the sky. Too dark and heavy to rise above, they seemed to snag themselves on the mountain tops and bleed mist down the valleys. The trees and brush were colored by the strange light and made to look like hammered pewter, while the grass shone wet and shiny like a rippled surface of water. For a moment before the truck drove into the mist it was both beautiful and dramatic, and then you couldn't see shit. Close to white-out conditions with visibility limited to maybe two or three car-lengths.
The old man slapped the hitchhiker on the arm and said. "Damn son, I glad you came. Wish I could let you sleep a bit but I need your help" It took a moment for Tommy to remember where he was. He had been in a sound sleep, lost in a dream. He sat up, shaking the sleep from his head running his hand through his hair. "Help me watch the road. I don't want to run up on somebody too stupid to have their lights on." The old man was wiping the inside of his windshield as he talked, obviously he was having trouble seeing the road. " I hate fog like this. All you can do is slow down and try not to let something get too close. Use them young eyes of yours, cause my old ones are just about useless in this soup."
So for the next half an hour he had helped the old man to stay on the road until at last the fog lifted a bit. Once the conditions got better they hit the truck stop and took a break. The old man ordered steaks for both of them and they chased it with coffee and pie. Afterwards they talked of roads traveled and different places they had seen. The rain dampened the scenic views as they rolled through the mountains on the twisting two lane roads. Talking and laughing as Tennanasee turned into Alabama and the mountains became steeply rolling hills. No chance to sleep but all and all a very pleasant time.
Six hours later, looking through the rain spotted windshield, he saw the town of Freeport in its entire splendor. A wide spot on a small secondary road, off all the beaten paths, the town had slowly rotted away. Seeing them now he realized both the town and the road were much worse in reality than they looked on the map. The next few hours would decide if he had fucked up, but right now it was looking bad. He jumped from the truck and reached back up to the door for his backpack. The old man looked tired but home was just down the road now. "Thanks for the ride and for the lunch, it was good." Tommy said as he shut the door, returning the driver's wave as the truck pulled away. He set his backpack down and checked out the small village of Freeport.
Tammy Johnson drove at the speed limit as she returned from Sweetwater. Both the rain and the distraction of her husband's drinking forced her to be aware of the dangers of driving. It would be really embarrassing if her brother-in-law Wade happened to be the cop to pull her over. He wouldn't arrest her or give her a ticket but the self-righteous shit would never let them forget it either. Her eyes swept the street for the deputy sheriff's car as she topped the hill coming into town, but it was not to be seen. However she did see the young man waiting for a ride in the rain as she drove by him.
As if he had read her mind Wayne, the man she called her husband, roused himself up and glanced out the window as they passed the man. A single quick glance at his wife, reading the interest in her eyes as they drove pass the young man, answered all the questions he wanted to ask. He popped the tab on another can of beer and waited for her to make her pitch.
He didn't say anything, he didn't have to, she knew what he thought by that stupid look on his face. Sensing the way he would react she held her peace. She continued driving through the storm, both of them thinking of the man in the rain, neither of them speaking. The silence prevailed until they shut the door behind them at home. "He looked very young to me, how old do you think he was?" she asked.
"Its only been a week since the last time, are you so out of control that you can't do without it any longer than that?" There was an accusation in his voice along with a bit of a whine.
"I didn't say I wanted to fuck him." She tried to sound like she had been insulted but it was weak even to her own ears.
"That's funny, because that is exactly what I thought you were saying" Wayne said as he walked away from her, down the hall toward their bedroom.
"Listen to me Wayne. Stop walking away when I am talking to you." She demanded following behind him and grabbing his arm, forcing him to turn and face her. Watching the anger in his eyes, she pushed him a bit harder. "You know we are like two people who own a beautiful swimming pool, but you can't swim, so I only get to go in the shallow end with you. I need a guy that can make the strokes to get me to the deep end"
Sometimes Wayne wondered if he hated her, he knew he feared her. She had threatened to divorce him and force him to sell the house and divide the money. If she took half of everything it would ruin him as well as make him look like a fool in the eyes of everyone in town. His thoughts were interrupted by her hand stroking up the inside of his leg, letting her fingers reach out and lightly caress his ball sack through his pants.
"Come on baby, lets have some fun tonight," she cooed into his ear as she wrapped her arms around him hugging him from behind.
It was all so false, so fucking phony, the way she was trying to play him, all because she wanted to fuck a stranger. Just for a moment he wanted to hit her, the rage soared up inside him, but he pushed it down. He didn't want to hurt her. He loved her. "Baby why don't you let me get you off, you always enjoy that don't you?" He asked her.
She laughed in a derisive manner and sneeringly replied. "You gonna offer me some relief? I like your tongue but sometimes I need a good hard dick." She picked up the phone and offered it to Wayne. "Now why don't you do like I ask and have Wade check him out?"
"You can be a real bitch sometimes." He took the phone as he spoke. "I don't think I deserve to be talked to like this, not by you. You're my wife. You should be on my side and trying to help me through this. We never talked about doing this shit every week, it was an every now and then kind of thing to start with. How much of this shit do you think I can stand? I don't think you care about how I feel?"
Tammy smiled to herself and tried to keep a serious expression on her face as Wayne went on and on about how pitifully he was treated and how he was not going to take it. But while he was bitching he was dialing the phone, doing what she had asked. She knew him so much better then he knew himself.
Like most towns in mountainous areas Freeport straddled a small river running between sloping wooded hills. The main road shared the valley with a solitary railroad track, the two crossed back and forth over the fast running river. The town started at the river and spread out and up as it rose up the slopes of the surrounding hills. Once it had been a very pleasant village in a remote spot, now it was a small town cut off from the life support system of Interstate highways. Rust coated the railroad tracks, indicating little rail traffic. Fully half the stores were empty while the others lingered like walking wounded.
Tommy stood with the rain running down his collar and no cars in sight, now the gamble didn't look as good. The rain got harder and the temperature was dropping like a rock as the afternoon wore on. Rain and fog had hastened the onslaught of the night forcing the cars to turn on their lights and the street lights to come on early.
"Never get off the Interstate" He said laughing as he shook his head. This lesson has been learned so many times and yet here he was again. Once up in Pa. he had walked for two days without catching a single ride until he had covered the forty miles to Interstate Eighty-One. Once out in Kansas the police had picked him up on the Interstate. They carried him twenty-five miles across a waste land into some one horse town, where they decided to 'cut him a break' and let him go. It was a big joke to them. He had to walk all the way back to Interstate Forty, there wasn't a shade tree the whole way and it was in the summer. Now, he had done it to himself again, smiling and shaking his head he considered if he might be too dumb to learn.
.... There is more of this story ...