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Race The Devil

race the devil


Estimated reading time — 40 minutes

The year was 2042 and the month was April. My doctor, a pretty young gal that looked like she should still be in med school, …she told me that it was time that I gave up driving and relied more upon automated public transportation. I knew that my glaucoma was getting worse… Maybe my reflexes were too. But, it was still a shock for me to hear her say it out loud.

As she explained all of this to me, for some reason, my eyes seemed to mist up a bit. I didn’t want to look like an old fool in front of such a smart, pretty gal. But, I couldn’t help it. I think that she may have misinterpreted my demeanor. She continued, muttering, “It says here that you were born in Detroit. -Isn’t that where they used to make all those old fashioned automobiles?”

“Yeah. That’s where they used to make ’em alright.”

“Now, please Mr. Loma, don’t get upset. (I wished that she’d just call me “Johnny.”) This is something that we all have to deal with in time.” You might find the idea of not driving yourself a little off putting at first. But with more than half of the cars on the roads today being totally automated, why not join the rest of the crowd and take it easy in the back? It’s how I get to work. -L.A. county has a very nice selection of free driver-less cars that will show up right outside of your assisted living facility, at any time of the day that isn’t under curfew.”

Maybe she was right. What was I doing driving around anymore?
I was never going to find what I was looking for out on the road.
Out on any road. We were all restricted to the slow lanes anyway. Those robot cars blew by us like we weren’t even there.

After my appointment, I carefully drove myself back to my one bedroom apartment. I lived on the third floor. As I pulled up to the entrance to the main grounds, the sensors in the car actuated the automated gates. It started to rain. I left the car out under the carport and made a run for the vestibule and the sanitation station. Later from my balcony, I nursed a large glass of mescal. It was strong. I gazed down at the raindrops as they bounced off the roof of the carport. It was so hypnotic. I was 80 years old. I took an Ambien.

Let the fucking doctors think what they will.

It was a relief. A relief I tell you. I never wanted to drive again.

Here in L.A. I thought that I could leave it all behind. Allow myself to get lost in the years, the miles and the future. It was my age. (80) It was the month of the year… That’s all it was. It was all these things and more that kept pushing my mind back.

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Yeah. I was born in Detroit.

But, I never could get as far away as I wanted.

As I pulled the covers up to my neck that night, I felt cold.
Detroit cold. Could I possibly will myself to dream about that night again? I’ve tried to run it over in my head so many times.

Detroit, Detroit.
I was always in Detroit.

In Detroit, it was always Thursday, the third week of April 1980 and I’m all of 18 years old. I didn’t get my driver’s license until then, as I was the type of kid that refused to sit still for any teacher, in any class. (I’d been a dropout ever since I’d been 17.) Such was the case, and situation for me, when it came to driver’s education.

On the very first day, when they told me all the rules and bullshit regarding the class, -and that I’d either have to accept it, or I’d never see my license, Well, I just wasn’t gonna sit still for that either.

I told Mr. Bugny when I was 16, (This was way back in ’77.)
…I called him “Mr. Bug-me” -like he’d never heard that one before! What he could do with all his rules and what-nots, …and that he could do it twice on Sundays as well, and I walked the hell right out of there.

Fast forward a couple, three years later, (This is when I’m 18 now.)
I strolled right into the DMV, took the damn test and that was it. Boom. Less than an hour later, I was rechristened with new rights as a citizen with privileges, that I was way more than happy to take advantage of…and abuse.

First thing I did was to steam roll my old lady into closing that life insurance policy that she had out on me. She’d been paying into it for years and being that I was going to live forever anyway, I never saw no reason for it. …and besides, I could use that money to put some wheels under me.

From the way I figured, my maw looked at it like this was gonna be the big payoff, or something. She was gonna kick me out soon enough anyway.

From her perspective, she probably felt that she was doin’ me this big favor by getting me something to keep the rain off my head, while I’d be livin’ on the street.

If memory still serves me, she had exactly $5,000 squirreled away in that policy. Well, not long after I got that money in my sweaty little paws, I flew like a bird down the street to this guy I knew, who had some of the hottest rods on the block.

I know that this is many years later, …and, as I sit, live and breathe here today, I could very easily give you his name without any recriminations or ramifications to myself or my life. I could very easily put it down right here. But I won’t. I will never say this person’s name again. -Let’s just say, for the sake of the story, that we’ll call him, “Daniel”.

Okay?

Anyway, down the road a ways later, less than a year actually… This friend of mine “Daniel”, he met with an unfortunate accident involving a gun, a hot blonde, and a guy that wore his colors with a bit more pride than most other men.

Yup, It’s all too true. My dearly departed friend came to a rather inauspicious end when he got caught messin’ around with the wrong mans lady. -You know the kind of guy I’m talkin’ about. (You’ve probably run into one or two yourself.) The kind of guy that took Daniel out, was the type of gear-head that wore an old blue jean-jacket vest, with an embroidered patch on the back.

So, as I’ve already said, I’m not going to go into the details about him or anything. It’s never really worth it, to write down too much about any one person’s life. Especially if that shit can come back around and bite you in the ass. …if ya know what I mean.

But, I don’t want to get sidetracked.

Anyway, it was only about a year later that he got whacked.

Although he was 21 at the time, in many ways Daniel was a lot like any of the other younger kids on my block. Except to say, I’d always found that there was always something a little peculiar about the dude. First off, he was the type of kid that you usually only ran into late at night, or just before dawn. He was like 3 years older than me, (Not really a ‘kid’.) …but he still lived in his mothers basement, He’d never invite anyone in. (…least of all me!) He always seemed to smell like weed, but when pressed he’d invariably claim that he was dry.

I found him this night, just after dark, sittin’ in front of his mothers old shack smokin’ a filterless Camel. He had a couple of those cheap aluminum lawn chairs sittin’ beside him, empty. Not to crowd the man, I scrapped one along the oil stained driveway until I felt comfortable enough to sit down next to him.

I gestured to the shit brown Ford that he had parked out there, in the street. I’d had my eye on it for about a week. I said, “I see that you’ve got a ‘4 Sale’ sign up in that LTD’s back window…”

He says, “Yeah, It’s ’71. It’s the brougham. Top of the line.

I picked up that little beauty about a month ago in a trade for some coke and some cash. You like ‘er?”

“Yeah,” I said. “She’s sweet. How much are you lookin’ to get for it?”

“A lot more than you can afford,” he replied. And he took a little bit of tobacco off the tip of his tongue and flicked it into the encroaching night. “With all the modifications and custom paint …It’s even got the dual mirrors on the sides. …bet I could get 5 G’s easy for it.” He stated with finality.

I crossed my hands in front of me and looked down at my feet. “Well, I don’t know about that.” I said.

