This is it. The quintessential Southern Illinois story. The reason all of you in the rest of the country wish you could live here:
I was driving home from the hospital tonight at 10:30-ish, because I work evening shift. It's a 25 mile drive from our house, down a two lane highway that has pretty much nothing...no gas stations, no stores, and barely any houses. About halfway down the road between work and home, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, I saw an old green 1970s Olds Cutlass pulled off onto the shoulder, and a little farther on, a big hairy biker-ish looking man with one of those biker headscarf thingies on his head, walking down the road with a little kid.
I felt bad for them. There's nothing that sucks worse than having your car break down with kids in it. So I went back and asked them if they needed a ride somewhere. The man said, "Yeah...we ran out of gas." I asked him where they were going, and he said to his brother's house on Union Springs Rd.
That's sort of on my way; maybe a five mile detour, but, like I said, it sucks to be broken down. So I told them I'd drive them, and they climbed in. That was when I realized that the child was really a dwarf woman. So the biker guy hikes the dwarf up onto the bench seat of my Ford Ranger, then crams himself in next to her. It was a very tight fit for the three of us, and I realized that the woman was probably sitting on my drill that I've been driving around with for the last few weeks....but at least she didn't say anything about it. I put the truck into first gear and took off. It was crowded. Very crowded. The dwarf was panting from the walk with the long-legged biker, and it was beginning to have a surreal feel, like a bad movie or maybe too much mescaline.
When I tried to shift into second gear, I banged the stick shift into the sole of the dwarf's shoe, which was sticking out slightly past the end of the seat, straight out into space. Did I mention that the dwarf was a woman, by the way? She was. A woman. I think she was the girlfriend of the biker guy.
So we took off down the dark highway, me shifting from 1st to 3rd to 5th, trying to avoid those gears that would make me bang my hand against the tiny shoes of the tiny woman, and force me into a position where I might have to say something about her tiny little feet, and how they were in my way. Instead, I made small talk with them. They told me they were from Mount Vernon and had come down to visit the Biker Guy's brother. It was hard to follow the conversation, because the biker had a pretty bad stammer.
So just to recap...I had a stuttering biker and a dwarf in my truck, sitting on my drill, at 11 o'clock on a Sunday night, driving off into the middle of nowhere.
They told me that they thought they'd make it down from Mount Vernon okay; they had brought some extra money, but they inexplicably stopped to go bowling on the way down, and that left them short on gas money.
I swear, I'm not making this up.
At the turn off to Union Springs Road there's a big mercury vapor street light, since the migrant camp is on that road and that makes it easier for the county cops to find the Mexicans for their tazing. I turned the corner under that bright light, and that's when I saw the gun inside his jacket in the waistband of his jeans.
So...now we have the dwarf, the bowling, and the stuttering biker, packing a pistol. I didn't actually laugh, but I did wish I could somehow capture this moment for posterity.
As we're driving, the man asked me how come I was out driving at 11 o'clock at night. I told him I work at the hospital, and I was on my way home when I saw them. He said, "I'm glad we got picked up by someone nice."
Hello? I'm not the one with the gun?
The man and his tiny girlfriend switched to discussing the brother, and how much they hope he's still awake, since apparently he has a vicious guard dog chained up in the yard and they're both terrified of it. I asked him if maybe the dog would recognize them, and he said maybe him, but the dog had never seen the dwarf girlfriend, and she could never outrun it. Then she said, "If that dog is out and your brother's not awake, I am NOT getting out of this truck. "
Like hell. I'll throw your tiny ass out the window if I have to. I am NOT going to take these two home with me and explain them to Lori.
Finally, way down at the end of Union Springs Road, past the place where the pavement turns to gravel, and next to the snake-handling church, we came to a little clearing in the woods with a singlewide trailer and about 30 broken down cars and trucks scattered around it. The biker guy got out of the truck and tapped on the window of the trailer. A child appeared. The dwarf woman said, "What's Brittany doing up this late? On a school night!"
Just because they're a gun-toting biker-and-dwarf couple doesn't mean they don't take an interest in the kid's education.
Brittany came out and tied up the vicious dog, which was sleeping on the porch and hadn't even noticed our arrival. Then the biker guy lifted the dwarf girlfriend down from the seat, and they disappeared from my life. But left me so much richer for the experience of having met them.