A salesman who shared his liquor and steered while sleeping .. . A Cherokee filled with bourbon .. . A VW no more than a bubble of hashish fumes, captained by a college student . . .
And a family from Marshalltown who head–onned and killed forever a man driving west out of Bethany, Missouri. . .
. . . I rose up sopping wet from sleeping under the pouring rain, and something less than conscious, thanks to the first three of the people I’ve already named—the salesman and the Indian and the student —all of whom had given me drugs. At the head of the entrance ramp I waited without hope of a ride. What was the point, even, of rolling up my sleeping bag when I was too wet to be let into anybody’s car? I draped it around me like a cape. The downpour raked the asphalt and gurgled in the ruts. My thoughts zoomed pitifully. The traveling salesman had fed me pills that made the linings of my veins feel scraped-out. My jaw ached. I knew every raindrop by its name. I sensed everything before it happened. I knew a certain Oldsmobile would stop for me even before it slowed, and by the sweet voices of the family inside of it I knew we’d have an accident in the storm.
I didn’t care. They said they’d take me all the way.
The man and the wife put the little girl up front with them, and left the baby in back with me and my dripping bed-roll. “I’m not taking you anywhere very fast,” the man said. “I've got my wife and babies here, that’s why.”
You are the ones, I thought. And I piled my sleeping bag against the left-hand door and slept across it, not caring whether I lived or died. The baby slept free on the seat beside me. He was about nine months old.