Fall 2012
For this political season, I'm posting a little story I've written for NPR's 3 minute fiction about a US President. Here, I'm posting the unedited version. 
It is a non-partisan story, about a real experience I had when I was a teenager. Betsy says, sometimes my life resembles Forrest Gump's. I hope you'll enjoy. 
Meeting Bush
I’m walking down a highway at night. It must be two or three in the morning. I’m east of Montgomery. I’m sixteen. It’s 1972. I’ve been hitch-hiking through the south and I’m on my last leg home. It’s only about 100 miles from Montgomery, Alabama to Columbus, Georgia. I figure if I don’t get picked up I’ll walk. I’m ready to be home. I left a month ago. My girlfriend went out with a college guy from Statesboro. It broke my heart so I had to get out of town. When I left I just walked out to the edge of town and stuck out my thumb. I didn’t care where I went. I just couldn’t stay there. I got a ride to Atlanta, where I slept the night at my brother’s apartment near Piedmont Park. Hippies were everywhere. My brother spent the morning at the methadone clinic so I left and hitch-hiked up to North Carolina. I met a girl and slept at her place. From there I caught a ride in a flower power van all the way to the Florida Keys. I didn’t have a cent. I didn’t eat much. Sometime people gave me food or invited me to eat with them. One older woman picked me up, said she had a son my age, and gave me ten dollars. I made that last a while. 

I was walking north up a beach when a rich looking man who seemed to live in one of the mansions there asked me where I was going. “Home, “ I said. I suppose I looked pretty unkempt having not changed my close in over a week. My bell bottom jeans rolled up as I walked along the surf, my hair long, wild, disheveled. The man asked where home was, I tell him Georgia. He says, “If you were my son I’d beat your ass.” I said, “If you were my father I wouldn’t be going home.” I didn’t go home right away. I got a ride up to Appalachicola in a car full of black kids my age. They had a huge pot of steamed crabs, and we had a feast. They also had beer which we all drank together laughing and telling stories into the night. 

The next morning I caught a ride with a guy who was going all the way to New Orleans in a VW Beetle. He was fine, a nice gentleman, until we got on the bridge crossing Lake Pontratrain. There he revealed his proclivities and didn’t keep his hands off of me. There was nothing I could do. The two lane bridge back then was so tight you couldn’t even open the car door without it hitting the side rail. As soon as we crossed the bridge, I opened the door and rolled out of the car as it slowed at the first stop light. The guy yelled at me as I stood up and dusted myself off, “You better be careful kid, you’re gonna’ wind up with your balls in a jar.” I was glad I bailed. I spent a few nights in New Orleans, slept on an outdoor balcony in the French Quarter. A dollar a night for a space on the balcony, no bed, but it came with a shower and one free peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Now I’m ready to get home. So I’m walking. No one picked me up in the late afternoon. Everyone knows you can’t get a ride at night. But I’m out of money and I’m tired of traveling. I walk and when I sense the lights of a car behind me I don’t even turn around. I just stick out my left thumb and keep on walking. Only a few cars have passed since midnight. It’s pitch black dark out. A car passes and disappears into the night. I walk in the dark. All of a sudden from way down the road, two red taillights appear. They seem to be coming toward me, in reverse, tiny, far away, then closer and closer. I don’t understand. When it gets to me, it slows and stops. It was a Skylark or a Cutlass, with Texas plates. Seems the car had passed me going really fast and it took that long to register that it passed me. I lean down, the door opens. The guy looks at me. At first he seems disappointed. I realize he probably thought that I was a girl. I was skinny with long pretty hair and my jeans were tight. The driver rather reluctantly says “Where you goin?” I say, “Columbus.” He says, “Get in – I’m goin’ to Fort Benning.” At first we are quiet. After a while we start talking. Turns out, he says he’s in the service. But he says he just drives around the South. He said he was in something like the air force reserve or air national guard but that he didn’t have to do anything. He said he hadn’t been active in months, he sort of left it all. I ask him if he is AWOL, he says, “Not really – I just get to drive around the south and every once in a while I have to go to Fort Benning and check in just to make sure everything is still okay.” I said it was “neat” that he gets to drive around like that, just doing nothing. I ask him his name. “Bush,” he tells me. Something “Bush.” I can’t make out his first name. I ask if he has family in Columbus. I know some Bushes there. He says, “No – not that I know of.” We cross the bridge at Phenix City, across the Chattahoochee. The sky is starting to lighten to the east. He offers to take me home. It’s only a mile or two out of his way. I say, “No thanks. I don’t mind walking from here.” He lets me out in front of the Municipal Auditorium on Victory Drive. We say our goodbyes and thanks. He drives away toward Fort Benning. The sky is pink and pale blue. A new day is dawning. I walk through the deserted streets of downtown toward home.