M., ein Freund

I don't pick up hitchhikers anymore

I don't pick up hitchhikers anymore. It's far too dangerous. Everybody's talking about the serial killer. Everyone in the office lunchroom has a theory. Every day there's something in the Sunshine Coast Daily and The Courier-Mail, a story on the radio, one on the TV news. The cops deny it but they're everywhere, looking for him. They say they're following up leads, that the cases aren't necessarily related. But everyone knows it's true. And everyone knows the cops haven't got a clue. There's a serial killer on the loose and they're scared. And so am I.

The coppers say lock your doors at night. Keep a look out for strangers. Tell someone about your movements. Watch out for your neighbours. Don't let your children out of your sight. Be on guard. Report anything suspicious. So I don't pick up hitchhikers anymore.

I don't pick up hitchhikers anymore. It's too hard making conversation. You say: "Where ya goin'?" "How long ya been waitin'?" "How long ya been on the road?" You try to be friendly. It's not as if they're doing you a favour, getting into your car. And then what do you say? Sometimes they just sit there saying nothing and expecting you to do all the talking. Mile after mile, trying to think of something to say. And then they just say: "Yep." Or "Dunno." Or "Yeah, maybe." Or "I'm tired. Just let me off this exit and I'll walk into town." Some hitchhikers are so rude. It makes my blood boil.

I don't pick up hitchhikers anymore. It's too dark. The new moon set hours ago. If I turned off my headlights there'd be nothing, not even starlight. It's cloudy and still. Almost pitch black. Every time a car comes the other way, I get startled by its headlights. God it's a dark night. I'd hate to be out there alone.

I don't pick up hitchhikers anymore. It's far too late. There's not much traffic on the road. Only the occasional truck heading south, heading for Sydney or Melbourne I suppose, or God knows where. Somewhere a long way from here. Truckies. Probably off their faces on speed or something. Probably wouldn't remember anything even if the cops asked. They won't stop for hours and by then they'll be on the other side of Brisbane, probably on the other side of the Range, at some cold, god-forsaken truck stop until they've had enough time to get legal and then it's back on the road again.

I don't pick up hitchhikers anymore. They're far too dirty. I've spent hours cleaning this car. Polishing the panels. Armour-Alling the dash. Scrubbing off every spot. Wiping bleach over every surface. Vacuuming up every speck of dust. And then they want to get in, sweating, covered in road grime, throwing their backpacks on the back seat. Putting their feet on the dash. Leaving crap everywhere. Asking if it's okay to smoke!

There's no one else around and I just keep driving. It gives me the creeps sometimes. Driving for mile after mile on this endless, empty highway. Knowing the cops are everywhere looking for the serial killer. Reminds me why…why I don't pick up hitchhikers anymore.

So why am I barrelling down the Bruce Highway at 120 feeling my foot come off the accelerator? It's dark. It's late. But there he is in the glow of the Nambour on-ramp. Just standing there with his finger hanging out and a dumb look on his face. Stupid, filthy no-hoper hippy running away from Christ knows what and heading to Christ knows where. And I'll put a grin on my face and say: "G'day mate, I'm going as far as Pomona if you want a lift." And he'll say blah blah blah. And he'll never know. And neither will they.

And I swear to God. Just one last time. And I won't pick up hitchhikers anymore.

[Paul Rees]

15.4.08 16:16

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