Breakfast and a Cigarette, Part III

A Novella in Four Directions

Breakfast and a Cigarette: A Novella in Four Directions
by Bill McLaughlin,
208 pages

(page 3 of 19)

“So what's the answer?”

“I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me.”

In the silence, August reached his hand across the front seat and smiled. “August, August Cotton, musician—and no philosopher. Ha!”

“Ray Waldron. Nice to meet you, August. I guess I should tell you I'm going to Miami.”

“I'm only going as far as Key Largo. I'm gonna spend the day with my daughter and her little boy. If you can get yourself a ride to Homestead, about forty miles from where I'm going, from there you can hop on the Metro bus, that'll take you right downtown Miami for about two bucks. It's about a three hour trip, though. You gotta be anywhere soon?”

“I was trying to get to the bank today, but I'm not going to make it before they close. Maybe I can stay somewhere cheap till tomorrow.”

“Cheap? Near Miami? Ha! Your best bet is to head for the Glades Hostel in Florida City. They'll put you to work, but you'll get a bed and a decent meal. They're good people there; they never turn away a traveler. If you can't make it that far tonight, your best bet is to camp out near the tomato fields and head to Miami in the morning. You have a tent?”

“I wish. I could sleep in my poncho. I guess I'd be warm enough.”

“Heat ain't your problem. It's the bugs.”

“A lot of bugs around there?”

“Ha! You know the first farmers couldn't even keep their livestock outside at night—the damn skeeters would kill 'em. I'm not kidding either. Them little bastards would suck all the blood from a horse, a cow, you name it. The farmers would find their stock lying dead on the ground in the morning—not a drop of blood left in 'em. Bugs? Bugs a'plenty all right! Keepin' warm ain't the problem—your problem will be to keep from bleedin' to death. Ha!—Hey Ray, look on the floor in the back seat there. Last year I picked up a couple of little hippies and one of them left something—I think it's a tent, it's too small to be a sleeping bag. I was hoping to find someone who needed it. I don't know what kind of shape it's in, but you're welcome to it if you want.”

Ray found the tent. It was packed tightly in a small army-green nylon stuff sack. It was backpacker's tent, lightweight and compact. It fit right in his daypack.

“Thanks, August. I don't know what I would have done without you. I can go anywhere now.”

“Don't mention it. I'm glad to get rid of it. I just hope it isn't full of holes!”

“You know, I really appreciate the ride too. I was getting kind of discouraged out there. I'd been hoisting my thumb since early this morning. There's not many friendly people around.”

August nodded in agreement. He always picked up hitchhikers—unless they looked drunk or stoned. He was an idealist. He wanted the people in the world to take care of each other. Most of all he wanted happiness, not just for himself, but for everyone. It was the music now, the music was the thing he could give away—absolutely free for anyone who wanted it. That was his way. And rides, he couldn't pass on a chance to help someone. His daughter would scold him if she knew. So he resolved, even though he really liked Ray and would like to tell her about their conversation, he wouldn't mention him to her. 'At your age? Pickin' up strangers? Are y'all crazy or somethin', Papa? Lord, I swear, the older you get the sillier you get!' No, she wouldn't understand.

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About Bill McLaughlin

6 1
Bill McLaughlin was born in the later half of the last century. He has worked as a freelance journalist and independent radio producer. After spending more than a decade as an itinerant writer and gardener, living and traveling in a 1973 VW camper bus, he now homesteads in upstate New York where he hauls water, more chops wood, and ponders the Rights of Nature, late frosts, and black flies.
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