About Me

I feel the wanderlust and the call of the open highway. Which is good, because I drive cars for a living. But I'm a writer, and someday hope to once again make my living using my writing skills.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


En route to make a car delivery in Macon, GA, I had to pull over to deal with a call from my boss Riff. He needed me to look through paperwork, and I won't do that when I'm operating a vehicle.

"Find it yet?" he demanded.

"No, but I do know that it's here."

"Oh really? What divine providence makes you so sure, you silly idiot?"

"There's that disrespect that we've talked about."

"Listen up, Goono--"

"Call you after I make delivery." And I had to hang up, because no task is tolerable with Riff shouting in one ear. I was entering Macon and just a few miles from my destination. The man I was delivering to, Mr. Edwards, had sounded nice on the phone. This should be easy enough.

I drove the Blue Ford Fusion into the Edward's driveway, and out came a disgruntled Mr. Edwards. "What is this? What are you doing to me? Blue? Are you kidding me, blue? No way can I deal with this."

"Hi, I'm Bill Thomas, this is your new company car."

"No, not mine. This is a blue car. Why couldn't you bring me red?"

"They don't give me a choice, and I--"

"Green also, green would be nice. But blue?"

"I'm just your delivery man, I have no say about what you get."

"Just about any color would have been fine, even white and/or black There
are many colors in the rainbow." Mr. Edwards looked hopelessly lost and
concerned. "You brought me a blue car. So what are you trying to say?"

"I'm saying that this is the car I brought you."

Mr. Edwards rubbed his hand down slowly over his face. "What are you telling me?"

"That your company was kind enough to provide you with a work vehicle."

The man shook his head back and forth, puzzled to say the least.
"Can you put it into layman's terms?"

"Excuse me?"

"Simplify it."

"This is now your new company car."

"In plain English? Please?"

"Your company gave me a car to bring you for you to use. I drove it 450
miles to deliver it to your front door. And now it belongs to you."

He rubbed the top of his head briskly. "So what you're telling me is..." He let out a
growl of frustration. "I don't follow this at all."

"In a nutshell, you got a blue car," I said, and held out the paperwork for him
to sign. He did so, and I left. Time to find that paperwork for the next car I had to
pick up going from Atlanta to Denver.

Friday, October 22, 2010


I got an email from my wild and woolly friend JC the other day. She was driving from her farm in upstate New York down to her mansion in Florida. And it seems she had a run-in with one of "Bill's people", the odd creatures that cross my path on a daily basis as I travel throughout the USA. Many times I wonder if people who read about my adventures ask themselves if I truly meet all these strange and wonderful folks. So it is nice and refreshing to hear about someone else having an encounter. The email from JC is below:
Hey Bill--

I wanted to share something that happened on our way home from NY. Obviously, it made me think of the situations into which you find yourself on a regular basis.

I stopped at a McDonald's in North Carolina for lunch. My traveling buddy Abby and I go inside to order because we want to use the lady's room. I walk up to the register of a late 50-year-old woman, rather attractive and slightly built with very light gray hair. I remember thinking, "I'm not sure I'd like to work at Mickey D's in my golden years." And then immediately wondering if "twilight years" was what I was looking for. Oh well ...

I order a $1 McDouble, large fries and a large vanilla shake to go. (Don't believe me when I act surprised that my ass has grown so much that I feel the need to rush home and get on the treadmill.) She grumbles something I again don't understand, and I say, "Excuse me?"

"Oh, nothing. Six dollars and thirteen cents."

I hand her a $10 bill and three pennies. She takes the money and grumbles something again.

"Excuse me?" I say.

"Never mind. They're filling me with fat, you know."

"They're filling you with fat? Who is?"

"Yes. They're filling me with fat. Fat! It's disgusting." She takes a tray, places it on the counter, tosses the receipt she's just pulled from the register atop the paper liner and turns to grab a McDouble.

"Well," I say, "you look great. You're certainly not fat." Holding out my receipt, I say, "I need some change. I gave you a ten and some pennies."

"Oh!" she says, squinting at the receipt. She speaks McDonaldese to the manager, who opens the register so she can correct her mistake.

"You look great," I tell her. "Really. You're not fat at all."

Handing me a five and a one-dollar bill, she slams the register drawer closed. "I'm not in the Army, you know!"

Not being smart enough to quickly figure out that if I walked away right then with the $6, I'd have saved $2 on my Twilight Meal (my old-women's version of the Happy Meal). So I hold out the bills and say, "What? Did you say you're not in the Army? This change isn't right."

"Huh?" she says, bewildered, taking the receipt from my hand and glaring at it, the bottom line of which clearly reads, Change: $3.90. "No, I'm not in the Army. I'm a slight woman!"

Exactly what I thought!

