On his way west James picked up a hitch hiker, a young woman carrying a paper bag and a leather purse, wearing jeans and a shawl--which she didn't take off, though it was more than ninety degrees out and James had no air conditioning. He was driving an old Toyota Camry with a bad valve system and one long crack in the windshield. He pulled over for her, and she got right in, put the leather purse on the seat between them, and settled herself with the paper bag on her lap between her hands. He had just crossed into Texas from Oklahoma. This was the third day of the trip.
"Where you headed?" he asked.
She said, "What about you?"
And that fast he was answering her questions. "I just graduated college," he told her, though that wasn't exactly the truth. He decided to take a year off from his graduate program after he spent two months in the county jail for assaulting a man at a local bar. He was a bad character. He had a bad temper that got him into plenty of trouble already, and he just wanted to go to LA, to wide open spaces. Just to experience it, really. He had a feeling that people didn't require as much from a person where there was that kind of room.
He didn't have any family now. He had a one-hundred thousand dollars from his father's life insurance policy, and he was going to make the money last a while. He said, "I'm trying to figure out a lot right now."
"Not me," she said.
"You figure out where you're going?"
"You could say that."
"What are you thinking?"
She made a fist and then extended her thumb, and turned it over. "Under," she said. "Down."
"I don't understand what that means."
"Does the radio work?" she asked, reaching for it.
"It's broken," he said.
She pressed the button anyway. Then she sat back and folded her arms over the paper bag.
He took a glance at her. She was skinny and long-necked, and her hair was the color of dark chocolate. She looked just old enough for high school.
"What's in the bag?" he said.
She sat up a little. "Nothing. Another blouse."
"So what did you mean back there?"
"Look," he said, "we don't have to do any talking if you don't want to."
"Then what will we do?"
"Whatever you want" he said.
"What if I just want to sit here and let you drive me all the way to LA?"
"That's fine," he said. "I don't mind."
"Well, I wouldn't want to do that. We can talk."
"Are you going to LA?" he asked.
She gave a little shrug of her shoulders. "Why not?"
"Sounds like we have a plan," he said, and for some reason he offered her his hand. She looked at it and then smiled at him, and he put his hand back on the wheel.
@Red Panda said: To Be Continued...