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Independence (standard:other, 0 words)
Author: AJAdded: May 31 2001Views/Reads: 2158/1Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)
A young hitchiker learns about life on the road
 



“Isn’t independence fun, Measle?”  Tessa asked her dog, as they strolled
alongside the highway.  Measle, a German shepherd, chuffed in 
agreement.  Tessa grinned into the rising sun.  Independence certainly 
did feel good.  It felt like the fine desert sand sifting in and out of 
her sandals as she walked, and the pleasant pressure of her backpack 
straps on her shoulders.  It meant getting out of the stifling house, 
getting away from her stifling parents, and getting away from the drone 
of the air conditioner in her ear.  Independence was holding out her 
thumb for the few early-morning commuters to see. 

What would it be like in California?  This was the question that ran
through Tessa’s mind as she and Measle hiked next to the road.  She had 
imagined California a million times.  It would be sparkling and gold 
with the sun.  And the blue water would splash up against the beach.  
There would be seashells and movie stars everywhere.  Tessa took a deep 
breath of fresh dry air.  Arizona would be a thing of the past, a 
memory. 

Tessa was so lost in her fantasy, that she barely noticed the pickup
that had pulled up alongside her.  “Hey Girlie,” the man said.  “Wanna 
ride?”  Tessa looked at him.  He looked decent enough.  She nodded and 
jumped in the cab, calling for Measle to follow her. 

The man stopped her.  “The dog rides in back.” 

Tessa could not ride without Measle next to her.  God knew what this man
would do to her if Measle weren’t there.  “Thanks anyway,” she 
muttered, as she hopped out of the truck. 

The man made a face, like he tasted something bitter.  “Just a word of
advice there, Girlie.  Ain’t nobody gonna pick you up with that big 
dog.  You may as well just put down that thumb.” 

“Humph,” Tessa growled to herself.  “Shows how much he knows, right
Measle?”  They trudged on, her thumb out.  She clicked on her portable 
radio, and sought out a station with some upbeat music.  She smiled at 
Measle, walking onwards. 

They walked, without one car even slowing down the tiniest bit.  As much
as Tessa hated to admit it, she thought the man in the pickup might 
have been right.  The sun shone high in the sky.  Tessa squinted at her 
watch through her sunglasses.  “I think it’s time for lunch, boy,” she 
told Measle, dropping her backpack and sitting on it.  She pulled out a 
hot, melted peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a packet of kibble for 
Measle.  She poured some water onto a dish for the shepherd.  She 
chugged some water from her canteen, feeling rugged. 

After they finished their meal, the travelers started back on their
journey again.  They trudged on, and Tessa’s legs began to ache.  It 
started in the balls and heels of her feet, then her shins, and knees 
and thighs grew tired.  She began to sweat, and a pool of perspiration 
collected between her back and the heavy pack.  Her thick hair was 
glued to the sides of her face and neck.  She paused to pull it into a 
ponytail.  The sun beat down on her, assaulting her. Tessa’s eyes 
burned from the reflection of the sun that glinted at her from car hood 
after car hood.  She winced as another car sped by, searing her 
bloodshot eyes through her inadequately tinted sunglasses.  The hot, 
thin air burned her cracked throat with every breath.  Her arm and hand 
were cramping up from holding out her thumb.  The straps of her 
backpack chafed her shoulders, weighing down on her back.  Measle 
looked tired too. 

“Let’s rest a while, Measle,” Tessa rasped.  The dog, panting, complied
and threw himself down on the hot sand.  Tessa hugged him, comforted by 
his being there with her, to protect her and keep her company.  She 
unscrewed her canteen, in which her last few drops of water sloshed.  
Measle looked at her pleadingly.  “Oh, okay,” she sighed, pouring a 
drop in his dish and then drinking the canteen dry.  She gazed ahead at 
the nothingness of the desert and felt so hopeless. 

Tessa and Measle struggled to their blistered feet and slowly marched
on.  Tessa didn’t even bother to hold out her thumb.  When a car pulled 
up next to her, she plodded on blindly.  It was a police car.  The 
policeman leaned over the seat and opened the door. 

“Are you okay?” he said. 

She looked at him, in a daze.  His eyes looked kind.  She stumbled into
his car and collapsed.  The cop handed her a bottle of water, from 
which she gulped.  The officer left the car, and let Measle into the 
backseat. 

“Where do you live?” he asked gently. She told him.  He nodded, and
turned the car around, driving towards her home. 

It took almost three hours to get back to Tessa’s house.  By then the
sun had mercifully set.  Tessa’s parents were waiting outside the 
house.  Tessa ran blindly to them, and fell into their arms.  They 
helped her into the house, where she immediately fell asleep, comforted 
by the soothing hum of the air conditioner. 


   


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