Strangely enough, …It was as if he knew exactly how much money I had in the pocket of my leather. He suddenly looked off, kinda sly like into the night sky, like he was tryin’ to dial in exactly how far he could take me, …and then as quick as the devil could snap his fingers,
(…I swear, it was like someone was whisperin’ into his ear or something.) he says, “I can let you have ‘er for four thousand if you’ve got the scratch.”

Right then and there, I knew I had to have that car. It had to be mine. But, at the same time, I couldn’t help but feel a little incredulous. Like, How the fuck does this head know how much money I’ve got? He ain’t no mind reader.

I wasn’t going to give him nearly every penny I had.

So’s I lie to him, I tell him, I says: “Look, I can give you the 4,000 that you want for it, Daniel. It’s just that I ain’t got that much on me this week. How about I give you thirty-five hundred for it tonight, and pay off the rest to you at the end of the month?”

He looks at me all contrite, looks me straight in the eye and says: “Well, I ain’t never been one to give any credit to anyone. That just ain’t my way.”

-I told ’em, I said; “Look, I live just down the street. You’ve known me for years. I ain’t goin’ nowhere. …and the car wouldn’t be goin’ anywhere either. Whattay say? Let’s strike a deal.”

Oh, he hems and haws a little bit more, and acts like I’m really givin’ him the business. So much so, that I was starting to feel a little awkward. He takes a couple of slow quiet drags off his smoke. Then, just a moment or two later, he lights up like a Halloween jack-o-lantern and is all like, “Okay, Johnny ma’ boy. You’ve got yourself a deal!”

It was me then who hesitated. Even though I’d lived just down the street from the guy my whole life, I wasn’t planning on pulling out any giant roll of cash right there in front of him. You see, Daniel also had a pretty bad reputation, and I wasn’t gonna get rolled just a stone’s throw away from my mother’s own house.

I told him, “GREAT!” But, I’d have to go back home and get the cash. He in turn, I assumed, would retreat inside (…to a place that I’d never been.) and retrieve the title. Of course, Johnny Loma’s mama never raised no fools, -so, I insisted that I have the proper legal paper on the car that very night.

Daniel then started to act like I was really putting him out, he said that he’d have to ‘…poke around in his room and find it.’ but in my mind, I knew that he had it in there somewhere. …and I was already halfway home and digging into my pockets to peel off the 1,500 that I wasn’t going to give to anyone but my dealer or the liquor store that was down at the end of the street.

I headed toward my house, but as I went, I figured after a while, Daniel couldn’t see me, so I turned back around before I even got to my mother’s driveway.

I found him waiting for me in the street with the paper laying on top of the hood of the car.

Now, before he signed it over, I do recall him giving me this caution.
I don’t exactly remember what or how he said it, but he even repeated it to me twice. He just wanted to make sure that it was all too clear to me that I was to be prompt in my final payment to him of the last 500 dollars. That he wasn’t gonna wind up bein’ anybody’s bitch or something like that, and that he wanted me to know all of this, right from the get.

He ended with: “I don’t want to have to come looking for you on the 30th.” (Which was actually, only 6 days away.)

I wasn’t intentionally planning on fucking the guy over, or anything. He’d get his money. I’d never risk something like that. Daniel was way too scary. This weekend I just wanted to make sure that I had enough bread to party with my friend’s and cruise around in my new ride.

I swear that I don’t even remember shaking his hand on the deal.
I don’t. …and I don’t even wanna try to bring up a memory like that again. I don’t wanna talk about it either.

But, before the stroke of midnight, the keys were in my pocket.

With $1,500 dollars in my boot, I left the car warm and parked right in front of my mothers old house on Humble Street.

Friday morning came around just as it should. From the floor above, I could hear my senile old grandmother and my mother, chatting upstairs. I could smell the eggs, bacon and coffee. …In a normal household, these would have been welcoming sensations.

But, not in our house.

I roused, put on a t-shirt and jeans …and then crawled out from my own basement dwelling.

My mother, with her hands in the sink (She was always washin’ something.) Scowled up at me. “Well, that money ran through your fingers quick enough! -Johnny! You’re never going to amount to shit!” Now, you’re gonna go out thinkin’ that you’re a big bad man, and wrap that thing around a lamppost out on 96.”

“…and that will be the end of you!”

“Aww, Maw! I just woke up! Can’t you give me a break? I didn’t just buy the first car that I saw! (I did.) I got it off of Daniel Flowers down the street. He gave me a great deal.” (I lied.)

For a moment I felt like I was 10 again, whining from my mother’s apron strings.

“That Daniel!” She exclaimed like she was in a church or something. And then, she quickly spat on the dirty dishes before her, in the sink. “He thinks that he’s the cat’s pajamas, but he ain’t nothin’ but the Devil’s own imp, I tell ya!”

“His mother don’t even like ’em!”

My ancient, but once wise old grandmother also eyed me with some suspicion from her position in the kitchen. From her worn blue vinyl chair at the breakfast table, a cup of black coffee in front of her, she crouched behind a dry piece of toast and opined: “Never buy a dark horse at night! They’ll take you straight to the Devil, they will!”

In those days, you sometimes couldn’t make heads or tails of what the ol’ lady was tryin’ to tell you. Bemused, I leaned in toward her that morning. I was actually feelin’ pretty good. With a little giggle, I said “It’s not a Mustang Grandma, It’s an LTD…” …and I kissed her on the cheek.

She was the only person that had the capacity to actually love in that old house.

My mother was still in a snit: “You can’t go around drivin’ that thing without insurance. You’ll get arrested!” I knew that she was bound to find something to go on about. She just wasn’t the type of person to give up once she found a bone that she could get a good grip on.

I knew I had to get the hell out of there. I grabbed up a couple of greasy pieces of bacon and a paper towel that lay there on the countertop and said, “Don’t worry about it Mom, I’ve got it all covered.” (I didn’t.)

“Well you just make sure that you do,” she said mockingly. “It’s my understanding that Daniel Flowers breaks the legs of those that can’t pay up. You don’t owe that hood any money, do you?”

“Naw, Mom, (I lied again.) it’s nothing like that. He’s actually a really nice guy, once you get to know him. -You never give anyone a chance.” She harrumphed, “I will know him not!

Not on this day, nor any other!”

“Well, you’re gonna do what you’re gonna do. Me? I’m goin’ down to the car wash and give my new ride the works. I’m goin’ cruising tonight and I want things to be just right.”

“Well then go!” she screamed.

Bacon in mouth, I threw on my boots, grabbed my leather jacket and out the back door I fled.

I’ll spare you most of the mundane details of those early morning hours. I filled up my gas tank at the Standard Station, then I went around through the alley to the corner liquor store and used my older brother’s ID. (It was like the only thing that he ever gave me.)

He’d been gone for about a year. I don’t know where he went. Anyway, I bought myself 6 bottles of that Mad Dog fortified wine that they had in there. The blue stuff.

