I am driving home in the rain when I see the hitchhiker. Visibility's shit- sheets of rain slash at the car, obscuring him from view until the last second, and then he appears amongst the trees, trudging along the shoulder of the highway. He's hunched over, hands in the pockets of his black leather jacket. He doesn't even bother to put out his thumb as my car approaches- looks like he's given up on finding a ride tonight. His hopeless trudge- head down, hands in pockets- hurts me somehow, in the place my heart used to be.
Jesus, I think. He's just a kid. He looks like he's cold...
I'm wondering if I should stop and offer him a ride when the car hits a puddle and starts to slide. Hydroplaning. That feeling in my stomach like being at the top of a roller-coaster, right before the drop. My battered Ford Taurus loops crazily across the skittery surface of the road. I haul on the steering wheel, try to steer out of the skid. The passenger-side tires drop off the pavement and sink into the mud and gravel of the soft shoulder, where the kid was walking only a second ago.
Where is he? Where is he? I don't want to hit him. Can't see...
The steering wheel twists in my hands like something alive. I'm screaming, cursing, honking the horn, slamming on the brakes- all at once. All of a sudden, I see the surprised white O of his face in the headlights' glare. He sees me, sees the car, turns to run. I twist the wheel in one last effort to stop this terrible, terrible thing from happening. The car responds, but too late. Too late. I feel the bumper strike something solid and my face slams into the steering wheel, splitting my lip open. My seatbelt snaps, locking into place across my chest, my lap. It hurts, it hurts- not like a slap but like a bear hug, squeezing me too tight.
The world fades out in a shimmering wave of silver and blue. I ache inside. He was just a kid, I think, with a tearing sense of regret. And then everything goes grey, then black. I surrender to the void, feeling the hot sticky blood run down my face.
This post is an excerpt "The Hitchhiker: An Unlikely Love Story." Stay tuned for more of this story- and others- at http://www.addictivefiction.blogspot.com
"The Hitchhiker: An Unlikely Love Story" is an original work of fiction by Molly Anderson- Childers. All rights reserved by author. Copyright 2009.
If you are an agent or editor wishing to connect with Ms. Anderson-Childers regarding representation or publication of this work, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.