Hitcher

HITCHER

Finally, a Pontiac stops in front of the Gonzales exit sign and picks me up. And wait till he finds out who he picked up late at night… Gonzales is a cement factory, a water tower with a small cluster of houses. It is populated by generations of hitch hikers who could never get a ride. Ever.

The driver is fiftyish, had a few more beers than was wise, headed for Santa Monica. Didn’t bother to ask how far I was going. Just helping out his fellow human being, my perfect target.

A little ways along I reach into my back pack and pull out a boom box and hit the music. In a fanfare of trumpets a big booming voice announces: “CONGRATULATIONS! YOU HAVE PICKED UP THE LUCKY HITCH HIKER!”

I heave an armload of confetti and one thousand dollars in small bills into the air and give the driver a hug. Invariably they pull off the road and stop at this point. I crank off a couple of snapshots, leave the car, and start walking.

What’s life if you cannot give as well as take chances?

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Warrior

It was the worst possible time to enlist. But for him, in a time of national torment, daily killed-in-action notices in the newspapers, students rioting, it was long, long overdue. He had conned his mother to sign a form allowing him to join at the age of seventeen. This had taken an investment in bourbon and telling her that it was a financial aid form from high school.

War had no particular attraction for him, he’d no desire to be shipped overseas along with other very young men to a bitter, hungering land and take the losing side. But at some level he sought to be fathered, to be taught skills of living rough, taught how to shoot, survive in a hostile environment. Military service was going to be a crash course in masculinity and all he had to do was put his life at risk and fill a village or two with corpses.

That’s why on his first day in boot camp, as drill instructors systematically screamed and pummeled the recruits, as he was punched and shoved along with the terrified herd, all he could feel was a sheer happiness that, at last, he had escaped his mother.

A Tale of Hiroshima

The plump tabby visited Bob and Sue in their small one room about three times a day, each time becoming a meal for him. Eventually Bob named him “Boswell” and Sue gave in to her husband’s literary pretensions. There were no children to consult on the grave matter of choosing a feline name.

Without landlord approval they installed a pet door. Their heating bill would go up but that was nothing to Boswell’s convenience.

Besides, what could compare with the warmth and affection of a cat snuggling up to them under the futon on a cold, winter night? In the distance would be the whistle of the hot noodle vendor and up close would be soft purring.

And what better entertainment than Boswell stalking a huge moth and devouring it in a gulp?

Perhaps the crowning point in their relationship with Boswell was Sue crafting a collar for him. This was a stunning array of garnet, rhinestones, and tiger eye with the cat’s name inscribed on a silver disk.

About this time was when they decided to move back to San Francisco and there was not a thought about their animal companion not accompanying them. Sue started researching the fees and immunizations.

Then one day Boswell sauntered through the pet door. There was a small sheet of paper tucked under his collar.

“My name is not Boswell,” the note said in English, printed by hand. “And I belong to the little girl upstairs in 1271. Most Sincerely Yours, Snowflake.”

Bob and Sue departed Japan without their friend.