You'll get your chance to make a final statement. Make it count.



...he arrived late, emerging from the rain as a ghost come to haunt me for my sins. I met him in the dim shine of my headlights on the side of an unknown road that traversed the countryside. His face was thin, sallow, aged, his whiskers long, drooping, sagging, running with the wet of the downpour.

I remember how he carried just the one bag, an ancient, stained, battered satchel slung beneath his right arm. It might have carried books at one time. Now, it carried his life entire.

'You the Spaghetti Man?' he asked, after a brusque knock at my window with a much scarred knuckle.

How I stammered and fumbled to roll the window down from a crack. The wider opening of it let in rain. It was cold, very cold. I wondered how he stood it so nonchalantly, as though he scarcely noticed. While I shivered at the touch of those icy droplets.

'Y-yeah,' I gushed. 'That's what they say.'

He hissed, and I was reminded of a dangerous animal that would warn the dark ere he struck from it. I gulped, recalling the strict discipline of protocol. 'Are you the Marlboro Man?'

His smile was devilish. I could not guess then how I would come to hate it later.

By the book, his reply was, 'I am anything for a ride.'

I responded somewhat efficiently, I think, by reaching across the front seat to unlock the passenger side door. He was shaking his head when I rose again, handling the latch to the door behind me. I distinctly recall that I did not like the idea of him sitting behind me in the dark like that.

Still, it is quite unremarkable that I reached awkwardly behind me to trip the lock open. This was, after all, as I had been trained.

Steaming from the icy water that covered him, he climbed in and slammed the door. I started away at once, wrinkling my nose at the stink of him. Of the road, he smelled, miles of it. Dirt. Wet. Tar. Exhaust. Endless, endless miles.

He flipped his collar with a spray of droplets. These shined as emeralds in the green glow of my dash lights. Then his hat came away, and another series of green halos lit from it. Droplets ran down the interior side of my windshields, and I felt my brow cross to think how they must now be cleaned.

When I glanced into the rear view mirror to catch the silhouette of him against the rear window, I started to note that he was balding. His hair seemed exceptionally thin. Then his cover was returned, and he slouched into the seat, into the shadows. I felt his knees come up against me through my own seat's back. At least, I confide in you now, I hoped it was his knees.

'What's the time?' he asked after a few miles.

I must have jumped, for I detected a decided sneer in his tone later. 'Ah, about two thirty. In the morning.' I kicked myself, then, I guess. Of course it was in the morning. Or it was two of an afternoon, and the end of the world had finally descended. Maybe it had, after all.

'Good. Not much traffic this time of night. And the cops will be busy.' He said it like he had made it happen, like he was sure of it. I supposed he was. I shuddered.

'Do we have far to go?'

It was a loaded question. Of course, we all have far to go. Or so we hope. In the context of current events, however my mood, I answered, 'No, not far. Fifteen minutes. And a dry bed. A warm room. All waiting for you.'

'You knew I was coming?' It was an accusation, and I was necessarily guilty.

'Well, sure. For a few minutes before I left.'

'And who else is waiting there?'

'Tarena. She's okay.'

'She knows?'

I shrugged. The truth must be known. He would find out soon enough. As would she.

'Look, Mister M, it's been years, hasn't it? I thought this business was lost and forgotten in a file somewhere.' This my version of an apology. This my exhibit of conviction. And, now doomed by my own words, I was suddenly all too certain that these were not his knees poking into my ribs from behind, you see. For the pressure there increased, and it was too sharp to be the bluntness of a knee. 'No worries, you understand, no fears. I haven't told her.'

'Then why pucker your anus so?'

'I, ah, well, you see, she doesn't know... yet. But she will. When you turn up, I mean, in the middle of the night. Dripping wet all over the damned polished hardwood floor of her entryway.' I gulped, and leaned forward a bit, though the pressure followed. 'You see?'

He grunted, and sat back. Relaxed, I was supposed to believe. Yet, I am proud to say that I did not, in point of fact, believe. That he had relaxed, I mean.

For he was a man that I knew well. Not by his face, you understand, not by the shake of his hand or the tones of his voice. For I had never met him before that night, at least, not in person, though we had been introduced vicariously a thousand times through the years. What does one say of a living legend without sounding trite? Without sounding like his public relations front man? What does one say?

Just this; He was preceded by his reputation, as are we all. People do not forget. And people do not keep secrets. Do something today, and you are remembered for it tomorrow, wherever you may go, whatever you may do. Mind you, not by the facts of it, no, you are remembered by a skewed perception of the facts of it. You are remembered in the gossip and innuendo of what you do, not by your actual deeds. As he was remembered.

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