Taking a Hitchhiker for a Ride

Written in response to: Start your story with a vehicle pulling over for a hitchhiker.... view prompt


Funny Contemporary Adventure

Ace hovers close to where they had drifted off to the side of the road. When they agreed to take part in this company trip ploy, breaking down on the side of the road was not what he had in mind. "I really should have taken that shop class." He would have known the parts that make up an engine. "But this looks like another language to me." 

"If it helps at all..." Oliver hesitates then plows ahead. "I grew up with a mechanic and still don't know how to fix cars." His foray into the camper hadn't yielded anything useful, but even if it had, knowing what could fix a car and knowing how to fix a car were two entirely different things.

Ace rubs away the chill from his arms. "We can try walking around again for a signal..." Though they'd already checked around the car. It would take them walking a few miles to find any signal. 

"I thought someone would drive by already." It’s been hours since the last car they saw, and that guy hadn't been helpful, despite promising to stop off at the next garage he saw and send them their way.

"We may have to spend the night here then walk in the morning." With the sun setting they couldn't take the chance of walking in the dark. Ace glances at Oliver.

"The camper should be aired out enough to comfortably sleep," Oliver replies slowly, though the idea of sharing sleeping quarters with Ace made his heart race abnormally.

"It'll do enough to make it until the morning. We don't exactly know what comes out at night around here." And Ace has heard his share of ghost stories about phantom women in white.

"Did you bring any blankets?" Oliver asks.

"I have a couple, so that should help." Ace keeps an eye watching the road. "You'd think this highway would have more traffic." 

"I have a couple, too!" Oliver enthuses, moving to fetch his bag from the truck. Being just a little prepared helped ease his anxiety some. "We can always share if it gets too cold."

"Do you see that?" Ace nods toward the direction of the road. "I think someone's walking this way." 

"Huh?" Oliver pauses mid-step and cranes his neck to see. Sure enough, a tall woman with pale blonde hair was walking their way. "What's she doing out here?" At this point, it shocked Oliver that anyone even existed in this area.

"Maybe her car broke down too...?" Ace asks. It was too soon for them to be experiencing a mirage. Besides, the temperature wasn't hot enough for them to be having hallucinations.

"Maybe!" Oliver glances between the truck and Ace. He backtracks to Ace's side. "Should we wave her over?"

"Maybe... Maybe she needs help too." Ace didn't see any immediate weapons. "Hello!" He waves a hand.

The woman waves back.

"That's a good sign, right?" Oliver whispers. "Serial killers wouldn't just wave, right?"

"... I don't think so, but I'm not sure that's a logic we want to go with. Just be watchful." Ace raises his voice. "Are you okay?!"

"Just out for a walk!" The woman calls back. She gestures broadly at their truck and camper setup. "You look like you're having trouble!"

Oliver glances at the hood and regrets not putting it down before the stranger approached.

"Out for a walk...? There's nothing for miles around here." Ace gestures to the car. "Engine trouble, we think."

The woman pauses a few feet from them. "In all honesty, I'm looking for a ride." She stuffs her hands in her jeans pockets and rocks back on her heels. "I just wanted to make sure you two didn't look threatening up close first."

"Thank you... I think..." Ace glances at Oliver. "But our car doesn't work to even give us a ride, sorry."

"It was a compliment," the woman assures him. "I'm Saundra." She waits. "And you are?"

"Why do you want to know?" Oliver asks in a rush.

"Oliver. He's Oliver. I'm Ace." He nudges Oliver with his elbow. "We're just passing through. Do you know if there's a garage up ahead?"

"I'm not familiar with the area," Saundra says apologetically. "But I know I haven't passed one the way I came." She jabs her thumb over her shoulder.

"We haven't seen many come by..." Which doesn't bode well for them. "Do you happen to have cell service?" Ace asks.

"Nope and nope," Saundra replies cheerfully. "I was using one of those pay-as-you-go phones, super convenient, you know, and let's just say it took a tumble it couldn't come back from."

"So, you're trapped, too?" Oliver asks doubtfully.

"Any chance you know engines?" Ace asks. Otherwise, the three of them could be walking all night. 

"You might be in luck." Saundra grins. "Mind if I take a look?"

"Really?" Ace asks hopefully. He steps aside. "Go for it."

Oliver hovers at Ace's side. He knew there weren't any better options, at the moment, but he wasn't so sure letting a stranger tinker with their truck was the best move. His worries of sabotage are quickly swept aside when Saundra rattles off the problem with expert calm. "We have the tools for that!" He enthuses, scampering to the camper.

"We appreciate this. Where exactly are you heading?" Ace asks.

"I don't have a specific location," Saundra admits. She glances after Oliver. "I like traveling. My luck's crap, but that's life, right?" She smiles. "You and your boyfriend heading anywhere special?"

"Oh we're not dating, we're co-workers." Ace gestures between them. He laughs softly. "We're doing this whole company retreat thing."

Oliver fumbled with the toolkit, sending it tumbling to the floor. He dives to retrieve it, face flaming. Was that a casual laugh or an I-wouldn't-be-caught-dead-with-him laugh?

"Ah, sorry," Saundra laughs. "My mistake."

