RoM 07 - #4/9   Painted, Printed, Framed, and Hanged

As dawn did the visual night tricks grew further and further apart. I sipped at the black coffee — it kicked at my teeth — but I accepted.

I’m guessing I picked up the stranger because I was a fan.
A Bob Marley tee, who would resist? I’ve never seen a Jamaican with a nervous tick. In that he did not disappoint. But looked as though he just came in from being struck by lightning, while wearing that inquisitive look of dying to tell secrets. Whatever lesson he had for me, I was not interested. I simply had a call for someone riding along to vindicate that I was indeed making  progress.

That would have been a quiet end of act one, if he had not taken up story telling. His logorrhea matched his meandering thoughts, as his voice trailed off and then rushed back with urgency as a memory strengthened. The meander and getting back on track was a visual component to his speech. Being born, moving around, finding something, re-born, moving around, finding something, re-being born again. It had the Barnum effect makings of every  life, but this was his own twist and sequence. He talked as if he had not talked in weeks, and with the urgency that someone would stop him.

Listening to the hurdy-gurdy drone effect of his voice, the story did not have the arresting property on me he wished. But I was able to look intrigued — while wondering if ants have the same misfortune of others’ memories crowding their  minds. Since, they say, they share a mind of one. 
By late in the afternoon, the heat that most dreaded was upon us. Seeing a Burma-Shave pointing toward a motel and grub. Wanting to retreat from the constant rumble of the car, I turned off aiming for the signs intent. He was asleep in back, in that heat induced comatose state we all know too well. I headed in for a wash up, food, and bearings. I found a child to take a simple breakfast order and took up a seat near the back, away from the swamp cooler dumping. Crayons and paper doilies littered the table and begged violation. I gave a half hearted attempt at a quick art career before the meal arrived. 

Half way through soggy burnt egg toast, he sauntered into the cold damp air of the provisional diner and took the bench opposite me. Ordering only ice, he crunched it winching, and with annoyance. Feeling no privilege of complaint, I didn’t.  His thin frame — without the cover of Bob — was tan, knotty and sported a wicked scar looking like a left-over from a dull scalpel for a hasty heart transplant. He caught me looking a bit too interested at what might have gone on there. I made an indirect inquiry. It seemed the only story he was unwilling to share.

“I’ll be getting a ride from here…” His voice trailed off with a flurry of syllables I had become accustomed to in that short time he rode with me. He seemed embarrassed. As though he had done me a favor and wanted to retreat before I could compensate, retaliate, or thank him.

Without hesitation I paid, tipped and headed outside, relieved to be under the oppressive heat. I slid into the familiar seat behind the wheel. A car, so complex in design technology — so simple to use. Pulling out of the parking lot, glancing over my shoulder, I noticed Bob had taken up residence. A tee painting, hanging suspended in the rolled up glass, framed by the metal window, keeping the sun off the now invisible sleeper. 

Today is the last day for green Lifesavers and pulp fiction.


  1. This may sound weird... but this reads like you, Tom, and I amalgamated into a single writer for a brief moment in history. Very... odd. And very interesting.

    Typo: "lightning"

  2. Liking it. This one's a complete story in itself.

  3. you apply metaphors with the stealth of a barn owl, which is to say, you hardly know they're there. Hoo