After the booze, the car wash, and filling up the tank …I still had about 1,400 bucks and a couple of stray 5’s and a 20 dollar bill. I pushed what I had left, deep into my blue jeans pocket.

I remember most of that quite well. But, to tell you the truth, The rest all kinda starts to blur now.

I thought to myself, if I died that very day, I couldn’t be sent to a sweeter heaven. The car purred like a kitten and the cabin was quiet, clean and warm. It still even had that “new car smell”. Hell, I was in love with the damn thing. It took me no time at all to square things away in its enormous trunk. I’d have bet right then and there that I could fit just about everything I owed in it.

From the way things were goin’ in my life, I just might have to.

By that afternoon I found myself across town in a neighborhood that was a lot nicer than mine. I left my LTD parked across the street from my old ex-one time drug-dealer’s place.

He too, lived at his parents house.

His name was Gerard Manard. (…Now who would give a kid a name like that?!) I went around to, and through a backdoor that was there on the side of his garage. That door led to another door that would have gone straight into the house.

I knocked.

Now, you probably notice right away, that I ain’t too afraid to talk about ol’ Gerard, …not like I am about my other friend, the aforementioned , “Daniel”.

That’s because years later, …after they’d invented the internet, I heard from an old classmate who said that by the end of the 1980’s and disco, Gerard Manard’s cheese had done slid off his cracker.

A lot of people said that it was all mescaline and acid that did it.

Without ever seeing him again, I couldn’t say for sure, but, the probability that something of that nature would occur, was inevitable.

A little like Daniel, he was a bit older than me, and he didn’t like to have any visitors inside either. But that’s where the similarities ended. His mom and dad were like these hard core Christians. They seemed to have no idea that their blonde haired, blue eyed buttercup of a son was dealin’ ‘cid and coke right there, out of their very own garage.

“So, what do ya need, kido’?” Gerard was this huge dude. At six foot plus, he towered over me, …and just about everyone else as well. (He liked to lift weights.) We stood in between two expensive Chrysler cars that his folk’s had parked beside one another. One of them was covered. With nothing but a bare light bulb over our heads, it was kinda cold and dim in there, as he preferred to keep the garage door closed.

“I’ll keep this short and sweet.” I said. I just need an eight ball of coke and if you’ve got ’em, six hits of mesc.

“What bank did you just rob, kido’?” He ruffled my hair like he was my dad or something. “I saw that new ride of yours out front, -look’s pretty sweet!” I feigned a punch at his rock hard bicep, and joked like he was my best friend, (He wasn’t.) “Oh, you know how it is Gerard, I gotta keep the ladies happy!”

“Well, the six hits of mesc. That’ll be just 12 bucks. But the coke, …that’ll cost ya 280.”

What was it with these older guys? They all seemed to have like this x-ray vision or something. He was going to leave me with nothing but about a thousand bucks to my name.

I didn’t care. I wasn’t gonna remember this weekend anyway. (How wrong I was!) “Okay, Gerard Manard, (I said his whole name like that, because I used to like the way that it rhymed.) you have got yourself a deal!”

As usual, We both tried to act cool, and look like the next exchange was something that we’d been doing all our lives. As I’m reachin’ down, to pluck just about all that I had left in the whole wide world from my jeans, Gerard, like a magician, simply mirrored my actions. But instead; He produced a single tied baggie that was sparkling white and round as a ping pong ball, but a couple sizes smaller.

He placed the baggie in the palm of my left hand and I put 300 bucks cash in his left hand (In drug deals there is no such a thing as “change back” from your purchase, so, I knew that I had lost another 8 bucks just for the privilege of bein’ there.)

Then, from his other pocket he pulls out this glass vial. (Now, this is when the whole deal went south.) …he pops the top off of the vial.

(He must a’ had like about 200 hits of mescaline in that thing!) Holding the lid in his other hand, He real quick like, pours me out the 6 hits.

Well, me, I didn’t have jack-shit to put them in. Or, at least I thought that I didn’t. Then, it was I who performed a magic trick, as it was miraculous that I was able to find that paper towel from the morning in my jacket, just in the nick of time.

While I’m stuffing the paper into my leathers vest pocket, Gerard is tryin’ to push the tiny lid back on the vial.

Suddenly, out of nowhere Mrs. Manard swings open the other door that leads into the house.

“Gerard! What are you doing out here?” she cried. Meanwhile Gerard, (With his back to his mother) flinches like the sketchy fuck that I’d always known him to be, and the whole fuckin’ vial jumps from his hand like it’s got a life of its own.

He jerks like an alley cat, and snaps the damn thing right out of midair, but it’s too late!

Like two hundred little fireflies, all these tiny white microdots suddenly exploded and fanned out from the vial, bouncing and disappearing between and under the two cars.

“MOM! Oh my God! You scared me!”
…and as for me…

I’m looking straight at her. And he, very sheepishly, is looking over his shoulder while I’m turning a whiter shade of pale. “Hello, Mrs. Manard. It’s just me, Johnny Loma.”

“Oh, Johnny Loma! How are you today? God bless you!” (I’m really just tryin’ to keep my cool.) My eyes darted back to Gerard. I could plainly see that he’s just a powder keg, waiting to blow. I never saw a monkey so mad in all my life. All the veins in his neck were bulging out.

She continues like she’s talking to two kids playin’ in the sunshine.
“Well you should both come in, it’s cold out here. I have Pop-tarts! And, Gerard! You know better than to blaspheme in front of a guest!” -And just like that, the door slammed shut even quicker than when she had opened it.

Whatever we looked like, it sure wasn’t like two good little schoolboys. But, Mrs. Manard, she had a pretty bad case of what they now-a-days might call, “Cognitive dissonance”.

I suspect, even as Gerard’s brain melted, she probably never saw a thing. She would’ve just kept on prayin’ and smiling.

Right away, I start moving toward the side door. I always knew when it was time to split. Gerard is furious. “Holy fuckin’ shit!” He spit out a whisper through his gritted teeth. “Help me quick Johnny! …before she comes back!” He was torn between dropping to his knees to look for his errant stash and, or grabbing me by the throat.

I wasn’t the type to wear out my welcome. I opened the door that went back outside, and said, “Here, let me let some light in!” …and I gingerly stepped over the threshold and back into the yard by the side of the house next door.

“Hey, Johnny! You can’t leave me like this! You’ve gotta help me man! You owe me!” -I instantly knew what it all would have turned into, had I stayed.

I needed to get the hell out there while I still had what I had. …I kept my all cool and said; “Hey man, there all right there, you’ve just gotta look an’ find ’em.”

A breeze rose up, and it seemed that the door opened wider of its own accord. I could hear it creaking behind me as I moved steadily across the front lawn toward my car.

