Monday, June 16, 2014

One Rung at a Time

I went to a graduation Saturday morning.  Saturday afternoon we went out for dinner.  On the way home we saw a hitchhiker.  The graduate suggested that we should give him a ride.  I said we didn’t have any room – which was true.  The graduate said that the hitchhiker might be an angel and we’re supposed to show hospitality.  I repeated that there was no room and this time the graduate acknowledged the fact.  Then the graduate’s mother pointed out that hitchhiking is illegal so it’s doubtful that an angel would be doing it.  Then the graduate wondered what would happen if you picked up a hitchhiker, made a citizen’s arrest, and dropped him off at that jail.

Who thinks like that?

One Rung at a Time
by Jon Stark; June, 2014

Will really wanted to be a G-man.  FBI all the way.  He could taste it, some days, getting caught in his teeth like corn silk.  He’d work his tongue at it until somebody said, “Hey, Will.  Where are you?”  Then he’d come back to the present, wipe off his hands, and get to work.  There were stages and he’d have to earn his way.

The way he saw it, if you wanted to be a G-man you had to be cop first and the best way to do that was to get a job at the jail.  But they weren’t hiring green horns so he needed some security experience – maybe Spectaguard, or Pinkerton if he was really lucky and aced the interview.  Of course none of the guard companies were interested in someone until they had bounty hunter experience which meant that Will had to lock up a few bandits.  He didn’t know much about it, other than what he saw on TV, but he’d responded to an advertisement on Greg’s List and was now the padawan of one Dwight J. Schmoot.

The first lesson had been to watch “The Phantom Menace” since he’d mistakenly asked Mr. Schmoot what a padawan was.  There were worse ways to spend a day – like watching the third movie in that series, a film so bad I can’t even remember what it was called.

Will actually did well in his studies and soon Dwight had him out working the streets, trolling for bandits and protecting freedom and democracy as a volunteer sheriff’s deputy’s assistant.

But Will was hungry.  He needed “a grab” and the pickens were slim in West Boonieland.  He dozed off, imagining that he and Special Agent Mulder were hot on the trail of agent Scully’s abductors.  A car horn woke him and he swerved violently to avoid colliding with the Mayor’s caddy.  He fishtailed through the truck pull-off sending gravel and retreads into McGee’s field, and rocked to a stop inches from the sign pointing to Farmville, just 13 miles away.

A man stood leaning against the sign post.  When the dust settled he coughed once, looked at Will through the dusty windscreen, and stuck out his thumb.

Will rubbed his eyes.  It looked like a hitchhiker.  He ran the wipers and squirted the last of his washer fluid (he didn’t realize that that, though).  The dust smeared but he could see a little better.  It was a hitchhiker.  He ran the wipers again and discovered he was out of fluid.  The windshield got really bad so he climbed out and looked at the man.

Sure enough, there was a real, live hitchhiker.  He had an army surplus back pack, a nasty sleeping bag, and smelled like Mrs. Tibertson’s garage.  Will wanted to ask if he needed a ride but was worried about entrapment. Sure, the man had stuck out his thumb and that would be enough for Judge Howard, but Judge Wood was a bit liberal with his interpretation.  “What do you need?” asked Will.

“Looking for a lift into Farmville.”  said the hitcher.  “You’re pretty good behind the wheel, it’s be an honor to ride with you.”

Will thought he had him, right up until the last.  Would that be enough for him to beat the rap?  “So you’re asking me to give you a ride to Farmville?”

The man nodded.  “That’s right.”

“But you don’t know me.”

“Sure I do, you’re Will.  The guy working with Schmoot.” said the hitcher.  He held out his hand.  “I’m Jake.”

Will wasn’t a lawyer but he was pretty sure that now hitching was out.  The man seemed to know him and being strangers was one of the elements of the crime.  “I don’t think we’ve ever met.”

“That’s true and it would be fair to say that a reasonable person would not consider us acquaintances for the purpose of determining whether or you’d give me a ride.” said the hitcher.  Will smiled.  That was almost textbook.

“Well hop in then, Stranger.”  Will didn’t care for the odor, but he was excited.  This wasn’t getting someone after they committed a crime, it was actually interrupting it and saving some innocent bystander.

He pulled into the police station.  “Hey.” said Jake.  “This isn’t Farmville.”

“That’s right.” said Will.  “It’s the police station and you’re under arrest.”

“For what?”

“I ask the questions here.” said Will.  “Will you get out of the car, please?”

They two men walked in to the station.  Jake protested quite loudly that this was totally unfair.  Dewey was at the desk and rolled his eyes when Will came in.  “What is going on?”

“Here’s one for the tank, Dewey.” said Will.

Dewey ignored Will.  “What’d you do?”

“Nothing.” said Jake.  “I was out by the truck pull off and Maverick here came sliding through.  We started talking and I asked for a lift into Farmville.”

“See!?” shouted Will.  “From his own mouth!”

Dewey looked at him, waiting for the rest.

Will continued.  “Hitchhiking!  He just admitted to you that he was hitching.”

Dewey nodded, gravely.  “Thank you, Will.  I’ve got it from here.”

“Do you need me to help with the processing?  I don’t want to be rude.”

“That’s okay.” said Dewey.  “I’m good.  You better get back out there.  I heard that Phil was driving his tractor on Highway 47 without a slow moving vehicle sign displayed.

Will couldn’t help it.  One of those things that just sort of happens.  He saluted and gave a crisp, “Yes, Sir.”  Which would have been okay if it weren’t for the hug.

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