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Night Ride
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TITLE (EDIT)
Night Ride
DESCRIPTION
A tired young man accepts a ride from a mysterious stranger.
[1,463 words]
AUTHOR
P J Lawton
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
-
[February 2004]
AUTHOR'S E-MAIL ADDRESS
[email protected]
AUTHOR'S OTHER TITLES (9)
An Encounter With Evil (Short Stories) A young man's search for the bizarre gets him a little more than he bargined for. [1,761 words]
Death Walk (Short Stories) A space ship crashes on a lonely planet leaving the crew a long walk to safety. [1,147 words]
Food For Thought (Short Stories) Ever wonder where the food of the future will come from? [973 words]
Future Shock (Short Stories) A young woman gets a glance into the future, can she change her destiny? [1,035 words] [Science Fiction]
Simon Says: Case Of The Deadly Diamond Dupe (Short Stories) A hard-boiled private detective reluctantly gets involved in a terrorist plot. [3,813 words]
Simon Says: Case Of Vengeance By The Letter (Short Stories) A hard-boiled private detective's past comes back to haunt him. [3,972 words]
Simon Says: The Case Of The Singing Lady Blues (Short Stories) A hard-boiled private detective makes a fatal mistake. He can't make it right but he can make those responsible pay. [3,757 words]
The Watchers (Short Stories) A young man has a strange encounter and is orderd to keep quiet, after 50 years he finally decides to tell his tale. [1,874 words] [Science Fiction]
Time Ripper (Short Stories) What if a serial killer could jump through time. Maybe he has! [1,459 words] [Science Fiction]
Night Ride
P J Lawton





It was just about sunset on a sultry summer evening as I slowly walked along US Highway 79 in Southwest Arkansas. I was hot, tired, and pretty much depressed. I really wasn’t looking forward to a long night on a dark deserted highway. A sudden whisper of tires on pavement came up from behind and a big mysterious antique looking Cadillac slowed to a crawl then stopped beside me. A darkly tinted window slowly lowered with the soft whir of its electric motor. As I bent to look inside a hushed voice with a soft southern drawl said, “Where you headed son?

I couldn’t see the driver very well but I could tell it was a man. “Well Mister, right now I’m headed for Memphis.”

I heard the click of the door locks and the voice continued. “I’m headed in that direction myself. Stow your gear in the back seat and hop in. It’s a pretty long drive and I could use some company.

I placed my backpack and guitar case in the back and eased into the front passenger seat. Without another word, the driver put the car into gear and drove on.

We rode in silence for a while. The driver was quietly humming a familiar song. After about ten minutes he turned to me. “Been walking long? Don’t see to many folks out walking on such a lonely stretch of highway. It’s not always safe to be out alone you know. There’s been talk of some strange happenings around here.”

The lights from the dash provided me my first good look at him. His look could only be described as haunted. His long gray hair was swept back in a retro 50’s ducktail. His cheeks were sunken and his flesh sort of hung loose, like someone who had been sick for a long time. His eyes were bright and shiny like coals of fire they danced in slightly sunken eye sockets. There was something familiar about him. I thought about it for a second then mentally shook my head. No, it couldn’t be. I simply stared at him.

I guess he sensed my unease and spoke again in that soothing soft drawl. “Relax son, everything is okay. I just thought you might like to tell your story.”

“Sorry Mister, guess I’m a little tired. I’ve been on the road most of the day. It’s not much of a story really. It started with a call yesterday afternoon.”

For the next few minutes I told my tale. I had been down in Bossier City, Louisiana working as a freelance guitar player and singer at some River Boat Casinos. Yesterday I had received a call from an old friend whose band was playing at a club on Beal Street in Memphis. He needed some temporary help. That was Thursday, this was Friday, and I had to be there tomorrow, Saturday. I told him I would be there, packed my bag and hit the road.

My old car had been pretty much done in. Two hundred seventy thousand miles will do that. It had finally taken its last breath about five miles up the road from where I had been walking. I had simply pushed it off the road and left it.

The driver made a sidewise shift of his eyes. “So, are you just about helping out a friend or is it something more?”

