It was 4:00 AM and I had unaccountably awakened. I walked up Broadway, which was deserted at that early hour. The air was cool and humid. The automatic doors of the Abel’s Shell station silently glided open for me. It’s the only downtown gas station open all night.
Not surprisingly, Scott was working the night shift. He gets bored during the wee hours and he and I have often conversed. Scott lives down in the depths of the ‘hood, somewhere on Spruce Street. He doesn’t like the neighborhood but the house was a bargain, as properties in that area tend to be.
Scott and I chatted for a while, and I bought a copy of the coming day’s Hannibal Courier-Post. The paper isn’t worth fifty cents, really — the coverage of Hannibal events is spotty at best and the paper really could use the services of a proof-reader. I’ve seen misspellings in headlines!
I stepped out of the station and a scruffy-looking man approached me. He seemed to be drunk.
“Hey, man, how do ya get to Rt. 61?”
I told him, and he said “I need to get to Interstate 64 headin’ east.”
“64 branches off from 61 way down by St. Louis. Why do you need to get on I-64?”
“Oh, man, I’ve had a time of it tonight! Me and the wife were campin’ up by Quincy and we got in a fight. She kicked me out and she has the car and my wallet! All I want to do is get back to West Virginai!”
“How’re you gonna get there?” My curiosity was aroused. Yet another piece of human flotsam drifting through Hannibal…
“I guess I’ll hitch-hike.”
“Well, good luck to you. Hitchin’ ain’t as easy as it was thirty years ago.”
I walked back up Broadway, thinking about the man and his plight. I could have pressed him for more details, but I felt I had heard enough of his story to reconstruct the sordid remainder!