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On the way back from a weekend trip to a casino at a Native American reservation near the coast, my friend Sam and I picked up a hitchhiker.
I had never picked up a hitchhiker before, and I didn’t want to start with this guy. It was just starting to get dark, and he was sitting out on the side of the highway on top of a huge, suspicious canvas duffel bag. He was a wiry, dead-eyed older dude in a Jameson tee shirt, black boots, and some old-style Army surplus jungle pants.
“Sam, this is a stupid idea.”
“Come on, it’ll be fun — where are you going to, man?”
The hitchhiker came up to our window, and said he was bound for a town about 50 miles down the road.
“You headed that way? I’ll give you thirty dollars for your trouble.”
“You’re not going to murder us right?” I asked just to be safe.
“Not unless you did something to deserve it,” he calmly responded.
We drove in silence for awhile, the guy with his duffel bag in the backseat of Sam’s Ford 500. I’ve been listening to Karl’s “Porch Jams” Spotify playlist a lot, and the hitchhiker seemed to bob his head when “Atlantic City” came on.
Finally, I asked him why he was hitching.
“It’s a long story.”
We reached the outer limits of the town.
“You want us to drop you off some place?”
He looked out the window. “I was thinking I’d just camp somewhere.”
“You know, we’re not doing anything tonight,” offered Sam. “There’s this roadhouse Franz and I stop at whenever we go through here. You want to hang out with us for awhile?”
15 minutes later we were at the bar. It was a public place and there were bikers all around, so I started to ease up a little bit.
“Now’s a perfect time for that long story,” I pressed.
He took a sip of his Coors and shrugged.
The man was hitching across the country to get back to the family farm in Nebraska.
“Parents died, alcoholic brother ran that place into the ground. He finally kicked it, so I’m going back.”
He continued his story.
“I was in Kuwait and Somalia back in the day. Something got inside of me, because I never came back. Became a mercenary. I fought in secret wars all over the world. Eventually ended up in Thailand, hunting human traffickers. While I was there, I met this beautiful Thai girl in a little village in the north. I quit, and moved in with her, living off the land. After a while, I got tired of that shit and signed on to do jungle-guiding for rich people trying to find themselves.”
“What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever seen?” asked Sam.
“Craziest? You ever watched a monkey fuck a man’s face?”
“The monkeys… they’re like little people. And they’re bastards. One time, I was out with this rich guy and his family. These monkeys come up, and I warned them, ‘Don’t feed the monkeys. Stay away from them.’ But the husband gets up close, handing papayas out and one of the monkeys runs up his shoulders and grabs onto his face. The little monkey dick comes out and it starts shoving it in the rich guy’s mouth. He’s freaking out, his wife and daughter are screaming, yelling at me to do something. I just have to stand there and keep from laughing. I tell them to remain calm, don’t resist. The monkey will eventually get tired and leave you alone. I try to get him now, he’ll get mad and rip your face off. You just got to take it.”
“I told them to stay away from the monkeys.”
He drained his beer.
“I guess that’s how I dispelled any myth about the human condition. You got a guy who’s the CEO of a multinational corporation, makes 40 million dollars a year, and he’s out there in the jungle getting screwed in the mouth by a monkey. We’re all the same; none of us are special. We’re all headed to the same place.”
He stood up and walked out of the roadhouse.
“Thanks for the drinks, fellas.”.
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