She can't remember what change she's supposed to give me but apparently she remembers the keys to press to open the register drawer, and she enters them successfully. The register drawer slides open into her rather taught abdomen and she puts away the five and pulls out two more one-dollar bills. Handing me three one-dollar bills, she grumbles, "I'm so mad right now, I can't even think." Slam! There goes the register drawer. Again. She walks away to stuff my fries in a box.

I'm bewildered. First no change. Then a five and a one. Now three ones. I've heard of a movement to round down one- and two-penny change and round up three- and four-penny change, but did I miss the memo on rounding down ninety-cents? Is this woman serious? Then she returns and places the fries alongside my McDouble on the tray (which I'm pretty certain isn't McDonald's new take-out container). "Uh, this still isn't right." I hold out the receipt and three ones.

"They're making me have huge muscles. I'm not in Boot Camp. I'm a lady! I don't want to look like Arnold Schwarzenegger." She reads the receipt again, and says, "Three dollars and ninety cents." Snatching the ones from my extended hand and spreading them to count, she asks, more to herself than to me, "How much did I give you?"

"Three dollars. I need ninety more cents. What do you mean they're making you have muscles? Who's making you have muscles? McDonald's?"

"Yes," she hisses, surreptitiously jerking her thumb over the head of a co-worker and toward the fry cook. "Those people. Those people back there." Looking disgusted, she opens the register for the fourth time since I placed my order, takes out ninety cents and places it in my outstretched hand. All the while I'm thinking, "Please don't let me end up like her."

She walks to the shake-maker and after pouring my shake (which appears to be the first successful act she's performed since she attempted to fill my order), grabs a can of whipped cream. "No," I cry. "No whipped cream." I didn't even know McDonald's put whipped cream on their shakes. From the corner of my mouth, I say to Abby, who is now standing next to me with her to go-order in hand, "You've got to listen to this women. I think she has Turrets."

Returning with my shake and placing it alongside my McDouble and fries, still on the eat-in tray, she purses her lips, shakes her head and says, "I'm not going to put up with it. Getting pumped full of fat all the time."

Putting the coins in my purse, I thought that if anyone working at McDonald's has that strong a feeling about fat, they might want to consider a career change. I say with more than a little hesitation, "Well, I still think you look great ... not fat at all! I agree! You're slight! And a lady! But can you please put this stuff in a bag?"

Bill, I can imagine that this is what you have to put up with every day. I feel for you. This experience made your travels and your Blog stories very real to me. I don't know how you cope with it, I can only say that you're a better man than me. Come see me soon, we'll get crazy.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


There is a stretch of I-95 between Richmond and Washington, D.C. that is always bad or worse with heavy levels of traffic. And frequent accidents only make it worse. I try to avoid the area whenever possible, and yet at times in my travels it is unavoidable.

Just a few weeks ago, I was on my way up north taking a car from Ft. Lauderdale to Baltimore. The only logical path was to go straight up I-95, and so I knew that I'd have to deal with the traffic, and said a little prayer that it wouldn't be as bad as usual.

About 30 miles north of Richmond,I got a call and answered my cell. "This is Bill."

"Hello, Bill," said the familiar voice of Mrs. Sherman. "And how are you this fine day?"

"Fine and dandy, Mrs. Sherman."

"Bill I just tried a delicious new food called Quiche. It's like a little pie, but has ham and eggs and cheese in it. Do you like pie, Bill?"

"Yes I do."

"Blueberry pie is still my all time favorite. Are you watching TV right now, Bill?"

"Uh, no ma'am, I'm driving a car."

"Oh good, that reminds me, I will need you to drive my car for me again very soon."

"Just call my boss."

"I'm sorry, I don't understand."

"Call my boss Riff, he'll arrange everything."

"Bill, when you come, I will make you a pie."

"That's very nice of you."

"Would you prefer peach or pecan pie? I would offer to make you a Quiche,
only I don't know how to make Quiche."

Very suddenly, my front left tire blew and I yelled "Mrs. Sherman, I gotta go!" I threw the phone down and grabbed the steering wheel with both hands. The car was skidding from side to side and became very hard to control. There were a lot of other cars around me, some of them weaving to switch lanes, and I was trying to avoid hitting them. I slowly tapped the brakes, and made my way over to the shoulder of the road.

After coming to a stop and parking, I got out to examine the tire. It was shredded, way beyond repair, and I knew this would mean putting the spare on. It was a warm day, sunshine brightly shining, and I knew it was going to be a hot and sweaty assignment. So I got into the trunk and pulled out a jack and the spare tire.

