SepSceneWriMo #18

He stank and he knew it.

His first words, when I pulled to the side of the two-lane that ran from Lyons east through Greeley, were an apology. “I can ride in the back. I ain’t had a good wash for some time.”

I waved him in and he gently lowered his pack-like-a-tinker’s-trade into the bed of my pickup. The saddle-tone satchel had been festooned, yeah, that’s the best word for it, festooned with bangles and dangles and every type of touristy kitsch you could imagine.

And, yeah, he did stink. But, not like rotten meat or a Benghazi bath, body oder as a badge of honor. This was more like camp-smoke and musk, wholesome, yet pungent.

“Where ya headed?” I asked, as he closed and hugged the door, trying, I imagined, to keep from fouling the vehicle.

“That way, as far as you’ll take me.”

“So, east with no particular destination. Cool.”

We both rode in silence for a time. I opened the air vents a tad and he watched my hands manipulate the controls.

“Sorry about the smell.” He cracked the window an inch which introduced an annoying whistle.

“It’s either up all the way or down all the way with pickup windows.” The whistle pinched shut when he rolled it back up. “Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I never did hitchhike much, but I admire your independent streak.”

“Yeah. I’m independent alright.”

I let that hang in the air, thinking he might finish the thought. But that was not the invitation he was looking for.

I asked him, “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to have any weed on you?” I pulled open the sliding ashtray to reveal a small wooden pipe and a Bic lighter. I lifted the pipe and wiggled it, empty.

“It’s May now, right?”

I nodded. What did the month of the year have to do with anything?

“I won’t be in that phase until at least July.”

Okay… “So, what phase are you in now?”

“Retro Venus Shockwave, I think.” He held up both hands, nails too long and dirty, and began to bend them—counting. “Gonna be some heavy pressure on the magnetosphere until then.” He dug into his cargo pants pocket and retrieved a compass, which he flipped open and held level. “It’s already started. Yup. I recon we’re gonna see some sights tonight.”

I scratched my head and leaned an elbow on the door, shifted my ass, grown numb with the ride, and asked, “What kinda sights?”

He told me.

Speaking as if he’d practiced, he spoke of experiences I found hard to believe. Of electric and emotional connections to things and people both earthly and cosmically distant. He became impassioned with the telling, so much so, that I felt compelled to grant him a smidgen of maniacal credibility. Soon, I found I’d ceased shaking my head.

He talked until I mentioned my need to head north to Sheridan at the next intersection. Leaving the truck, he thanked me a dozen times for the ride, fetched and shouldered his bedazzled pack, and gave me a salute as I eased forward, stopped at the flashing red light and turned left.

Behind me, I watched him cross the road and park himself, thumb raised, headed east.

My truck still stank of him, and I opened the windows and vents wide. After a while the smell of the prairie flushed out the smokey, earthy smell and I closed all the windows—the sun had set and the air had taken a chill.

“Will you look at that,” I said to no one, thinking I still had company. In the moonless sky I marveled at the sight of bands of pink and green lights that wavered above me. Vast, thousand-mile-long ribbons of aurora twisted and writhed their lustrous tails. I imagined I could hear them groaning as they moved.

Enraptured, I was unprepared when my truck quit, just like that. I coasted to the shoulder and nothing I could do would let me start it up again. I noticed that I seemed to be alone out in the desolation of southern Wyoming. Not a light anywhere, except for those above.

“Well, shit. I guess we’re all in Retro Venus Shockwave now.”

18 thoughts on “SepSceneWriMo #18

  1. Your writing is always so vivid–I felt like I was right with you every step of the way. I hope a towtruck comes along soon because it’s getting chilly out here in Wyoming:-)


  2. This piece puts me in mind of John Steinbeck and Travels with Charley. The same relaxed, amused and open to anything voice. Excellent job I’d say. I finished thinking I wonder where this dude is going next.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Loved it!! or as they would say in the sixties” Far Out Man”.

    I just so happen to be currently reading a memoir by Dianne Lake entitled Member of The Family: My Story of Charles Manson, Life Inside His Cult, And The Darkness That Ended The Sixties. She had a co-writer on the book named Deborah Herman.

    The book is very well written. It takes me back to times and places I lived in and visited during those times. It is highly illuminating on how Manson operated and how the girls became voluntary slaves to such an evil man.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I wonder if there might have been a single moment in time when a person like Manson could have been turned to ply his gifts for society’s benefit rather than detriment.
      Thanks again, Mike.


  4. It felt like I was travelling with you in your truck and could really smell the pungent odor of the traveler and I believed every word he said too. This is how very good your storytelling is. Thank you so much. ❤❤❤

    Liked by 2 people

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