Story: “We Tell Jokes” Image: “Bill & Hillary”

Marvin is such an idiot. He knows damn good and well traffic after 10 out of Asheville on Rt. 6 is practically zero and the few cars that are headed toward the college are usually weirdoes and crazies hell-bent on self-destruction.

Marvin and I attend the dullest college in the United Sates—possibly the world. I mean if you were to throw a drug party people would show up with Ex-Lax or Pepto-Bismol. And the girls—don’t get me started—they’re not just “saving themselves for marriage”—more like saving themselves for retirement. So to preserve our sanity, on weekends we go to town—the shit-heel Mecca of Asheville—where you can at least you can buy a beer and watch the stop light change.

Marvin has this idea—this gimmick—to get us rides back to the school after we cruise the bars around the bus station. He says we just hike out to the edge of town and he’s got this sign that says “Brevard College” and under it, “I tell jokes.”

So where’s he getting a half-hour’s worth of funny stories? He’s got a paperback book of jokes he’ll just read from. I had to admit—that sounded like it had possibilities. But I say we’re still taking a chance of being picked up by some nut-case. That whole part of the county is populated by mega-red-necks still pissed off about the Civil War. Who knows what they’ed do if they realized they’d picked up a couple of Yankees.

It’s dark as the inside of a cow, a light rain is starting to fall and there we are a mile or so out of town standing in the glow from a lighted billboard. I’ve got my thumb out, he’s holding the sign out and smiling like a drunken moron and…

Nothing.

Two hours pass—it’s now raining seriously—a cold October rain. We’re standing there soaked through our underwear, freezing our butts off and a total of three cars blow by us like we’re road kill. Midnight comes and we’re still there. I can’t believe I was stupid enough to let myself be talked into this. Three years in the Army and I was never this miserable. Finally I turn to him—I look at him in the pale glow from the billboard—he looks like I feel—like crap. I say, “Marvin—you jerk—I can only think of one good thing about all this. It can’t possibly get any worse.”

At that exact minute the billboard light goes out. I’m not kidding—it went out at that very moment. On a timer I guess.

I tell Marvin, “Let’s start walking. Sometime between now and dawn we’re almost certainly gonna die by the side of this road but I’d at least like to die trying to get back to the school.”

So there we are on the verge of hypothermia, walking mile after mile in the dark. I’m not Catholic but I’m thinking this must be what Purgatory is like—endless freezing blackness. I didn’t think there was this much darkness in the whole world.

I’m remembering all those Twilight Zone episodes about hitch hikers. In some of them the hitch-hikers turn out to be aliens or some other horrible monster and the driver gets eaten—or worse. In other shows the driver turns out to be the monster and the hitch-hiker is shredded or pureed—or worse. The point being this whole hitch-hiking in the dead of night along the most desolate stretch of highway in North America, never turns out well.

My feet have been numb for—it seems like—3 or 4 hours and I’m so cold and tired I’m having trouble remembering who I am and what I’m doing when I notice a glow ahead of us and to the left. I stare at it for I don’t know—4 or 5 minutes—when it suddenly occurs to me the sun is coming up.

I continue looking at it as it slowly grows brighter—I keep remembering that line from Romeo and Juliet—“It is the east and Juliet is the sun.” I hear this goofy laughter—it’s not Marvin—who by now looks like the walking dead—it’s me.

“I’m thinking, “Why am I laughing at that line from Shakespeare?—it’s not funny.” Finally I decide I’m deteriorating psychologically—can physical collapse be far behind? But—it also dawns on me (no pun intended) it should get warmer with the sun rise. Somehow that doesn’t seem possible. I’m so cold and tired and in such pain it seems like feeling better is no longer possible.

We do get warmer as the sun gets higher but we are so tired and aching we both finally just sit down by the side of the road in the wet, muddy gravel. We’re sitting there in a mental fog—neither of us saying anything. We’re just sitting there looking around ourselves like we really are aliens checking out this backward planet lost somewhere in the galactic boondocks when I hear a car engine and gravel crunching under tires.

With considerable effort I turn my self around and a state trooper is standing there beside his cruiser looking at us with this look of concern on his face. We must have looked pathetic—sitting there in the mud half dead. Marvin’s still holding his “Brevard College—I tell jokes sign.” That must have really put us over the top.

The cop walks over and tells us to stand up—we try but can’t. He has to help us to our feet. He puts us in the back seat of the patrol car and drives us the last miles to the college. When we get there he has to wake us up and help us out of the car.

It’s all I can do to take a quick shower and crawl into bed. I must have slept 12 hours. When I wake up I have blisters on my feet and I ache in places I didn’t know I had.

By the following Friday morning I’m pretty much recovered and looking forward to the weekend. I find Marvin in the student union with a guitar—he’s gotten somebody to teach him a few chords and he’s got this sign—“We sing!—Brevard College.”

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One Response to “Story: “We Tell Jokes” Image: “Bill & Hillary””

  1. Bob Says:

    Nice photo – man have the years been hard on the Clintons! :)

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