The Halloween Hitchhiker
Halloween is over, but hitchhiking season never ends.
If you dare, Part 1 of this spine-tingling tale lurks here
After hauling the straw, my car was a mess. It was a mess before I bought the straw, but afterward, there were clumps of straw sprinkled on top of the usual trash. Straw was everywhere; it blanketed the back of the car and had embedded itself into anything with a cloth covering.
Brent was convinced this was a deadly mess. He was afraid the next time I drove the car, the motion would cause all the straw to rise in the air and then pierce my body at a high velocity. It would be like a forgettable death scene in a Final Destination movie.
To humor my love (and because he also had me convinced the straw was going to rise against me), I agreed to take the car out for a spin with all the windows down except for the driver’s side window. Brent’s scientific calculations reckoned that the windows being down, multiplied by the speed of the car, raised by the average strength of wind for that time of year, divided by a giggle, and sealed with a kiss would suck all that killer straw away from me and save my life.
Picture the mother alien in Aliens, at the end where she is finally defeated and falls out of the hatch and into space. I think that’s what Brent saw in his mind when he was trying to save me from the straw. Brent was Ripley, of course. The straw was the mother alien (that bitch). I would be Newt, even though that implies that Brent and I have a mother-daughter dynamic going on. The lady from Ace Hardware (see Part 1) was definitely Paul Reiser.
I set out to implement Brent’s plan at nighttime, because that is when I’m usually awake. Brent was at work, but I had him on the phone in case the plan went fatally wrong, in which case the dialogue would have been this:
Sarah: AGHHHHH! The straw has stabbed me and I’m dying! Darn you, straw! Darn you, Amish Nightmare!
Brent: Dear God, no! My calculations were wrong! I feel faint…as though this tragedy is somehow mutating me. Am I developing super powers, perchance? Am I becoming Strawman, a handsome superhero doomed to wander the earth in search of redemption for accidentally killing his wife, meanwhile saving strangers from straw and in the process saving himself?
Sarah: Uh, hey, can you stop talking and please call 911? I would, but the straw has effectively nailed the phone to my ear. It’s quite painful and I’m losing a lot of blood. Brent, are you there? Hello? Brent?
The goal was to avoid all that from happening. I drove to the entrance of our townhouse complex and from there one can only turn left or right. I almost always hook a righty here; that’s the direction of all the places I frequent, like the gym, city hall, and the Masonic temple. Turning left will take you over the bridge and into desolation. The Mistlands. The Shadow Realm. The subdivision of newer homes where I once went to a Mary Kay party. I shivered, but whether it was from the chilly October air or the deep sense of foreboding, I couldn’t tell.
An inner voice of mine who likes to think it is psychic and who sounds like Zelda Rubenstein in my head was urging me to go right. “Go towards the light, Sarah Anne.”
I have another inner voice that is my Brent Conscience. Even when the real Brent isn’t around, I hear his voice in my head when I am tempted to slack off on household duties. “Hang up your wet towels, ” the Brent Conscience might say, or, “Make sure you wipe the pugs’ butts after they go poo.” I think the real Brent had our vet implant the Brent Conscience at the same time we got the pugs microchipped.
In response to Zelda Rubenstein, the Brent Conscience piped up and said, “Shut up, Zelda voice. She needs to go left, that’ll get her on the open road. Sarah, once you get there, you roll down the windows and drive fast, okay? Drive for your life.”
While I was listening to the Brent Conscience, I was still on the phone with the real Brent. Sometimes he accuses me of not listening to him. Not this time. I flipped the left turn signal and waited as a pedestrian crossed in front of my car.
“And then Garfield and my mom helped me defeat the warlock with rock ‘n’ roll! But the best part of my dream was when the ape-angels came and…” Brent was saying over the phone.
All of a sudden, the pedestrian was knocking on my driver’s side window. It was…the Halloween Hitchhiker.
I didn’t know she was a hitchhiker at the time, but you can assume that a stranger knocking on your car window at night is going to be needing something from you. That’s right, I said she. The Halloween Hitchhiker was a lady, about my age. She wore a green army coat and had short hair. I rolled down my window warily.
“Hey, are you going that way?” She asked, pointing left.
“Uh,” I said, trying to come up with a lie. “Um.”
“I could use a lift if you’re headed that way,” she said.
I fake-coughed, which was a tactic to buy time while I thought about how to say no. I do not recommend employing the fake cough unless you’re really desperate. I once used it during a middle school debate and the results were disastrous. I was at the podium in front of about 50 people and my mind went blank, so I started to cough for lack of having anything to say. I’ve never liked public speaking and was not proud of the fake cough but I was surprised at how comfortable it felt to be hacking in front of a large group. Covering my mouth gave me something to do with my hands, and the fake cough sounded believable enough, probably because I was putting my whole body into the effort. The audience just stared at me, silently watching me cough. This went on for a while and I was prepared to continue coughing until the clock ran out and my turn was up. Finally, though, I thought of something to say – I believe the topic was the scintillating issue of year-round school – but I made the mistake of stopping mid-cough and launching straight into my point. I went from being doubled over with the croup to a composed debater stating her case. I felt true shame when I saw the debate coach smile.
I don’t know what I was thinking, trying to use the fake cough on the Halloween Hitchhiker. She would watch me fake-cough all night. She had all the time in the world; the only item on her to-do list was to get a ride with me. Resistance seemed futile. Or rather, resistance would have required effort. I was simply too lazy to continue fake coughing, or to come up with an excuse, or – god forbid – just say no, so instead I shrugged and said, “Okay.”
“Sarah? Who are you talking to?” Brent was asking me over the phone. “Are you about to die?”
“Be cool. I’m picking up a hitchhiker.” I whispered back. The hitchhiker was walking around the car to the passenger side.
“Not a good idea. Please don’t get killed.”
“Shh, here she comes. Just stay on the line and call the cops if you hear her attacking me.”
The hitchhiker got into my car and we headed left. I introduced myself, and I pointed at the phone and introduced Brent, who was now on speaker phone. She told me her name was Laura and that she had just come from a bar. I told her about Amish nightmare, the scarecrow, and the dangerous straw situation in my car. “Oh” was her only response.
The ride was fairly short. Either her house was nearby, or she didn’t want to be in a car with me and dismembered-voice Brent for any longer. As she was getting out of the car, she turned to me and said something that I’ll never forget. It was so deliciously Halloween-Hitchhikerly of her.
She said to me, “Don’t let anything get ya!” and then jumped out of the car and ran off. I couldn’t tell if it was a friendly good-bye or a thinly-veiled threat. I loved it. I backed out of her driveway quickly, lest there were mutated relatives waiting for me in the shadows with machetes and scythes. “Don’t let anything get ya,” I repeated to myself.
“Hey! Hey, Sarah, you’re still alive, right?” Brent asked over speakerphone.
I was alive, indeed. The Halloween Hitchhiker spared me. Maybe she was pleased by my devotion to Halloween decorating and deemed me worthy to live another day. Maybe she wanted me to live so that I might share this tale with others. Or maybe she was a normal person who had no intention to murder me, and even then you could still say that by not killing me, she spared my life.
As a final note, I also was not killed by the straw. It turns out that having bits of loose straw in your car is not deadly. The straw stays put. Brent’s calculations were not entirely accurate.