I was getting the stink eye from Gerard. I could feel his eyes drilling into the back of my head, but I just had to keep on walkin’.
He wasn’t about to start something with me right there on his front lawn.

I turned just a bit and I could see his mother, all waving goodbye to me from the living room bay window. She had a big smile on her face.

I hopped into the car real smooth like, and she turned over on the first try. Pulling away, I saw Gerard standing between the houses.

…with both of his middle fingers held high in the air, he was flipping me a double bird.

I never saw him again.

I drove back to my side of town. The shitty side. I stashed the coke and mesc in the glovebox. I needed a shower, and would risk my mother’s wrath, one final time for the day, so’s I could wash and shave.

My plans for the afternoon and evening were beginning to gel in my brain.

I only had a couple of real friends. Most of them were assholes. Actually, a lot of them. One such asshole was this kid that lived about twelve blocks over from me. His name was Kevin Hammer. He was just about a year younger than me, and even though he had some pretty serious issues and habits, he and I would hang out just about every Friday night. The only two things that we had in common was our love of playing guitar and video games.

Now, I’ve already admitted that Kevin was an asshole…
So, you’re probably wondering why I’d wanna hang out with such a J.D. -But, You see …Kevin had this sister.

An older sister. Her name was Dawn. She was 19 and liked to get high. …and even though I was younger than her, she never gave me any crap about it. As a matter of fact, just the opposite. Even before I could drive, we used to sit together with Kevin in their basement and make eyes at each other. It was like we were two big-time wrestlers, sizing up one another for a fight or something.

Sometimes I’d attempt to serenade her on this crappy 5 string guitar
that Kevin had down there. I swear that thing was un-tuneable.

Dawn was actually pretty cool. Solicitous too. She always seemed to have a joint or a bag of weed, and she didn’t mind sharing. She had these stunning green eyes and black hair that went down to the middle of her back.

And, being that she was always getting up to grab an ashtray or flip a record on the turntable, I always had plenty of opportunity to check out that perfect ass of hers, which was usually wrapped up in a tight pair of black cordaroys.

That Friday afternoon with my LTD parked out on their long blacktop driveway, I sat with them both again. …cutting out these huge lines on a glass side table, while she rummaged through a stack of records. Invariably, she’d decide on Led Zeppelin’s third album. The acoustic one. She liked to get high while listening to those songs “That’s The Way” and “Tangerine”.

“So, big spender, are we gonna get high and cruise tonight?” She only had to glance over her shoulder to know the reality of the situation. “You can bet on that, you green eyed devil!” I said with confidence. We all nursed our own giant individual bottles of Mad Dog 20/20 that I’d distributed upon my arrival.

Returning from the record player, she handed me a lit joint.

With each line of coke that we’d do, the liquid in our bottles decreased and glowed a brighter shade of blue. Kevin and I both understood that Dawn would probably bow out before we’d even hit the road. She was kind of a light weight. -She just wanted a snootful, and maybe I’d get a chance at a handful or more (…if you know what I mean.) but, that kind of a trade was just fine by me.

Kevin was giddy and excited. He wanted to drive out to the bowling lanes and play some video games. He was always kinda’ hyper. He smacked his hands together. “Man-o-man! I can’t believe that you scored on such a cool ride! We’ll burn up 96 tonight and nobody will be faster than us!”

“Yeah, we gonna go real fast tonight.” I concurred.

Our first round of drinks were finished. All three bottles were gone. It was nearly 8 p.m. The afternoon turned to dusk and the sun was about to set. Time just seemed to burn away. “Hey man, before it gets dark I want to show you something. I’ve got a little surprise for you guys out in my new car, I almost forgot all about it. Let’s go.” I poured the rest of the coke into a giant one-hitter that Kevin had thrown at me, and I stashed it inside my leather’s internal pocket.

“Okay.” Kevin said. …and we all got up. I must have stood up too fast, and it felt like the whole room was contracting and off kilter.
“Whoa you guys! I am so fucked up!”

The climb up the stairway reminded me of a tunnel, and as we all marched up, my boot got caught on a step, and I fell face first right into Dawn’s ass. Keven cracked up, an’ was all like: “Hey, I can leave you two down here alone and I’ll go crusin’ by myself!”

“Fat chance!” I shot back and quickly got on my feet. With a concerned look on her face, Dawn turned around in the tight stairwell and said, “You okay, Johnny?” “Yeah.” I responded. Though I could tell, I’d scraped my shin right through my jeans, I wasn’t gonna look or even say anything about it in front of Kevin.

He’d just laugh.

Out on their expansive driveway, the three of us stood by my car. I opened the long door and slid in. Again, it turned over the first time. There was a wet chill in the air. I turned on the blower and put the heat on low.

There was some mist in the air and a slight fog clung to the street and shadows. It was gonna be a cool night.

Even though it was late April, there were still days that the streets would stay wet until night, and then after that, maybe even icy. I reached under the passenger’s side of the seat and brought out the three other bottles of Mad Dog. They were cold. I handed one to each of them and we cracked them all at once. Kevin took a deep slug.
I leaned across the bench seat and opened up the glove box and retrieved the wadded up piece of paper. The cab light above me was on and it was just enough for the brother and sister to see.

“You scored some Mesc! You son of a bitch!” Kevin exclaimed.
“Two hits each!” I said. And I then popped my share into my mouth and tucked them between my cheek and gum. “Don’t leave us behind!” Kevin said and immediately took two hits from the paper in my hand.

I held the remaining set up to Dawn, but she demurred. She shook her black mane. “You guys go ahead and split ’em. “I think that this bottle of M.D. will be enough to set me straight.”

Before I could even ask her again, Kevin reached in and took another hit. I looked up at Dawn and said, “Last chance for romance, kido.” …but, again she demurred. “I know that Kevin wants to go play video games, you may need it while you trip through that asteroid belt.”

I smiled up at her. “Thank’s baby.” And, I popped that third hit into my mouth before the other two had even dissolved. Kevin took another deep guzzle of the blue stuff and walked around to the passenger side and smirked.

“You guys are gonna make me puke if you keep mooning on each other. Let’s go Loma!”

He swung open the door and hopped in. “Let’s get this scrap heap goin’, Johnny!” he razzed. We shut the doors and the cabin light went off and I turned on the headlamps and we slowly backed up. Standing in front of the car, Dawn held her blue bottle high as if in salute. “Don’t call me if you get popped!” she laughingly cried.

Taking side streets, we headed south toward 96. It was only about 13 miles down the freeway to the bowling alley. “Are you feelin’ this shit?!” Kevin exclaimed. “Man, I could take on anyone tonight. I’d fight the Devil! Come on Johnny, let’s go blast some asteroids!”