The lug nuts were on very tight, and I knew it was not going to be an easy job. I got started, and a few people honked at me as they drove by. I was well out of their way, so I guess it was just their way of saying hello. Some guys yelled something indistinguishable at me as they zipped past. The heat of the day was making me sweat profusely as I worked, and the sweat drops dripped into my eyes and stung. I heard another vehicle coming towards me, honking in rhythmic pattern, and I turned just in time to see an object flying towards my head.

The next thing I knew, I was waking up, very groggy and with blurred vision. It took me a minute to realize that I was in a hospital room. I looked up and focused, trying hard to recall what was the last thing I could remember. I felt a hand brush through my hair, and turned to see the love of my life, Karen Robbins, standing over me.


"Hey sweetie."

"What in the world are you doing here?"

"Apparently some redneck good old boys were passing you on the side of the road while you were changing a tire, and they threw a full can of oil at your head, and bonk, you were out cold. There were a couple of eyewitnesses, and they called in to report it. A Road ranger found you and called an ambulance."

"What are you doing here, though? Am I imagining this?"

Karen took my hand and squeezed it tightly. "They went through your wallet and found my name and phone number. So they called me last night and told me you were in bad condition."

"Wait, how long have I been here?"

"Two days. You were under pretty deep. The good news is that you're going
to be OK."

"I can't believe that you came all the way here from Indianapolis."

"You are a sweet man, and I'd go anywhere for you."

"The feeling is more than mutual."

"Bill, you need to face facts, I will always come running when you need me."

At that moment, I felt very fortunate to have such a friend who would have come
all that way just for me.

Maybe it's time to accept that there are a lot of people who love me, and that I should
do everything I can to return the kindness to others that I meet.
But in that moment, all I wanted to do was rest.
I feel fast asleep with Karen still holding my hand and smiling down at me.

Monday, October 11, 2010


When I went to Kansas City last week, Riff told me to meet Andy and that we'd be driving two minivans in tandem with each other. I had only met Andy once, and it was both a negative and memorable experience. He boasted about not bathing and took so much speed that his brain seemed to be fried. I was scared to ride with him. Only in this case, I wouldn't be, we'd be in separate vehicles.

Andy called me at dawn and told me to meet him at a Bob Evans restaurant near the pickup point. I mapped it out and then made my way over there. He had suggested that we have breakfast before we get started. As soon as I arrived, I could see him out front, wearing dirty wrinkled clothes and walking around in circles talking to himself. It appeared that he hadn't changed at all from the last time I saw him.

"Hello, Andy," I said as I approached him.

He jerked his head around and eyed me suspiciously. "Do I know you?"

"Yeah, it's me, Bill Thomas. We met a few months back when you gave me a ride to Columbia."

He shook his head. "If I gave you a ride, then why do I have zero recollection of it?"

I had a few answers for that question, but I just shrugged. "Dunno. But trust me, I remember you."

"Why in hell should I trust you? Huh?" He dug his hands deep into his pockets, as if he was hunting for something down there. "As you probably recall, I really do love movies."

"No, I don't recall you mentioning that."

"AHA! See, you would have known that about me if we had met. But while we're on the subject, I just saw THE SOCIAL NETWORK. Best damn movie of the year, and it blew my mind! I mean, Wow!" Andy pulled his hands out of his pockets and ran both of them through his hair with great intensity. "I mean, you have got to see that movie. Promise me you will. Promise me!"

"I'll see it."

"You had better see it. You hungry?"


"Hungry. You know, food. You do eat, don't you? To hell with you, I'm going inside to get some breakfast, I don't care whether you eat or not."

I followed him inside, and my cell phone rang. I answered, but no one was there. He sat at the counter, and I sat down next to him. The cell phone rang again, but once again it quickly disconnected. I could see Riff's number and wondered why he was calling. Andy was slowing perusing the menu. "I'll be back in just a minute," I said.

Andy eyed me hard and long. "Where are you going?"

"To the restroom."

"Hurry back, and I mean it."

I went to use the restroom, and when I came out I decided to try my cell phone and see if I could get through to Riff. He answered on the first ring. "Where are you, idiot?"

"I'm with the psycho you assigned me to drive with. We're at Bob Evans."

"Andy's a man's man, you just don't understand because you're a big sissy."

"What can I do for you, Riff?"

"I admire Andy, you could learn a lot from him."

"Yeah, you've told me that before. Now what do you need?"

"I need you to get those minivans and get on down the road, I'm putting together another run from L.A. to Miami for you. Is that OK with you, honey lamb?"

"I'll get there as fast as I can."

"Well that's not nearly good enough, because--" I hung up in the middle of his sentence, and went back to the counter. Andy's hand was shaking as he was stirring his coffee, pouring a massive amount of sugar into his mug.

He seemed rather sullen. "I ordered for you. And you're welcome."

"What? Why?"

