Zachary Lehman has been drawn to the alluring art of storytelling all his life. He is an avid reader and a passionate writer of stories. He enjoys hiking, dissecting strange foreign films, petting the occasional dog, the Oxford comma, and misspelling his name on social media. You can follow him on twitter @Zak_Lehman.
Do I look like a rapist or something? I stroke my mustache, which I trimmed earlier this morning. Maybe I should have just shaved it off--headlights! A Prius is approaching from up the road. I hold my sign up and try to steady my hands so the driver can read it clearly. The hybrid vehicle slows as it grows nearer to me. I smile, and the driver squints as she tries to read my sign. Eventually, she chuckles and smiles back at me before pulling away. Disheartened, I watch her drive a little farther up the road and pick up a different hitchhiker whose sign reads Denver, a city that’s one hundred and fifteen miles away. I scoff, I’m not asking nearly as much and yet she’s the seventeenth driver to pass me up today. Dammit, what am I doing wrong? I step outside of myself for a moment to assess my situation. I’m wearing an all-black suit, black undershirt, black dress pants, and classic oxford shoes - which are also black. People may be having trouble seeing me but I doubt it. I chose a bright red tie to help get spotted. A semi-truck barrels past, clearly going over the speed limit. The gush of wind that lags behind it hits me and brings me crashing back to reality… It has to be the mustache.
The little hand on my watch rounds eleven for the third time since my wait out here began. I sigh as a minivan with a crack in the front window drives past me before stopping roughly a quarter of a mile past my section of the road. The minivans back door slides open and I watch an older woman and a child I assume to be the woman’s daughter climb in. Before the door slides shut the woman tosses her sign on the side of the road. The door then shuts, and the minivan sluggishly accelerates away. I walk over to the section of the road now littered by this woman’s sign. It reads Newcastle. 220 miles away, far too much to ask of someone.
The sound of obnoxiously loud music gets me to turn back towards the road. A young man in a Mustang that was clearly handed down to him sits, parked, with his window down. He stares at me, the familiar tune of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” straining his vehicles speakers in the background. “Where you trying to go?” he asks, trying his best to achieve a decibel higher than that of the music. I hold up my sign. He reads it and breaks out into hysterics. Between laughs, he mutters, “Yeah… right!” and then revs his engine before speeding away. I suppose, given the context, it was kind of funny.
A coyote howls, the sound emitting from a distance that would be far too close for comfort were I anyone else, but I didn’t care. I had been staring at the silhouette of the driver of this Mitsubishi Chariot since the little hand on my watch struck midnight ten minutes ago. He had driven past at first but had slammed on his brakes and reversed to me after I held up my sign. I’ve been trying to hold it steady for him but after eight minutes my arms began to get shaky. “Please.” I whisper to the driver, knowing he can’t hear me, “I’m so tired...” The car begins to move and my heart sinks as I expect him to pull away, yet to my pleasant surprise he does half of a three-point-turn which has now positioned him directly in front of me. His headlights now shining directly on me, rather than on the road. He revs his engine, and I extend my thumb. He begins driving straight for me, the light coming from the Chariot enveloping me as he speeds closer. Finally, I was beginning to think I had misspelled Heaven.