He turned the blower up along with the heat, and brought down the passenger window a bit. He lit a cigarette and leaned back. “Ya know Johnny,” Kevin breathed out a thick cloud of smoke, “I keep wonderin’ when you’re gonna slip it to Dawn. Are you sure you’re packin’ the right stuff down there?” He jerked suddenly, and while feigning a blow to my sack, I almost spilled my drink. “How ’bout givin’ me a shot off that one hitter? I’m gonna need it, or this Mad Dog is gonna be the end of me.”

He took another hard swallow from his own bottle.

I hated it when he talked about Dawn like that. I thought that one day, I might just wanna pound him real good. He was only tryin’ to distract me, so’s he could get some more coke. I handed him the vial and turned left and onto the service drive above the freeway. There was an entrance ramp about a half mile down Schoolcraft, and I’d get on 96, there.

I’d really open ‘er up. I’d show ’em what I was packin’.

The mist had turned into a light rain. And we’d reached the entrance to 96. I turned on the windshield wipers on low and we both peered down the slick ramp. There wasn’t another car in sight.

But, way down there, …where the ramp met the highway, we both could see this one lone guy standin’ on the side of the road under a burned out lamp post.

Even though he was cast in shadow, I could tell that he was a tall dude. He was wearin’ a dark trench coat. I couldn’t see what color it was. He was lookin’ right up the ramp at us.

The guy stuck out what looked like a thumb.

I felt a deep chill run through me. “That dude looks fucked.” Kevin burped. “What the fuck is he doin’ standin’ in the rain down there? He thinks he’s gonna get a ride outta us? HA!” He brought his knees up to his stomach and cackled with foolish exaggeration.

Then, suddenly sounding sober, Kevin snorted from the one hitter and tossed it back to me. “What say we give him the business?

Let’s say we fake ’em out.”

I knew what he ment. It was a cruel joke usually played on friends, just to jerk them around a bit. If you’re of a certain age, you’ve probably done it yourself. You’d drive just past your mate, and then when they’d start toward the car, you’d peel off real fast and then stop just a little further ways down the road. Of course, they’d get all pissed and run at you like you were gonna leave them behind.

…and then you’d do it again.

Juvenile. To be sure. But, an effective way to get your friend’s goat. Inevitably, you’d just pull over and let them in. But, tonight Kevin wasn’t talkin’ about anything like that.

He wanted to fuck this guy over and leave him flat.

“Sure,” I said. I figured either way, I wasn’t gonna let this soakin’ wet bum in for a ride. Let Kevin have his fun.

We started down the ramp at a slow speed, creeping like we were going to stop for the guy. Kevin pushed the button and unrolled the passenger window even more, like he was gonna say something to him.

As we approached the dude, the guy held out his hand as if in greeting, or to even just slow us down more. His hand lightly slid across the passenger side fender. Kevin and I both heard a high scratching sound and looked at eachother, like “What the fuck?”

Now, I’m startin’ to feel really nervous. So’s I pass him just a little bit. And Kevin too, he was also giving off this really strange vibe.

Out of nowhere, he suddenly throws his half-filled M.D. bottle out the window. It must have shattered right in front of the guy. He screams out at him, “Hey, asshole, if you wanna ride, you’re gonna have to catch us first!”.

He looks back over at me, and shouts, “Hit it Johnny!”
Well, I stomp on the petal and I just peel. I could hear the wheels spinning. I could smell the rubber burning. But, like I said, the entrance ramp was pretty slick. -I just spun out at first, and I wasn’t goin’ anywhere.

Kevin’s cigarette fell from his mouth. He turned white as a sheet and he’s got both of his hands on the window’s actuator as if he can’t make it go up any faster.

I looked over my right shoulder. I just saw a shadow attempting to grasp out at the car. Like a sadistic teacher’s nails on a chalkboard, the scraping sound became even more intolerable, and Kevin and I both heard him shout out to us.

“STOP! STOP! You owe me! YOU OWE ME!”

I can only say… It was not the voice of a dirty old bum.

It was low and deep. More like a growling. It was loud. It was so very loud, that I thought that my head would explode.

It was the voice of the Devil.

“YOU OWE ME!”

…and his words seemed to reverberate throughout the car and into my very bones!

Wavering slightly, the LTD finally caught pavement and shot forward. As a prankster, normally you’d just pull over and maybe do it again, or you’d simply let your now aggrieved passenger aboard. But, not in this case. No.

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I couldn’t imagine ever stopping again.

Kevin was thrown back as we accelerated. Drunk and wasted. His head rolled toward me and his tongue lolled out of his mouth. “That was the Devil!” He cried. “The Devil was out there!” he spat.”Well, we just left the Devil in the dirt.” I retorted with no confidence. Knowing
the road was open ahead, my eyes were glued to the dual rearview mirrors that Daniel had been braggin’ on.

Kevin’s eyes moved directly to the passenger’s side mirror. Through the cold April rain, we both saw the bum at the same time. Earlier, Kevin had turned up the heat to full blast. But inexplicably, our breath was now visible in the air. You could feel the temperature drop in the whole car. An atomized spray of ice emitted from both of our mouths.

The dude started running right after us.

All herky-jerky at first. Definitely irregular. But, like a professional runner, or a large horse just out of the gate, its motions suddenly became more fluid.

Even above the sound of the racing engine and our acceleration, we both could hear him advancing on us. We could feel it. Kevin’s eyes were startin’ to bug out of his head and I can only imagine that I didn’t look much different.

“He’s comin’ up on my side!” Kevin blurted.

“HE’S COMIN’!

You gotta go faster Johnny! You’ve got to!” He actually began to cry.

I could hardly keep control of the car. (I was spontaneously crying too.) …without even looking, I instinctually veered left into the fast lane. I was already going 80 miles an hour. Over the many years, again and again, I’ve thanked the powers that be that there were no other cars on the road that night.

I didn’t know what was after us, I just wanted to get as far away from it as fast as I could.

I wanted to look back over my shoulder, but I was too afraid. I knew it was there. I knew it was coming.

I couldn’t even handle what I was seeing in the mirrors. The highway behind us suddenly grew brighter. Like we were being chased by a hot rod or something that was throwin’ off sparks and flame.

It was running so fast that it was throwin’ off flame.

Kevin was seeing everything that I was. (…Or at least I thought that he was.) He again drew his knees back up to his chest. …but this time, he wasn’t joking. He was crunching himself into a tight ball. His eyes were glazed, tears were starting to freeze on his face. “Johnny, I want to go home.” …he moaned and he turned away from the mirror.

“He’s comin’!” He quietly squealed.

The image that I saw in the mirror was getting bigger.
…and clearer. It was gaining on us. The incessant clomping of its feet. Its hooves! It was just behind Kevin in the passenger window.

It must have shed its coat, as it was now bare chested and streaming steam and fire in the cold rain. While it closed in on us, it continued to scratch at the side of the car’s rear window trying to gain purchase. “You owe me Loma! You owe me!”