"Just say thank you and be done with it. The waitress came and you weren't here. So where were you?"

"The restroom."

"Liar!" he shouted so loudly that nearly everyone in the place turned to look.

"I'm not lying, I was in the restroom."

"I saw you on your cell phone, liar."

"Yes, after the restroom."

"Oh, I see. So who were you calling, hmm?"

"It was Riff."

"I knew it! You're trying to take work from me, sneak around and do an end run on me. You dirty bastard!" The waitress set down plates in front of each of us. "Oh boy, breakfast is here!" He began to wolf down what was on his plate.

I examined my plate and saw that it was identical to the contents of Andy's. There was lots of sausage gravy smothering something underneath, with big chunks of sausage on top. I can't eat sausage, even though I do love the way it tastes. I've found that it causes me great stomach pain, and my Doctor has ordered me to avoid it at all costs. I began to try to discreetly push the huge chunks of sausage aside, and looked under the gravy only to find big sausage patties.

Andy stopped eating and glared at me. "Please tell me in the name of all that's holy just what in the hell you're doing?"

"I can't eat sausage."

"Eat your damn sausage!" he screamed.

"It makes me sick."

"You are such a little pussy, you make me sick! How do you like that? Sausage makes you sick? Well you make me sick! Give me that sausage!" Andy began using his fork and his free hand to scoop the sausage and sausage gravy from my plate onto his own. He was practically inhaling it, and then he stopped and began to cry. "You know, my Aunt Bessie made the best damn sausage gravy in the universe. God I loved that woman. I miss her everyday."

"She passed away?"

"No she lives in Ohio, but I never go see her, she's a pain in the ass. But oh God, I loved that woman." Andy stopped crying and eating all at once and got a faraway look in his eyes. "I heard that they are remaking TRUE GRIT. How can they do that? John Wayne faces down Lucky Ned Pepper Robert Duvall in a field and puts the horses reins in his mouth. With a rifle in one hand and a colt in the other, he says, 'Fill your hands you son of a bitch!' And then he goes riding against four men, fearless and full of grit. It's sacrilege to remake that. What are your thoughts?"

"To be honest, I think I have to go the restroom again."

"Yeah, that's about what I'd expect from you. When the tough questions come, you run and hide in the toilet. Run along now, your Momma's calling you."

I really did have to go to the restroom, but I was sort of glad to get away from Andy. He seemed even more unusual than the last time I'd met him. What in the world was it about him that Riff admired so much? The guy seemed like a lunatic to me. And I did not understand why the two of us needed to drive two vehicles in tandem, I worked much better alone.

When I went back out to the counter, Andy was gone. The Waitress came up to me with her hands on her hips. "I hope you are planning to pay the bill."

"I didn't order or eat anything."

"Well your friend ate and ran, so I sure would appreciate it if you'd settle up."

I nodded and pulled out my wallet. I paid for both meals and gave her a tip, then walked outside to see a crowd of people gathered watching something. It was Andy, who had stripped down to his underwear and was galloping around the parking lot like a kid who's pretending to ride a horsey. And I heard him yelling over and over, "Fill your hands, you son of a bitch!"

I got into my rental car and left to go pick up the minivan I was supposed to deliver. Andy would have to find his own ride.

Saturday, October 9, 2010


The last time I was able to go back home to Birmingham, I got a call just as I was driving into town. It was from my childhood friend Frank Wilson.

"Bill, what part of the country are you in right now?"

"Your part of the country."

"You mean you're in Alabama?"

"I mean I'm in Birmingham, about five miles from your house," I said with a laugh.

"No kidding? That's great news. Can you come by my office?"

"That depends. Can you put me up for a few nights?"

"Of course, that's no problem at all. Get your butt over here pronto, I have a proposition for you."

As I drove through the city, I had to smile. I had lived most of my life here, and this place would always be special to me. I went to school here, fell in love here for the first time. So many milestones. There was a sweet and heartwarming charm to the place, and a kindness to the people you'd meet everywhere within the city limits.

A half hour later, I walked into Frank's office, and he rapidly walked over and gave me a hug. "Great to see you, Bill. Welcome home."

"Good to be home."

"Home is where the heart is. But you know, a great man once said 'You can never go home again'."

"And yet here I am."

"Here you are."

"Here I are, on this day in the year of our Lord, in the city of our Lord."

Frank busted out with laughter. "Damn if you don't say the oddest things sometimes. That's part of your charm, Bill."

"Oh yeah, I'm charming, I'm just oozing with charm."

"You're an oozer, for sure."

"So what do you have for me?"

"Beg pardon?"

"You mentioned a proposition on the phone."

"Oh, of course. OK, my marketing firm has been hired by the Alabama Theater to do a big promotion for them, and I could use your help."

