So you're heading up 85, what happens next?
I just drove really. Not much to say about it. Traffic gradually
thinned out as I got farther away from the city and I gradually began to
move faster and faster. I figure I was on that road for about three hours
or so before I had to stop.
Why did you stop and where?
Well, truth be told, I was out of gas. I had a full tank when I started
the day but the commute to work and evening drive left me with an empty
tank and an empty stomach. So, I pulled in to this greasy spoon restaurant
on the outskirts of Greeneville, South Carolina for a bite to eat.
Yeah, Greenville. You ever been there?
Can't say that I have.
Shame, it's a good city. Pretty big actually. I mean it's not the size
of Atlanta or anything, but it's pretty big. It has a lot of advertising
agencies and so forth. I did some contract work for a couple of them a
year back and actually got a pretty good feel of the city from that.
So what did you do in Greeneville?
Like I said, I stopped at this greasy spoon near the city limits. I'll
tell you, this place was a real shithole. I mean, it was straight out of a
bad movie. The place was wall-to-wall truckers, there wasn't a clean booth
to be found in the joint and it reeked of cigarette smoke and cheap
Personally, I was just hoping to get in and out of this place and get
out as quickly as possible.
Pardon the interruption, but why didn't you just go somewhere else?
I guess I could have gone to a Burger King or McDonald's but, I don't
know. I guess I just felt drawn to this place. Besides, in those fast food
places you get food and you get the hell out. You really don't meet people
and I guess I just wanted some conversation.
Sorry about that, keep going.
It's all right. Anyway, I got in there and sat down at the counter
about two chairs down from this big, huge biker-looking guy. I'll tell
you, he scared me just looking at him. But still, like an idiot maybe, I
sat down next to him and he was talking to the waitress on duty.
When she spotted me, she put the conversation on hold to come over and
get my order. No sooner had I told her what I wanted than she disappeared
in the back. Probably to give my order to the cook.
But the minute that door shut behind her, the guy next to mean leaned
in and said, "You know that girl? She is something isn't she? I'll
tell ya, she's as sweet as the day is long but I'm too old for her. Way
too old. I'm so old I've got one foot in the grave."
I looked over at him, he had a grin from ear to ear and even though his
voice could wake the dead it was kind of soothing in a way, like a gentle
giant or something. I knew right then he was good guy and though he looked
like he'd been in more than a few fights, I just had a feeling he wasn't
going to hurt me.
So I spun around on the chair, chuckling with him and said, "Now
come on, you're not that old. You don't look like you're about to keel
over to me."
He kind of leaned back against the counter, "How old do you think
I am then?"
Right about there I realized I was in over my head, so I started
choking on my words. He really didn't sound like he was being hostile, but
I didn't want to piss him off you know?
"Aw, come on, guess. I won't bite ya. I promise," he said
with a smile.
I looked him up and down really good and said, "Forty, maybe
He slapped his hand down on the counter with a bang and yelled for the
entire restauarant to hear, "Hot damn I fooled another one.
Fifty-seven, would you believe that I am fifty-seven years old and not a
gray hair on my head?"
About this time the waitress came back with my food. "Now you
can't be 57," I said. "You barely look 40."
"I am too 57," he said. "Claire," he said motioning
to the waitress, "tell this guy how old I am."
She spun around from whatever she was doing, "He's 57 sweetie.
I've seen the license. I don't get it either."
I began to eat my food but I didn't get more than two bites in when he
spoke up again, "What's your name man?"
I swallowed hard to avoid choking, "Jake, Jake Simpson,
"Well, my name's John but all my friends call me Little John, so
that's what you can call me," he said shaking my hand so hard I
thought he was going to rip my arm off. "So where you from?"
I could feel the eyes in the room turning to me as I said it. They
didn't like outsiders, especially those from the city but Little John
spoke up again, "Don't you pay no mind to them, they're just a bunch
of hillbillies and rednecks," he said raising his voice so the room
could hear. In unison, everyone looked back at their plates and resumed
"So what brings you to our humble town?" he asked.
"Just passin' through," I said trying to eat more quickly.
"Well, where you going to then?"
That's when the reality hit me. I looked up from my food and set my
fork down, "I don't know," I said chuckling, "I really have
no idea where in the hell I'm going."
Little John just kind of gave me a puzzled look and leaned in a little
closer, "You mean to tell me you left Atlanta and you have no idea
where you're going?"
I picked my fork back up, "Yeah, I did. I really did."
"Now listen," he said, " I don't want you to take a
offense to this, but I have to ask you something. What the hell were you
So what did you tell him?
I told him everything. I told him about my wife, about college, about
art about love and even about my sex life. I've never in my life opened up
so much to someone. What's funny is that I didn't even think twice about
what I was saying. I just started talking and I laid it all out there. He
got more confessions out of me in fifteen minutes than I think my wife has
gotten out of me in all our years. I couldn't believe it.
What did he say?
He smiled really big and said, "Son, I think you just became my
new hero." I couldn't believe it. I mean, I had just bared my soul to
another human being and he thought I was some kind of hero? But he kept
going, "You see, I was married for sixteen years. They were three of
the best and thirteen of the worst years of my life. She was an alcoholic
slut who banged half of Greeneville behind my back. But not once did I
have the guts to leave her, not once did I have the guts to do what you
just did. You are my hero man."
He gave me a playful jab on the arm and I quickly finished up my food.
He called for his check and I took a quick tally of my money. I knew with
food, gas and hotels that my cash wasn't going to last long. I figured
maybe 10 days at the most. A bit panicked I called the waitress over and
asked her if there was any way I could work off the bill, that my money
would have to last me a while.
"Don't you mind him Claire," Little John said chiming in,
"Just put his bill on my tab. I'll take care of it for him."
"Thank you so much," I said turning to face him, "But
listen, if it's any trouble, I got it covered."
"Naw, it's alright. Listen, you staying the night in town or do
you need to be getting on?"
I checked my watch, it was almost ten o'clock by this time, "Well,
I hadn't planned on it, but it is getting late isn't it? Know any cheap
"Yeah, how about free?"
"Listen, you've done too much already, I can get a hotel room,
that's not a problem…" I'd have kept going but Little John was
already waving me off.
"It's not a problem," he said, "I got a guy that owes me
a favor. Listen, when you leave the parking lot, make a left, go through
two lights and make another left, not onto the Interestate, but the side
street that's beside it. Go about half a mile that way and you'll see a
hotel called Best Inn. Go there, ask for a guy by the name of Mike and
tell him that Little John sent ya. He'll take care of you."
"Ok, I'll do it," I said jotting the directions down on a
napkin, "But can you tell me why you're being so nice to me?"
He smiled real big and said, "Didn't I tell ya? You're my new
"I still feel like I owe you something though."
"Listen, if you want to repay me, make your way to the Blue Moon
Bar. It's on the same road as your hotel, just two miles down. I'll be
working there tonight from midnight on. Just show up there, I'll buy you a
drink and make you a deal you can't refuse. I always help my heroes out
and I think I know just what you need."
Did you agree?
Yeah, I agreed. I figured if it was anything too bad, I could get
myself out of Greenville easily. I didn't see there as being much risk.
Well, anyway, he said goodbye to Claire and after finishing my coke I
left too. The only difference is that I had no idea what the hell was
about to happen next.