Ace shrugs. "We'll see." He cranes his neck around the car. "You okay over there, Oliver?"

"Clumsy, sorry!" Oliver blurts, checking to make sure the toolkit's latch hadn't popped open before exiting the camper. He took a breath to compose himself. We'll see was better than he'd feared. He offers it to Saundra. "Here."

Ace watches as Saundra works about the engine but even watching, he was amazed when the car came on. "How did you do that?"

"Every car I've ever had has been a piece of junk," Saundra says cheerfully. "Mechanics get expensive quick, so I didn't have much choice but to learn."

"This is great!" Oliver enthuses. The drama of moments before is temporarily swept away by excitement.

"Do you want us to drop you off at the next town?" Ace asks.

Saundra claps her hands together. "If you don't mind!"

"Of course we don't," Oliver assures her. "Just give me a minute to clear some space in the backseat." He scurries away.

"It's the least we can do for fixing our car." Ace watches Oliver. "You're truly a miracle worker."

"Aw, you're so kind!" Saundra gushes. "As you can see, I travel light." She pats her small backpack fondly. 

Ace nods. "You just backpacking around?" He didn't hear many stories of encountering random hikers. 

"That's right!" Saundra chirps. "I'm all for the adventurous lifestyle."

"Sounds exciting. We are not." Ace walks to the passenger door. "I can get in the back."

"I can tell," Saundra giggles."

"Are you sure?" Oliver asks, surprised. He has both their bags stacked behind the driver's seat to make room.

"Saundra fixed the car, so she should get the passenger seat?" Ace asks. Though, he was already crawling into the back.

"How considerate!" Saundra claps. "And they say men aren't gallant anymore."

"Ace has always been fair," Oliver says, backing away to circle the truck. He glances at Ace in the backseat before climbing into the driver's seat. "We all set?"

Within the next hour, after miles of endless nothingness, they finally came across a gas station. It was rundown with a tarp over the window in the front. Ace hoped the pumps worked well enough for them to make it to the nearest town, even if the station looked like it was straight out of a horror movie. "We should get some gas."

"Ooh, and snacks!" Saundra chimes.

"Snacks sound nice," Oliver hedges, checking with Ace via the rearview mirror.

"I can go in. If someone lets me out?" Ace asks. 

"Aw, no!" Saundra protests. "I'll do it. You two just pump gas. My treat!"

"Are you sure? You've done so much," Ace says.

"I've barely done anything!" Saundra protests. "Fill her up, okay?" She unbuckles and wriggles free of the seatbelt. "So I'm thinking chips and jerky for snacks, you guys?"

"I'd like a bag of those ruffled potato chips," Oliver offers.

"Sounds good." Ace leans back. "Just whatever looks good, Saundra."

"On it!" Saundra chirps. "Be back soon, boys!" She wiggles her fingers in a wave of sorts and practically bounces across the parking lot.

Ace watches her go. "She's nice."

"She is," Oliver agrees, letting out a huge sigh. "I was worried." He winces. "Probably figured that out when I asked about her being a killer before she got close, huh?" He laughs nervously.

"Well, hitchhikers tend to be worrisome. But if she was crazy, I don't think she would have fixed our car." Ace nudges Oliver. "Want me to get the gas?"

"Oh!" Oliver blushes. "Right, gas! Um... I'll do it!" He hurries out of the truck. Having Saundra around as a buffer made it more awkward now that he was alone with Ace again.

Ace waited until Oliver got the gas and paid the machine. "What do you think is taking Saundra so long?"

"Maybe she had to use the restroom?" Oliver guesses. There was only one other vehicle in the lot and that was almost certainly the worker's car.

"That's a good point." A few moments later, Ace sees Saundra hurrying out of the gas station, bags in hand.

"Are you ready?" Saundra asks, leaping in. "You got the gas, right?"

"Yeah, we already got and paid the machine." Ace takes a bag from her to look inside at the snacks. "Why are there a bunch of bills in here?"

"Oh, you know," Saundra says airily. She nudges Oliver. "Aren't you going to drive?"

"Um, sure," Oliver blinks rapidly but gets the truck in gear. "But I don't know, so..."

"I robbed the place, obviously," Saundra says simply.

"What?" Ace laughs. "Sure you did."

"That's an odd joke to make," Oliver says, frowning slightly. 

"It would be, right?" Saundra agrees as they pick up speed and leave the lot. "Good thing I'm not joking then."

"What?" Ace asks again. "What are you talking about?" 

"Armed robbery," Saundra elaborates. "You know, give me all your money?"

"That's not what you did," Oliver says. "Because if that's what you did, that would be a crime, and if you committed a crime just now, we are aiding and abetting by driving away, and I can't be aiding and abetting, because I'm not a criminal!"

"Look, why don't we just drop you off... and you know I'm sure there's another nice place to rob," Ace says. And then they can call the cops. However one locates local law.

"Mm, no, not yet." Saundra smiles winningly. "There's another town not too far from here according to the cashier, so we'll head there first."

"First..." Ace doesn't like the sound of that.

"That's right," Saundra says sweetly. "You two have been so good to me, I think I'll keep you around a while."

September 10, 2021 03:00

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