"What can I do?" I asked.

"You're a mighty fine writer, and can snap some damn good photos also. I want to put those talents to work. Feel like making a little money?"

"You bet I do. And you know how much I love the Alabama Theater."

Frank started what had become over the years our screwball comedy rapid fire
delivery. "I know that's right."

"You know that's right. Woo-hoo!"

"Bill, you're a nut."

"I'm a coco-nut!"

"Are you cuckoo for coco-nuts?"

"Why ask? You know I am."

"I know you wish you were."

"I know that you know that I know... wait, what?"

Frank smiled and shook his head. "You never change."

"You'd be disappointed if I did."

We went back to Frank's house, where he cooked some thick steaks out on the grill. We drank cold beers, and after dinner he lit up a cigar. I was disappointed when he told me that he hadn't received some checks I was expecting in the mail from Riff at work. I used Frank's address for all my mail.

"So let me ask you," Frank began. "Just how are things going on your job?"

"No so great. I mean, I do love the driving, but my boss doesn't pay me like he should. There should be nearly $1000 in back pay waiting for me here right now, and he promised he'd sent it."

"That's not right."

"No argument here. What can I do about it, though?"

"Easy, you quit."

"Yeah, and then what? I don't really have a fall back position right now."

"Hmm. I see your point. Well, we're gonna have some fun tomorrow."

"I can't wait."

Early the next day, Frank and I went downtown to the old Alabama theater. Frank said that he was going inside to talk to the Manager, and I stood out front and went through my bag. I had pens, blank spiral notebooks, and my camera. A strange little man came walking towards me with a determined glare. I hoped for a moment that he'd just walk on by me, but I should know better by now. Strange people are attracted me to like a magnet.

"Hey you!" he said.


"Yes you, of course you, who else but you, it is you I am talking to."

"What can I do for you?"

"Oh, I just bet you wish you were gonna get off that easy. But it
doesn't work like that."

I shrugged. "What doesn't work like that?"

"Are we gonna have a problem?"


"You heard me, I want to know if we're gonna have a problem?"

"No, no problem."

"Because if it's trouble you want, I can accommodate you."

"No trouble, no problem."

"I think maybe you are just problematic in general."

"You may be right."

"Are you mocking me, Mister?"

"No sir, I am not."

"Are you sure? Would you swear to that on a stack of

"Would I... huh?" About that time, Frank stepped out the door and grabbed me by the arm.

"We were having a conversation," said the strange man to Frank.

"Go bother someone else," Frank said abruptly. He is not one to mince words. We walked into the lobby, and Frank smiled as he said, "You know Bill, the reason all those weird people bother you is because you engage. Most folks are like me, we just walk on by and ignore their craziness."

"I can't help myself."

Frank patted me on the back. "No you can't. It's what makes you you." Then Frank introduced me to the Manager at the theater, and we listened to him give us a detailed history of this great old movie palace. He followed that by giving us a tour, and sharing bits of history that we never would have known otherwise. The place is so ornate, and I remembered a hundred different movies that I had seen here growing up. And the organ that rose up out of the stage.

After the tour, I spend an hour going around and taking lots of pictures. I wrote my thoughts down on paper, and made some notes for things I'd want to expand on later, when I was sitting at a computer. I went up to the uppermost balcony and just sat and took it all in. What a great place, so superior to the new modern multiplex theaters. This place had style and grace and a big heart. That's how I felt, anyway.

It wasn't long before Frank came up and joined me. "Are you enjoying yourself, you knucklehead?"

"So much that I don't even feel like I should get paid for this."

"I can arrange that," he said, kicking off our rapid-fire repartee.

"Don't you dare."

"I just may dare."

"If you do dare, then beware."

"Oh, I'll beware."

"And I'll be there if you're beware, in your hair, just to be fair."

Frank nodded and laughed heartily. "You're a ryhmin' fool, Bill. I'm so glad to have you here."

"I miss Birmingham all the time. And I miss my house."

"Can I tell you something?"

"You can tell me anything."

Frank rubbed his hands together thoughtfully. "You lost your job, a good job. And then the bank took your house."

I felt the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. "What's your point?"

"All of that happened to you in a short period of time. Most guys would be pretty devastated by such a turn of events. But you... you just drive on, getting on down the road, delivering cars and meeting and befriending people wherever you go. I guess I just wanted to tell you that I admire you, buddy."

I was at a loss for words. "Uh... thanks, I guess."

"I want you to know that you are a very unique creature. There is no one else on the planet who is anything remotely like you."

"We're all unique and different, it's what makes the world go round."

"Yeah, but you are really different. You are quirky and goofy, you're a nut, you're a mutant in the truest sense."

"I'm flattered."

