The first line for this fictional short story was supplied by author, songwriter, and blogger, David Miller. He lives near the desert in Las Vegas, USA.
I never expected to come upon a sexy hitchhiker walking barefoot on a lonely desert road, but there she was, shielding her eyes from the sun with one hand, and desperately thumbing a ride with the other.
Nobody would ever describe me as a high-roller, but I was a regular at the poker tables in Caesar’s Palace. I won enough to make the dealers give me the eye, and knew when luck was against me. Since employing a manager in ninety-eight to run my store in Provo, I spent more weekends playing poker than I care to remember.
Too many for Shirley, that was for sure. One time I got back late on a Monday and she was gone, just a note on the hall stand to tell me not to bother to try to contact her.
Although I always went down on i-15 to save time, I liked to drive home the long way. Take the back roads, think about my plays over the previous few days. It added well over two hours to the journey, but it wasn’t as if I had anything to rush back to in Provo. So I left early, skipping breakfast, and after a couple of hours, I saw her. Okay, I’m not so young anymore, but I can appreciate a pretty girl when I see one.
And helping a barefoot girl in obvious distress seemed like the right thing to do.
When I stopped the car a few yards ahead of her, she didn’t hesitate. Running straight up and opening the door, she collapsed into the passenger seat and stretched out her legs. Her feet looked scratched up and bruised, and she wasn’t carrying a purse. Not wearing sunglasses had made her screw up her eyes, but I guessed she was no more than twenty years old.
“Wow! Feel that airconditioning. Thanks mister, I appreciate you stopping”. Her accent was familiar, and the way she said “Wow” made me do a double take.
“You heading into Utah by any chance? I’m heading for Salt Lake City”. I told her I was going to Provo, and that was less than fifty miles from Salt Lake. “Provo you say? That will do just as well. Maybe I can find work there. Reckon you know someone could give me a job?” Maybe I was boasting a little, but I talked about my store, and how I knew plenty of other businessmen in the city.
Fifty miles further on, I pulled into a roadside gas station. She hadn’t said much else, and I had just been keeping my eyes on the road. Before getting out to go inside, I asked her why she had no bag or shoes, and what she had been doing on a remote desert road.
Part of me already knew the answer.
“Been working in Reno. Met a guy who said he had won big, and he seemed real nice. Said he was from Salt Lake City, and wanted to take me home with him. Seemed like a good idea at the time, until I stopped at the side of the road to pee and he drove off with my luggage, purse, and shoes all still in the car. Lucky I kept my cash in the pocket of my jeans, but I need to use the phone here to cancel my credit cards. Reckon he’s already used them though”.
After buying two cokes, I sat in the car watching her use the phone. Could it really be happening? She was real enough, but everything I had ever known made me realise it wasn’t possible. The story was the same.
Abandoned by some guy, having to hitch a lift in the desert, and ending up in Provo. When she came in and asked for a job she was wearing the same rubber sandals that she was going to buy in the gas station as soon as she came off the phone. I had listened to her story and given her a job as a cashier, with an advance on her pay so she could rent a room and buy some clothes.
They called me a soft touch back then.
Despite running the airconditioning in the car, I was feeling overheated. How could she not recognise me? Was I really so different? It dawned on me that it was because she hadn’t met me yet. Not spent almost fifteen years living in my house, and complaining about the gambling.
When she came back out of the gas station, she was wearing the rubber sandals I knew she would have on. Opening the car door, she smiled. “All I could get. At least they had my size. And I managed to get through and cancel the cards”.
Handing her the coke, I concentrated on her face. It had to be her, but it couldn’t be. It just couldn’t. “We haven’t been introduced. My name is Dean”. I hoped she wouldn’t say it, but she did.
“I’m Shirley. Nice to know you, Dean”.