He took a grab for the passenger side mirror and pulled it off the car like it was nothing. I could hear the clanking as it fell behind us.

“Hey Johnny, the guy says you owe him!” Kevin was losing his mind. I couldn’t believe it when the thing sped up directly across from him. Then, like it was standing still. It delicately tapped a long claw-like finger on his window. I had to look. Kevin’s pleading eyes stared right back at me, away from the grotesque monstrosity.

“I need to talk to you now Loma! Hear me!” It thundered.

“He wants to talk to you Johnny! Kevin hysterically cried.

“Well, I don’t wanna talk to him!” I tried to keep my foot on the petal and my eyes on the road, but it was …impossible.

“No man! you should do it. Maybe he just wants a ride!” Kevin looked like he was about to die. “You should probably hear what he has to say, it could be important.” …and his right finger crawled up to the window button.

“Don’t open that window you asshole!” I screamed.
Kevin fumbled blindly for the right button. (…as he refused to look.)
I didn’t know if he was gonna let the fucker in or not! I just gazed in disbelief.

My co-pilots window began to retract completely.

“Hey, Devil!” Kevin shouted at the windshield, “Fuck You!” And then he turned to the right and looked that devil straight in the eyes. …and he went right ahead and puked a spray of blue projectile vomit so abrupt and violently expelled, that it would have made the actual Linda Blair blush.

It hit that cocksucker right square in the face and he screamed like someone had lit his whole head on fire! “You dare! YOU DARE!”
We heard it gurgle and spit. Fuming, it fell behind.

“YOU OWE ME!” It screamed out to us from the rain and night.

Kevin had done the job alright, but his leather jacket was now covered in blue puke that had big globs of coke mixed in. He rolled up the window and laughed like he’d gone too far and he slobbered, “I puked in the Devil’s face! I did it!

He smelled like he’d pissed himself too.

“I actually puked in the Devil’s face!”

He continued to laugh like a loon. He was losing it. He was gonna pass out. “I puked in Daniel’s face!” He finally screamed. …and then he just quietly slumped in his seat.

Daniel’s face? What the hell did he mean by that? There was no way that thing could have been Danial. There was no way.

But, I’ll be damned if it didn’t bear a strong resemblance to him.

“Daniel?” I looked up at the rearview mirror that hung in front of me, and then quickly to my left at the remaining outside mirror. The receding figure was still sparking off the concrete and giving off steam like it was a blown locomotive or something. Wrapped in smoke, rain and darkness, I couldn’t make out any clear image. I just kept my foot on the gas. When I managed to look down at the speedometer, we were goin’ 105.

We weren’t gonna be playing any video games tonight.

I slowed down and glided over to the far right lane and took the next exit. I was beside myself. I crossed a bridge that went back over to the westbound service drive above the freeway, I just wanted to get us back home. Part of me wanted to pull over and assess the car, but I was still too shaken, …and seeing the actual damage would only validate and confirm our experience.

…and I still wasn’t ready for that.

But, whatever the thing was, we were now heading straight back toward it. Only this time, we’d be above it. Kevin began to rouse from his stupor. Maybe from our vantage point we could see it down there, where it still might be on the road. Or, maybe we wouldn’t see it at all.

Kevin blurted out: “What? Hey man?! What do you think you’re doin’?! Don’t go back there! That thing could be crawlin’ up the side of the freeway right now!”

Wasted or not, I immediately knew that he was right.
I turned at the next street and slowly headed north into an unfamiliar neighborhood. “Kevin… We’ve got to get back to our side of town.”

“Well we ain’t goin’ anywhere near the freeway!” He began to cry.
“I puked in the Devil’s face! He’s gonna wanna kill me!”

Disgruntled, I said, “Yeah, and you pissed all over my seats too! -Must be quite the night for you!”

The car’s cabin began to warm up once again. Kevin was a total mess. Trying to stay alert, we quietly zigzagged through the neighborhoods and worked the LTD back west.

The light rain had turned back into a cool mist and a low fog. I flipped the windshield wipers off. We started seeing street signs that we recognised.

The car was starting to act a little funny. Steam began to rise from the front end. I had a bad feeling that something was about to blow.
I looked over at Kevin, who appeared to be passed out again, slumped in his seat. “We’re closer to my house.” I told him. “This thing sounds like it’s gonna die. Let’s just get to my mother’s house and park it.”

We came down Perth Street and turned left onto Humble. Ma’s place was only about 4 houses down and on the right.

I figured that I was in the clear. “Home Sweet Home” and all of that.
Elated, I sang out, “Hey, Kevin wake up man! We made it! We…”

Suddenly, there was this incredibly loud popping sound. Something came flying up from around the floor mats and traveled between me and Kevin and went right through the roof of the car.

I don’t know what it was. Kevin bolted awake. Completely startled, we looked at each other like we’d both been shot. The engine died right there, and we came gliding to a full stop right smack dab in front of my mothers old house.

Kevin must have thought that this was hysterical, as he once again broke into that exaggerated mulish laughter that I’d always found so aggravating. “You blew it up! He guffawed. “You fuckin’ blew it up in less than 24 hours!”

I couldn’t believe it. It seemed the entire last hour of my life was nothing but a nightmare. It couldn’t have been real. We opened the doors and stepped out in front of my mothers house. I walked around the once pristine car. The passenger side looked like it was sideswiped by a brick wall.

Kevin, looked up from the damage, and once again manically laughed. “I puked in the Devil’s face!” he cried.

“I puked in the Devil’s face!”

If he was the one who puked in the Devil’s face. Then, why did I suddenly feel so sick? I felt like a marked man. On shaky legs, I wobbled onto the front yard and leaned on a tree. There, by the gas carriage lamp I spewed my own seemingly endless stream of blue. I fell to my knees. Kevin, continued with his faux laughter, “Hey, man! What did you do? Lose yer’ keys?! You need any help findin’ ’em there?!”

Like I said. Most of my friends’ were nothing but delinquent assholes.

After composing myself, I pried myself back up off the ground.

Wiping the last remnants of the puke and M.D. on the cuff of my leather, I said: “Come on Kevin, I’ll walk you back up north to your place. It’s still a little early, and I really don’t wanna face my mother right now. (I didn’t know it, but it was actually about 11.)

The humor of any moment usually passed quickly for Kevin. Even as animated as he could be, it’s never really that much fun when you’re laughing alone at the misfortune of others.

Especially if that person is supposed to be your “friend”.

We both grew quiet as we started walking north on Humble. To avoid getting jumped, we always used to walk straight down the middle of the street. -Only the sound of our boot cleats scraping on the wet pavement could be heard echoing down the empty road.