"You should be. I just want you to always be true to yourself, and love yourself. Because who you are is pretty special. The world could use more people like you."

"Why's that?"

"I think there's too many people who are worried about what's in it for them. You genuinely care about other people and want to reach out and help them." Frank rose and patted me on the back. "Keep it up."

I finished up the work in a few days, then had a car to pick up in Tuscaloosa that was going to Albuquerque. It was tough to leave Birmingham, and I looked forward to the day I could come back and afford to buy a home again. But for now, I would continue to drive and earn and survive. And to carry Frank's kind words in my heart.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010


Just the other day, I was driving from Texas up to deliver a car in Baltimore. I cut through Kentucky, very excited that I was going to see Steve Jackson, my best friend from High School. He lives on a farm there with his wife Sandy, and together they run a quaint little General Store. I drove all through the night, and just after dawn Riff called me.

"Just where in the hell are you?"

"Riff, I am making very good time, so back off."

"Good time? Is that what you call it? You are the slowest son of a bitch I have ever seen. In a race between a snail and a turtle, you'd be the one who'd come in last."

"You could trying being a little nicer sometime."

Riff turned up the patronizing. "Oh, I'm sorry my little gumdrop. Is my baby lamb feeling hurt? Well kiss my ass, you need to be in Baltimore by sunset."

"I'll have the car there by noon tomorrow, Riff." And with that, I hung up. I was tired, and what I really needed right now was a good friend. I steered the SUV on the twisty two lane highway as I neared Steve's place. As soon as I pulled into his driveway, Steve came out of the house with a big smile on his face. Seeing him instantly brought back a hundred happy memories. Steve Jackson is a wonderful guy, and has the biggest heart of anyone I've ever had the pleasure of knowing.

"Bill!" he shouted.

I climbed out of the car. "Hey, Steve."

Steve rushed over and threw his arms around me for one of his patented bear hugs. "I am so glad to see you. Didn't expect you this early, though."

"I'm sorta surprised that you're up so early."

"Once that darn rooster starts crowing, nobody can sleep. He just has to tell everyone its time to wake up, like it or not."

"Is Sandy up making breakfast?"

Steve looked sullen. "Sandy's been gone about a month now, Bill."

"She left you?"

"No, uh... she went to meet her maker."

"You mean... you mean Sandy's dead?"

"I've been trying to deal with it. I can really use a friend right now."

"What happened? What did she die of?"

"Well, Sandy, she used to hate it when cars would go whizzing by here. Remember?"


"It made her mad as a hornet."

"Oh, I remember."

"She'd run out in the middle of the road and scream at them. I do believe she would have chased them down if she was fast enough."

"Probably so."

"There was this one pickup truck in particular that would come by everyday, and she would always be ready for him. She'd take a bag of stones and throw them at the truck."

"She threw stones?"

"You heard me right. But this one day, she was standing there in the middle of the road throwing stones and didn't see a moving van come barreling over the hill."

"So the moving van hit her?"

"Smashed her flat as a pancake." Steve's bottom lip began to quiver. "Well, not a pancake, but, you know." Steve began to chuckle.

"Steve, are you laughing?"

"I guess I kinda am. It's been happening a lot since she died. I guess it's my way of dealing with the grief."

"Are you gonna be OK?"

"I feel a lot better now that you're here. Poor Sandy, her temper always got the best of her. And no one could ever do anything to please her."

I nodded. "Yes, she was unique."

"Sandy, she had some emotional problems, God rest her soul." Steve laughed hard, and I couldn't help but join in. It was downright infectious.

"I'm glad you can laugh about it."

"I believe it's God's gift to me, my way of dealing with the loss."

"Then I say enjoy the gift." I let out a whooping laugh, and Steve laughed louder and harder."

"Thank you so much, Bill."

"For what?"

"For being here. For your friendship. For a million things."

"I love you, pal. Always have, always will." Two dogs came running out of the woods and were very glad to see us. "Howdy, fellas."

I was delighted to see them, as I normally am when I meet a new dog. "When did you get these pooches?"

"They're not mine, they live next door. But they just love to come over and visit. Hello Punkin, hello Tater, does Tom know you're here?"

I bent over to pet them. "What are their names?"

"This is Tater, he's kinda pudgey and slow. The spry one here is Punkin."

"Hello, Punkin." The dog responded by leaping into the air, licking my face, then landing on the ground on all fours. He did this repeatedly, and what amazed me was that he did this without ever putting his paws on me. Jump, lick, land, again and again. When he landed, I reached down and scratched him behind the ears, which he obviously loved. Then Punkin jumped up to lick my face again, and a gunshot rang out. Punkin hit the ground dead, much to my shock. I looked up and saw a Farmer in overalls aiming his rifle in my direction.

"Tom, put the gun down," Steve said in a very firm voice.