“Yeah well, I am going to help him out for a while but I do have bigger dreams.”

“Yes, well most do son, most do.” With a slight pause he turned slightly toward me. “Look, I know you must be tired. Just relax there and rest awhile. We’ll talk more later.”

I was suddenly very tired. Even though I fought it, I couldn’t keep my eyes open. As I settled a little deeper into the seat the last thing I heard was the driver humming that song again.

I awoke with a start. We had stopped. A quick glance around showed that we were parked at a roadside store. Looking down the highway I could read a sign that said Memphis 110 miles. I glanced at the old Cadillac’s dashboard clock, 2:17 A.M. I couldn’t believe that I had slept so long. But, more importantly how had we come so far so fast.

A few minutes later we were back on the road. The driver gave me an intense studying look then asked, “Son, are you planning on the music business as a career.”

“Mister, I’ve been playing since I was five years old. I really don’t know anything else. In my backpack are about 40 songs that I have written. After Memphis my plan is to go Nashville. With a little luck I will be a star someday.”

Abruptly his tone chilled. I felt a thousand goose bumps form as he spoke. “Well, I can see you have yet to learn that the music business is a long hard road, a really hard road. I know. I started out pretty much like you. In fact you remind me of my young self. Sometimes though, you just have to make your own luck.”

“You are in the music business? Would I know any of your music? You do look sort of familiar.”

His tone was now a little sadder. “Well, let’s just say that I was doing pretty well until I made a few bad decisions. Anyway, that was a long time ago. Son, the music business can be like a giant leech. If you are not careful it will suck the lifeblood right out of you. You look like a bright young man. I will give you two little pieces of advice. Well, not exactly advise, more like warnings. Believe me, it comes from first hand experience.”

He stopped talking and a sudden stillness came over him like he was reaching for far dark memories. A few seconds later a shiver ran over his body and he continued. “First of all, choose your friends wisely. Many will pretend to be friendly but will take everything they can. Just bleed you till there is nothing left. The second is probably the most important warning I can give. Stay away from booze and drugs.”

“Mister, I don’t use drugs or booze. I haven’t had a drink in over a year.”

“That is fine for now. As you get more established in the business, more famous as you say, the pressures will increase daily. Two to three hundred days each year on the road will do that to you. Sometimes it gets so bad that you can’t even remember what city you’re performing. You can’t let that happen. Using the booze and drugs won’t help. You just have to do whatever it takes to get by, shorter concert tours, frequent trips home, whatever.”

Bitterly, as though talking to himself he continued, “Once the booze and drugs take over, you’re finished.”

He stopped talking again then after a few seconds his mood lightened and he started humming. I knew that song, I couldn’t remember the name but it was right on the tip of my tongue. I started to ask him the name but was too embarrassed.

Ninety minutes later we were approaching the lights of a big city. The driver pulled over where the road forked. One fork was to the brightly lit city, the other into the darkness of the country night.

He slowly turned to me and in a quiet sad voice said. “Son, this is far as I go. Those lights up ahead, that’s Memphis. Oh, one thing to remember, the music business can be a wonderful career. Just be sure that you can control it, if not, it will surely control you. Goodbye son, remember my warnings and good luck to you.”

I retrieved my gear, stood by the roadside and said. “Thank you so much mister, I surely do appreciate the ride, and the advice. By the way, will you tell me your name?”

“No son, I believe you already know.”

With a wave of his hand the driver turned and slowly drove off down the dark country road. In less than a second he and the big dark car vanished. I stared for a few minutes trying to make sense of what had just happened and what I had experienced this night.

Finally I turned and began a slow walk toward the bright city lights. Thoughts of the driver’s words kept moving through my mind. After a short distance I turned for one last look down the darkened road. Floating through the air on a soft summer breeze I could hear singing in a voice I instantly recognized. It was the song the driver had been humming all night. “Since my baby left me, I’ve found a new place to dwell. Its down at the end of lonely street, its . . .”

End
 


 

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COPYRIGHT NOTICE
© 2003 P J Lawton
STORYMANIA PUBLICATION DATE
February 2004
NUMBER OF TIMES TITLE VIEWED
1724
 

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