As we arrived toward the end of Humble, we’d pass right in front of Daniel’s place. We both caught sight of his blue Ford van at the same moment. It was parked in the driveway, right out in front of his mothers house.

As we approached closer, Kevin’s eyes again grew wide and wild. He veered toward the sidewalk that was across the street. And though the home was completely dark, it was apparent to me that he was going way too far out of his way to avoid even looking at Daniel’s place. I stayed quiet about my observations and continued alongside him. We both stepped over the curb and onto the walkway.

Once we passed Daniel’s and got off of Humble and onto Mason, I thought that Kevin would snap out of it. We were still about another 13 blocks from his house, and I was sure that he wouldn’t want to miss any opportunity that he could, to rub this horrible night into my face.

But, he continued to stay quiet. More quiet than I’d ever known him to be. After about another three blocks of this, I was starting to get a little worried about the guy.

In the silence, I began to run my entire life through my mind.
I was so frustrated with myself. How was I ever going to explain this night to Dawn? To my mother? Where was I gonna live once she kicked me out?

How was I going to explain all of this to Daniel?

I was a fool.

Lost in thought, the next time I looked up from my feet, we were both standing right in front of the Hammer house. Kevin hadn’t said a word to me since Humble street.

“Well,” I said, “…I’d better get on home Kevin. I’ve got a lot of cleaning up I gotta do to the car. Who knows? Maybe It can be saved.

He said nothing.

“Hey buddy…” I turned to him and put both my hands on his shoulders and did my best to try to make him look me in the eyes. “You gonna be okay now that your home? What are you gonna tell Dawn about all of this?

“Kevin?”

“I puked in the Devil’s face!” he blurted.

“Yeah… you sure did, buddy.” He was scaring the shit out of me.
He sounded like a broken record, skipping over the same line, again and again. “You’re alright Kev. Just don’t forget to take yer’ pants off before you go to bed, and try to get some rest, okay?”

He turned away from me, it was like he was hypnotized. With his head slung on his chest, he proceeded to move away from me, down his blacktop driveway. I can still hear him mumbling to himself as he went… “I puked in the Devil’s face. …I puked in the Devil’s face.”

“I puked in the Devil’s face.”

I walked away quickly. Like a future felon, fleeing from a crime, I knew that the kid would never be the same. I knew it.

I knew that I would never be the same.

I had no idea what Dawn was going to wake up to in the morning. But, I had an even worse feeling, that whatever it was, I was gonna catch the blame for it. I could practically hear her voice raging over the phone in the morning: “What the HELL did you do to my brother?!”

What could I say? There was nothing that she’d believe.

He puked in the Devil’s face!

Ha!

Walking through the cold misty air, I continued to laugh to myself. There was nobody out here. I could do what I want. But, it really was starting to get pretty cold. Detroit cold. I wished I had a cigarette. Out of the blue, I suddenly recalled the one hitter in my leather’s vest pocket.

Breathing in the night air like a hit of crack, (Which hadn’t quite been invented yet.) I knew that I had a long walk home in the dark.
Even though on Kevin’s street there were no street lamps, I also knew that I could handle that large one hitter in complete blackness, …and I proceeded to do so.

After… Heading back into the neighborhoods, I was almost glad to see the old “Humble” street sign. It had to be about midnight.

But, I wasn’t paying attention. In my hurry to return home, I went down Mason instead of Sunset. I should have taken Sunset. If I’d have taken Sunset, I wouldn’t have had to pass by…

Daniel’s.

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Before I even knew it, his blue van was sitting right there in front of my face. Though the house behind him still stood dark, as if in perpetuity, his van remained where it was. I could see the shadow of him leaning out of its open back doors, grey smoke wafting about and around him.

“Hey, Loma! How you doin’ bud? What you doin’ walkin’ ma man?”

“Oh! Daniel! You startled me!” I actually felt a little faint as I realized that he was actually there, right before me. “Umm… ‘just takin’ in the night.” I tried to casually reply.

“How’s my ride treatin’ you?” He grinned.

“Oh, it really takes me there!” I tried to sound enthusiastic.

I instantly sidestepped him and his shitty van and got to the other side. I was gonna make it home, even if he killed me.

“It’s gettin’ pretty late Daniel, and I’ve had a long day.” I stuttered quietly as I passed.

I just had to get like 7 houses down.

“Hey Loma?” Don’t make me have to come lookin’ for you at the end of the week. You know what I mean? The money?” He laughed.

“You owe me.”

“…have no fear, you are secure.” I tossed the words over my shoulder, but the enthusiasm had left my voice.

I was totally parched, and I could feel a big glob of coke stuck in the back of my throat, I continued toward home without looking back. Another 4 houses down and I threw the one-hitter in a sewer.

I went around the garage of my mother’s place and slipped in through the back door. I remember walking in. Then, whatever was left in my belly came up, and I let loose all over the kitchen floor and instantly passed out next to a cold heater vent.

“Johnny! -Johnny!” my mother screamed in my ear. I opened a jaundiced and weary eye. “What the hell do you think you’re doin’?”
She was glaring at me like I’d killed her or something.

“So now you went an’ done it! Haven’t you!? Mr. ‘Big Man’ Somethin’ Special!” You’ve gone and cooked your own goose haven’t you? All I had to do is look out front this mornin’, and see the folly of your ways!

“You can’t keep a wreck like that out in the front yard! They’ll ticket you every damn day until it’s gone!

Ugh. If I had worn a hat back then, I’d have bet that it wouldn’t have fit my head. Our drab kitchen came back into bleary focus. My head was plastered to the floor. Stuck in my own mess.

“What the fuck, Ma?! I…”

In that very moment, I realized that I had absolutely nothing to say to her. I probably would never be able to speak with her in the same manner ever again. I couldn’t tell her anything that happened to me. As, even though my mother was a bitch, she was also a “religious” one.

Like clockwork, she went to St. Michaels every Sunday.

Again, I felt totally vexed. As if I had to force myself up from some lower hell, I peeled my face off the linoleum.

“I gotta lot to do today Ma, and even though I’m startin’ out on the floor, I’ve got a lot of shit on my agenda.”

“You certainly do!” she exclaimed. “You’ve gotta pack up all your shit an’ get the hell up out of here! I’m through! The most I can do for you is kick you out to the freeway! Good riddance to bad trash! That’s what I say!

I knew it. It was bound to happen. I saw it comin’ from a mile away.

Then, my old grandmother appeared as if from out of nowhere. There she sat as usual, situated in the corner of the kitchen in her blue vinyl chair. …still holding the same piece of dry toast in her hand and a steaming cup of black coffee in front of her.

And just the same as always, she had this little sparkle in her eyes.

“Never buy a dark horse at night!” she cried.
“Yeah,” I said. “You sure were right about that one Grandma.”