"I told them not to do that," said Farmer Tom stoically.

"OK, now put the gun down," Steve said with authority.

"Told 'em at least a hundred or more times," Tom continued.

"Tom, the dog is down, you need to lower that rifle," barked Steve.

Tom suddenly seem to notice for the first time that he was still aiming the rifle, and lowered it to his side. He ambled over to us, as Tater ran between Steve's legs and whimpered. "Mornin', gents," Tom offered.

"Good morning, Tom," Steve said with caution.

"Hi, good morning, I'm Bill." I couldn't believe that he had just killed a dog right in front of me. I didn't like this guy, but he was scary.

Tom shook his head. "I told that dog again and again not to jump up on people. Seems like he just don't get the message. Well, next time I bet he'll think long and hard about it before he jumps on anyone."

"I bet you're right," agreed Steve anxiously.

"You betcha I'm right. Punkin won't be jumping on anyone again soon, lest he wants another taste of my boot."

"OK, Tom."

"You gotta be givin' that tough love so they know you mean business. I got chores to do, you gents have a fine day." Tom grabbed Tater by the scruff of the neck and dragged him towards home.

Steve shook his head. "Well, I'll get some shovels and we'll bury Punkin, and then I'll cook us a good country breakfast."

I couldn't believe it. "That man just executed his dog!"

"Yeah, Tom isn't quite right in the head. He's been known to kill his dogs when they misbehave."

"That man is certifiably insane."

"All I know is that you don't want to be anywhere near his sights when he's holding that rifle."

"Do you know how scary that sounds?"

Steve shrugged. "Life on the farm, I guess." Out of respect for Steve's recent loss, I decided not to pursue it. I just stayed and visited with him all day, and we talked and laughed and cried and reminisced. Steve is a very good man, and he really did need a good friend at that moment. I was just glad and honored that I could be that friend.

When I left the next morning for Baltimore, I called the local Humane society and reported Farmer Tom. I love Steve just like a brother and didn't want to upset him while I was there. But I also love dogs, and couldn't tolerate the thought of this maniac shooting man's best friend. By the time I write this, Farmer Tom may be shooting it out with the authorities.

Saturday, October 2, 2010


I really dislike riding Greyhound buses. They always run late, the seats are narrow and uncomfortable, and they are frequently packed with people like a huge can of sardines. Most of the people who ride them use Hefty Lawn garbage bags for luggage, and do not know the meaning of the word "soap." I'm not being critical of their choices in life, but when you are packed into a crowded space with people, good hygiene is helpful and appreciated.

The last time I rode Greyhound was just over a year ago. I had dropped a car off in Alabama, and there was another car waiting for me to pick up in Little Rock. The car was going to Portland, Oregon, a good long run and a chance to get some decent money.

When I got on the bus, I could see that it was crowded as usual. There was only one empty seat, an aisle seat next to a man who strongly resembled singer Barry White, only bigger and bald on top. I could see that the extra large sized gent was taking his seat and half of mine, so I had no option except to squeeze myself in. I cursed myself for my inability to sleep on Greyhound.

Only on this trip, I did fall asleep, and was out for four hours. I must have been extremely tired. When I woke up, the man next to me had his head resting in the middle of my chest, snoring happily. He was heavy into dream-mode, even sleep talking in a basso-profundo voice similar to Barry White. As soon as his words became clear, I could tell that his dreams were of a romantic nature.

"Baby. Oh baby," the sleeping man purred. "I love you, baby. You know I do." I looked around to see if anyone else could hear this, as the man continued. "Daddy's been good to you, baby. You know he has. Now come on, baby, give Daddy some sugar." That's when the man began to nuzzle his face into my ribcage, and that's when he went too far. I slapped the bald top of his head, and he sprang awake and yelled, "Get your hands offa me, you faggot!"

"But sir--"

"Shut up!"

"But sir--"

"Just keep your hands to yourself and leave me alone." The man pressed up as much as he could against his window, trying to get away from me. I looked forward and could see the Bus driver staring back at me in the rear view mirror.

Our next stop was a small town in Mississippi, where the driver announced we'd have a short rest stop. I climbed off the bus, and the driver grabbed me by the shirt and yanked me out of the line of people exiting. "Come here, you." He pulled me around to the other side of the bus. "OK, now what do you think you're doing?"

"Beg pardon?" I was truly mystified.

"I don't like to have my passengers disturbed. Now I don't care if you want to live some alternate lifestyle, but I won't have you pressing your perverted desires onto my other passengers."

I smiled and shook my head. "You don't understand, I--"

"I don't want to hear it."

"But if you'd just let me explain--"

"I do not want to hear it! You are a troublemaker, and you're off my bus."

"Off your bus? What will I do?"

