The Continuing Adventures of JT Hilltop/The Long And Winding Road Home

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Whenever you’re hitchhiking you take a chance on the driver’s intentions. Kidnapper, serial killer, sexual predator, cannibal. And those aren’t even the scary ones. But if you’re broke and you need to get somewhere far away taking a chance may be the only feasible option. I caught a glimpse of my reflection, wild stringy hair, rough beard, dirty clothes, and generally pretty unkempt looking and pondered further. On the other hand the person offering me the ride is also taking a chance. Perhaps I’m wielding a machete waiting to take over his truck, maybe I’m an axe murdered, or a road warrior searching for a target to engage in a fun packed evening of torture. So when it comes down to it we were both taking a chance. Thankfully for us both we each proved to be pretty much normal. Or at least not nefariously crazy. Jeb was driving a medium sized furniture store truck called Franklin’s Furniture. Creative name aside he was a relatively nice guy who it turned out has a home complete with wife, kids, two cats, a dog and I would assume a picket fence outside of Fredericksburg Virginia. The furniture store he drives the truck for is a family business with Jeb Franklin the oldest son of the founder and owner Frank Franklin. (I know, right?) The only excitement Jeb ever seemed to have was when he took trips down to North or South Carolina to pick up furniture for the family’s store. He was enthralled listening to my tales and I was more than happy to pass the time relating my travels in a slightly embellished format. In fact he was so enthralled by my enhanced tales and so tired of his “boring” life he decided we should pick up a few beers before he has to go home to his mundane life with “the wife and kids” and go hang out for a bit. So we pulled off I95 at Fredericksburg and drove about fifteen minutes before he pulled into a deli.
A plethora of thoughts began infiltrating my otherwise stable mind. Mostly those chances I mentioned earlier. Is this dude gonna bitch rape me, make me squeal like a pig in heat? Damn man maybe he really is a serial killer planning on chopping me in pieces to hide me inside his furniture. Perhaps scheming to skin me alive to make a humanhide leather recliner chair for Franklin Furniture. Or he could just really just a lonely guy whose biggest thrill is when the new prime time TV season begins? Of course I was hoping for the latter but preparing for the former. Fate would really have a fucking laugh and a half if after all the crap I’ve been through I finally choose to get my shit together only to have me murdered in the State For Lovers. Irony at it’s most seductive. Probably have me die unceremoniously too, just a boring straight up kill. No cool ritual killing or sadistic torture to at least make my last breaths interesting. But fate would have to find someone else to play it’s practical joke on because it turned out Jeb was just a nice guy looking for some company to break up his mundane existence.
When Jeb got back in the truck we drove to a cemetery, which I admit at first gave me frightened goosebumps. They were groundless of course because it turned out to be Jeb’s favorite spot to sneak in a few beers before going home when he returns from trips. It was a desolate quiet area, no traffic, no people walking around, nothing but a bunch of dead bodies. Spooky, but sacrosanct. And anyway Hells Bells man free beer! I mean it’s not like I’m gonna give up every vice on earth. So it was we drank beer while chatting and laughing at just about anything and everything as if we were best friends. I suppose for that hour and a half we were best friends. Then again, best friends don’t normally do things like what Jeb did to me. After the two of us were bordering on total drunkenness nature called out to me. I got out to pee by a big old tree in wooded area not far from the truck. While I was answering natures call returning about half of the free beer I had just consumed Jeb started up his truck and took off. There I was holding my own. Literally! I cursed fate for having found a way to get a quick chuckle in.
First things first. A wiggle followed by a zip so I could assess my new situation. Drunk, alone in a cemetery in who knows where, no money, no ride, and as is normally the case in my shithole life, no hope. No fucking way! Not this time, not this bullshit again. Every time I make an effort to stand up reality knocks my ass down again leaving my head spinning in some unfamiliar place. Dammit I was so damn close this time. Out on I95 with the potential to be back home in a day or so ready to leave all the bad luck behind. I was gonna turn my life around again only this time it was for real. But Destiny is not just a stripper in the club, destiny is a mother fucker who holds a carrot of beer in front of a gullible weak willed freak with a sarcastic smile. No way, no sir, not this time Destiny, no bills in your G-string od life. I’m gonna sober up, figure out where the hell I am and get back on the road. In the dark! With a belly full of beer! From a Goddam cemetery!
I was walking down the dirt road peering at the oddly symbolic tombstones reaching up from the earth as I headed toward the main road in search of Same Old Shit Highway. You know what? Fuck this. I’m not having it. I am not gonna let this derail me. This fuck up is just another stanza in JT’s song. Well I ain’t singing the fucking woe is me blues anymore! I’m singing inspirational tonight. I said I would turn this bullshit around and turning it around is exactly what I’m gonna do. Right here right now. My slumped over defeated slow walk morphed into a quick paced confident strut as I headed out of the graveyard towards the highway. Two snaps a twirl and a pirouette just to prove my point. Very powerful! There was only one thing I had overlooked. I was drunk. My peacock proud strut hit a large stone and I stumbled forward falling face first into the sidewalk. The scrapes on my knee’s and elbows combined with the pain from a slight ankle twist were nothing compared to the bruise my ego took. I apparently had an audience.
A young couple had witnessed my fall from grace unaware of the significance of it having been a fall out of a cemetery onto the sidewalk. But they were a caring couple who came over helped me up then listened to my tale of woe, no embellishment needed, with tremendous empathy. Jim and Deb were a few years younger than me both working their way through college before getting married. If the future of America lies in the hands of people like them then I’m confident we will all be okay. Deb offered to clean my scrapes and Jim informed me he was leaving for Boston in the morning. They offered me up a nights sleep on their couch followed by a ride as far as New York City. It was all I could do to keep the estrogen that had been building up from pouring through in a flood of grateful tears. I accepted. By this time tomorrow I’ll be back in Long Island, or at the very least back in New York. I was on my path to getting my life in order. The three of us walked down the silent street until we reached their apartment. The thought never once occurred to me that they might be one of those dangerous options of chance I had so over-thought about when riding with Jeb.
TBC

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