Now, I guess I’ll spare you all of the intimacies and gory details of the complete ending of my life in Detroit. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. After a shower and and some more dog-faced looks from my mother, I went down stairs and did exactly what she told me to do.

I packed up as much as I could fit into a surplus knapsack that I’d bought downtown the year before, and put on my riding gear. Leather pants, a black T-shirt and then my Brooks biker jacket.

It was just before noon when I opened up the garage and threw my guitar and stuff in the back of the Vista Cruiser. To this day, those final moments still cling to me. Indelibly impressed upon my mind.

Right then, I should have just walked down the street and paid Daniel off, but instead, I stood awestruck before the wreck of my first car. Wandering down the driveway, for one last time, I considered the LTD. I didn’t want to look at the passenger side. I went out in the street and walked around to the drivers side.

Opening the door, the strong smell burned carpet and urine emitted from the interior. As it stunk pretty bad, I didn’t want to get into it. But, I was curious as to what that explosion was all about. I ducked my head in just enough so I could peel back the floormat. Sure enough, I could plainly see that there was hole that came through the bottom of the car and mat. There was also a matching one in the roof, dead center right above the stem of the rear view mirror. Whatever it was, it could have killed either Kevin or me, had we just been seated a little differently.

I shut the door and looked back up to my mom’s house. She was standing in the driveway jingling her car keys in her hand. “Go say goodbye to your grandmother, and let’s go! I don’t want the neighbors to see what an idiot I have for a son!”

My eyes teared up. The gravity of the event was beginning to settle on me. “Sure Mom,” I said. “I’ll go and say my goodbyes…”

I signed the car over to her and put the keys right there on the kitchen counter. I told her to call Rubies Junk Yard and have them come out and tow the thing away for scrap.

I didn’t mention the debt to Daniel.

My grandmother cried like she’d never see me again.

…and I never did.

As she steered the Vista Cruiser out towards the freeways service drive, my mom said, “Which way do you wanna go? East or west?”

I didn’t want her to let me out anywhere near that eastbound ramp.

“West,” I said.

She turned right and proceeded to drive a couple three miles down Schoolcraft. I don’t know if she wanted to give me a head start, or she just wanted to make sure that I wouldn’t come back.

It was the latter.

In our last few moments together, she castigated me: “You know Johnny, it didn’t have to end like this! You did this to yourself! If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times. You’ll never amount to a pile of shit.”

“Well, I guess I’ll never darken your doorway again.” I quietly replied. I knew that she wanted a fight, but I just wasn’t in the mood.

She pulled the station wagon over. I opened the door, got out of the passenger side seat and went around the back and retrieved my stuff. I put the backpack on, picked up my guitar and shut the hatch.

Walking around to the drivers side, my mother unrolled her window.

She scowled; “Before you leave, I’d like to ask for one big favor from you, can I do that?”

I said, “Sure Ma… What do you want?”

“When you get to wherever it is that you’re going, Don’t call. And, just make sure that you don’t come back, because I never want to see your face again!

I said, “Sure.” Mom.

And thus, it would be so.

And without saying goodbye, or even a second glance, she rolled up her window, put her car into “drive” and sped away.

Hesitating, I actually had no idea where I was going. I squinted and looked down at the Westbound lanes.

No Devil, no Daniel. No nothing. I don’t really know what I was expecting to see. Although I was wary, I also knew what I had to do.
With my guitar firmly held in my left hand, I proceeded to the end of the ramp, and I stuck my right thumb out.

Some might say that I fist fought my way across the USA. But that wouldn’t be quite the truth. I admit, I had some close shaves as I encountered various strangers. But, I did learn my lesson.

Humble Street had its own special way of educating people.

I quit the drugs and womanizing. I tried my very best to treat others as I would wish to be treated. I paid all my debts.

…well, mostly.

I never did get the chance to pay Daniel that 500 dollars. It haunted me. Even with the money I had left, It still took me a long time to get back up on my feet. Once I arrived in California, my intentions were to send him a little bit over time. Just so I wouldn’t have it hanging over my head.

…and perhaps my soul.

But as time went by… I, like so many others, got caught up in that ever winding stream we all call life.

I was very lucky, and believe it or not, I struck gold just a week after arriving in L.A. I wound up finding a well paying job as a chauffeur for a company that would sometimes be called upon to take the Hollywood glitterati to film previews and other prestigious events.

Perhaps because of my previous experience with Kevin and the LTD, I was actually very good at it. Very professional. I also had many opportunities to rub shoulders with various celebrities and influential people. The company even allowed me to have a car on my days off. …and no matter where I went, I’d observe and obey all the speed limits and other laws.

I’d even come to a complete stop at every stop sign.

I especially stayed very alert and careful as I’d merge onto the freeway. But, I also must add that every time I did so, I was always a little nervous.

I was always looking. Looking for Him.

It was about a year later, while on a lunch break, that I finally got up enough nerve to call Dawn from a downtown payphone. She was the one that told me about Daniel and everything that had happened to him. I told her that I’d owed him some money on the car, and that I’d wanted to pay it. She only said that one can never really pay off a person once they’re dead.

“Can you…?”

There was very little left to our conversation. The words just all seemed to run out. She was still pretty upset about how things had ended with Kevin that night. I was right about him. He never did snap out of it.

For the rest of his life, between the farts, false starts and giggles,
the only real words that ever would pass over his lips again, were;
“I puked in the Devil’s face!”

“I puked in the Devil’s face!”

But, deep down, I think that Dawn knew that even I could never have ever done enough to stop Kevin from his own private path of self destruction.

Like so many others from that era in time, there was always something a little wild and untamed about him. When it came right down to it, perhaps having his mind completely blown was the only thing that kept him breathing.

…while so many others around us lost their very lives.

Anyway, they’re all gone now. Gone with the wind or gone to the grave.

It was though I went to bed that night and awoke the next day in the year 2042. The digital age, 9/11, the pandemic of the 2020’s, driverless cars…

…even the Mars landing, and all that we discovered there.
The future came and went by way too fast.

I drove the limousines for nearly 30 years and took my retirement in 2009. (…at the very early age of 47.) Other than the debt that I never repaid to Daniel, for the remainder of my days I made the conscious decision never to owe a company or single individual anything. Not one thin dime. I lived within my means.

I never even kept a credit card balance.

Pay your debts. Obey the law.

Now, I know that here “In the future” there are no such things as hitchhikers. No one would dare do such a thing these days. But, if by chance you should ever come across one standing in the rain with their thumb hangin’ in the air…

Don’t stop. Don’t even slow down. Tell your car to avoid the pedestrian and just move on.

You don’t want to end up like me, living the rest of your life looking over your shoulder. Living with the regret that you’ll never be able to pay back the things that you owe.

And wondering… To whom do you actually owe them to?

Pay your debts. Obey the law.

…but always remember to pay your debts.

Credit : Kat Holiday

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