Going Down With Mr. South
Mr. South, who vibrates his words from the back of his throat, feverishly detailed the night he muff dove a redhead. According to him, she loved downtown time and at some point during the thumping he was set ablaze. She was twenty-three with a middle name of Love and a fondness for bikinis and Mr. South didn’t know much more than that. The conversation started with, “I would like to get in your draws,” and ended at a local hotel that cost $35 to rent out for the night. He reckoned you can’t find hotels that cheap anymore. He reckoned that every inch of that fiery girl will haunt him for the rest of his life.
“You should have yourself a redhead before you settle down. And make sure you see the Pacific Ocean, the Redwoods and the Grand Canyon.”
I’ve done all of those things, but I couldn’t tell him; couldn’t tell a pepper-bearded, 60-year old, slightly beer bellied Michael Fassbender look-alike from a town called Bland that I had done all of his scenic life goals in one trip and didn’t think much of it. I almost died in the Grand Canyon and the Redwoods were inspiring monstrosities, but I couldn’t tell you with conviction that these events affected my life the way they would change Mr. South. He would go on to almost cry the 13 more times he tells me to travel before I settle down and see the Pacific Ocean, the Redwoods and the Grand Canyon. That before I settle down with a job and the girl I love, I have to travel to see my friends. I have to travel to thump petite women that just want to be thumped. Especially the red headed ones.
Earlier in the day, Mr. South helped out a college aged blonde change the tire of her truck. She had no clue where the spare tire was and couldn’t point out a lug nut. When his daughter is old enough to drive, he plans on teaching her everything she needs to know about changing a tire. He doesn’t want her to have to deal with crazy 60-year old strangers like himself.
There will be a number of moments he will refer to himself as crazy and I never know where he gets that idea from. He helped a girl change a tire and made sure she was on the phone with her mother the entire time; he picked me up on the side of the road, drove me 75 miles South and bought me dinner; he was driving an hour and a half to pick up a puppy for his homebody girlfriend that thinks their one year old dog needs company; he made sure I wasn’t offended by his talks of sex for the sake of sex; and he apologized for his anger towards slow and shitty drivers.
Mr. South would acknowledge that he was not a better driver than anyone else. He just couldn’t help yelling at the stupid turtle drivers in the passing lane. He frequently vocalized the thought process of these drivers: “Hmm this is the passing lane, should I go fast? Or should I go slow? Maybe I should pass someone? I think I like going ten miles under the speed limit. Look at my fancy car and how slow it goes. I hope the cops don’t pull me over. Oh look I’m slowing down all of the traffic behind him. Why is the guy behind me riding my ass. Maybe I should throw my hands around and give him the finger. I guess I’ll get over…
…and make sure you see the Pacific Ocean, the Redwoods and the Grand Canyon.” I smile whenever he says it because I’m hoping he makes it out there. Hoping he gets out of a town called Bland that’s populated by farmers and car salesmen, and only has a Subway that is housed in a trailer. There’s a 100-year old house with his shut in girlfriend in it that “knows everything about everything, even though she never leaves the house.” One day he’s going to get up travel to the places he’s wanted to see since he was a kid. With or without her. If he happens to run into an attractive woman that is willing to take in the extent of his sin, girlfriend be damned, he will jackhammer that woman.
Mr. South doesn’t kiss and tell.
Luckily for me, he doesn’t kill hitchhikers either. People would kill me for my backpack he tells me. People would kill me just to kill me, nowadays, people just kill as a way of life. Not too long ago, a hiker was killed for his tennis shoes. Not too long ago, a serial killer came through. Not too long ago, a woman disappeared off this very road and Mr. South thinks they only killed women in the old days but now they go after males. Something to do with man on man thumping. “Don’t trust anyone and before you die make sure you travel and see the Pacific Ocean, the Redwoods and the Grand Canyon.” This time his suggestion comes out more aggressively.
Twenty-five years down the road, Mr. South says I’ll see a sign with his last name on it and something in my mind will click on and I’ll remember the “crazy older fellow who talked a mile a minute telling you that you”ll wake up one day and half your life will be gone and you haven’t done anything with it. Actually, hopefully you don’t remember me and you never have to think like I do.”
During our harsh handshake goodbye he asks a favor, “If you go to the Grand Canyon make sure you throw a rock into it and wish that I make it out there.” He tells me to look him up if I ever come back through and he assures me he’s the only Mr. South in the area. I tell him if I ever come back through he sure as shit better be pushing up daisies or sleeping under some Redwoods.