"You can catch the next bus, comes through here tomorrow about this time. Maybe you'll think next time before you start molesting strangers."

The driver walked away, lighting a cigarette. I looked at my watch and saw it was just after midnight. Seeing that I was stuck, I could only attempt to make the best of a bad situation.

I walked through this very small community, and it was as quiet as a ghost town. In the distance, I could hear a dog barking. I walked up one street and down the next, then found myself in front of a Diner. Lucky for me, it was open 24 hours, and I went in and parked myself at the counter.

"What can I get you, honey?"

I looked to my right and saw a waitress approaching me. She was sort of plain, but had a winning smile and a friendly face. I needed some "friendly" about now. "Coffee and a menu."

"You got it." She brought me a menu, then gave me a cup and poured coffee into it. "I'm Tina and I'll be happy to get you whatever you need."

"Hi Tina, I'm Bill Thomas, nice to meet you."

"What brings you out so late? I don't usually get too many customers on my shift, just a few travelers now and again." I told her my story, and she was aghast. We got to talking, and I soon found that she had a much more fascinating story than I did. She was 28, a single Mom with four small kids at home that she was raising alone. She also had to care for her grandmother, Mee-Maw, who was non-ambulatory and unable to do anything around the house. Tina had lived a tough life, but I was amazed at her sunny demeanor and bright outlook. She said that she believed in God, and that if it weren't for Him she'd probably never make it. I was full of admiration for this woman, and told her so. She said what she'd really like is some good sleep, but that she had her hands full with the kids and housework.

I sat there for hours, and watched as she worked hard cleaning the Diner. She made me some of the best pancakes I've ever eaten, and when I said so she beamed with pride. She said that since I was going to be stuck there for a day I should come to the house and she'd make me a real nice dinner, and I could meet her kids. I was surprised that she was so trusting that she'd invite a complete stranger to her house, but there was something special about this woman that made me want to know her better. In all my years of driving, nothing like this had ever happened. But I had nothing better to do, and lots of time to kill.

When she got off work at 6am, we walked together back to her house. She apologized for not having a car to drive us in, but I told her that I get enough driving all the time. Her house was very old and modest, and all was quiet when we arrived. I saw that the grass in the yard had grown pretty high, and inside things were a bit messy. With all she had on her plate, I couldn't fault her. She told me that she needed to lay down for a while, and said I could stretch out on the couch if I'd like to. The kids would be waking up soon, and she'd have to get them breakfast.

I laid on the couch and looked around the room. I can't explain exactly why, but I felt compelled to do something. I went into the kitchen and saw a pile of dishes. So I found a sponge and some dish soap, and started washing. I wiped down all the counters and the kitchen table. When I got done, I moved into the living room and cleaned up there, then the den, then the dining room. The kids woke up and asked me for breakfast, so I got them all some cereal. And I taught them to play the "quiet game" so Tina could sleep a bit longer. Mee-Maw was the next to rise, and she sent the kids outside to play while we talked. She told me that Tina's Ex had been very abusive to her, and the gal finally had the good sense to get away from him. Mee-Maw said that she didn't know what she'd do if Tina didn't take care of her, but that they were barely getting by.

When Tina got up at noon, she apologized for oversleeping. I had just made sandwiches for the kids, and then I asked if she had a lawnmower. She blushed and said she couldn't let me mow her lawn, and I told her it would be a pleasure. She agreed with me that time rolls by faster when you stay busy.

I found things to do all day at her house to help out, and it made me feel good inside. Before I knew it, we were having supper. Tina was a good cook, but obviously had meager fixings in the kitchen. It was amazing that she made such a good meal from what little I had seen in her pantry and fridge. I played with the kids for a while after dinner, then said I'd better be on my way. It was still five hours until the next Greyhound bus would come through, but I thought I'd go back to the Diner and sit quietly and do some writing. She gave me a hug and I gave her my cell phone number to stay in touch.

As I walked back, I passed a small grocery store. Tina had told me it was the only one in town. I went inside and grabbed a grocery cart, and filled it up with milk, bread, butter, cereal, chicken, ground beef, pasta-- basic stuff. As much as I could afford, anyway. Then I asked the manager if I could borrow the cart if I promised to bring it right back, and he said OK. I went back to Tina's house and set the stuff down on her porch, then knocked on the door and started to push the cart away. Tina came to the door as I was passing her neighbor's house, and I waved at her. She yelled something at me, but I couldn't quite make it out. I didn't do it for thanks or some type of reward, I just wanted to help someone out the way people have helped me out. Like in that movie, PAY IT FORWARD.

I boarded the Greyhound bus just after midnight, the last time I'd ever ride on Greyhound. It was an unexpected detour in my life, but it had been a real good day.