Publish Novellas 24 July 2022
EPISODE 1 – UNCLES
A streetwise mentor of life lessons must reign the hormones of an educationally neglected teen runaway that seeks idealized stardom on the road.
On the west coast, everyone has a swimming pool and mingles with Hollywood stars. “Someone there can make me famous.” This is what a couple hundred thousand achieve and a few hundred million imagine. Many of the “successful” thousands are one-hit-wonders or movie extras who rely on blue-collar income apart from acting.
Success stories are sparse. Emma Jean is a young Alabama hopeful. Homelife has been fractured for as long as she can remember. She never met her father. Her mother is not even sure of his name. Emma became accustomed to sleeping on sofas while her mother slept in the bedroom with the “uncle” of the week.
Her mom often told her to keep the television on to muffle the background noises. Through the films she watched, Emma became enamored with the hope of becoming a Hollywood star.
The appeal of financial freedom is a side benefit of transcending reality. Even if only temporarily, she could become whatever personality the script dictates.
At 17 years of age, with only her right thumb and backpack, Emma quietly left her mother and “uncle.” She is destine to become a Hollywood actress or die trying.
A family of three in a four-door sedan is first to respond to Emma’s outstretched thumb. The compassionate father, mother, and daughter express concern over the girl on the road alone.
“Look at that poor girl, Ted. Pull over!”
In response to his wife’s request, Ted brings the car to a stop about 30 feet beyond Emma. She rushes to the front passenger window as it rolls down a few inches.
“Are you alone?” asks the seated woman.
“Yeah, ma’am,” Emma replies.
“Where are you heading?”
“As far west as ya can take me.”
“Where are your parents?”
“If y’all don’t mind, can we talk in yer car?”
Ted unlocks the door. Emma hops in, placing her backpack between herself and the daughter on the rear seat. After slamming the door, Emma rubs her hands together and blows through cupped fingers to warm them.
“I much appreciate yer kindness. Is this yer little girl?”
“Yes, that’s Madeline. I’m Ted. This is my wife, Barbara Jean. Where’s your family?”
“I don’t have much of that like y’all. Never met my Pa. And I imagine my Ma is knockin’ boots with another uncle ‘bout now.”
“It’s dangerous on this highway alone,” Ted cautions.
“That’s why I’m thankful y’all stopped fer me.”
“What’s your name?” asks Barbara.
“Name’s Emma… Emma Jean, like yers.”
“You seem quite young.”
“I reckon I look younger than I really is.”
Ted pulls the car back onto the highway and says, “We’re not trying to pry. We just want to know if you’re in any danger.”
“No, sir. In fact, things is lookin’ up, and will soon get much better. I don’t reckon I never seen a family with a Ma, Pa, and little girl in real life. It must be nice.”
With a tear in her eye, Barbara grasps Ted’s hand and responds, “Yes, it’s really nice.”
“We’re only going about ten miles up the road into town. Do you want us to drop you off at a friend’s house or motel?” asks Ted.
“That’ll be fine. Just let me out anywhere, whenever ya get dere. I gotta sleeping bag,” Emma says.
As they pull into town, Ted slows down at a bus stop. Barbara points out nearby prostitutes. So he drives further to a well-lit grocery store. “Here’s a few bucks. Use it for food or to pay for a warm bed tonight.”
“Thank’s a bunch.”
“You be careful!” Barbara says.
“I sure will, ma’am.” Emma buys a flashlight, some moist towelettes, beef jerky, and a pint of milk before walking on the outskirts of town, unzipping her sleeping bag, and turning in for the night.
The towelettes come in handy the next morning after waking up and relieving herself in the bushes. Emma then resumes hitchhiking.
A woman truck driver in an 18-wheeler slows down. This excites Emma as she runs toward the pink semi with “Lady Blade” painted on the side.
“I’m heading as far west as ya can take me. Can I get a lift?” asks Emma.
“Climb in,” the driver says.
“Wow, I never seen a truck like dis. It sure is pretty.”
“What’s your name?” the driver asks.
“Emma. What’s yers?”
“Pardon me, did ya tell me ta die…?”
“Keep up girl. It’s short for Diana.”
Oh, nice to meet ya, ma’am.”
“Ever hitchhiked before?” Diana asks.
“Yeah, ma’am. A nice family gave me a ride yesterday.” Becoming distracted by an insect landing on her arm she responds, “Ooh, a ladybug. I love dese.”
“Stay focused girl. I don’t take to kindly to distractions. Not everybody on these highways is nice,” warns Diana. “I can give you a ride for a few hundred miles. But we’ll need to pull into a truck stop for breakfast. Do you have enough money to buy something to eat?”
“Da first family gave me 50 bucks. A little of it I spent last night. I reckon I could buy a slice of pie and milk,” Emma replies. “Wow, is that a bed behind da seats? Does ya sleep in here?”
Concern over Emma’s innocence leads Diana to offer some advice. “I’ve been driving across the country for a few years now. During that time, I’ve learned many things to keep a woman safe. Since you climbed into my truck, you broke five rules. If I let you keep talking, you’ll soon break some more.”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. I didn’t mean to,” Emma responds with fear. “What’d I do wrong?”
“This emotional sequel demonstrates challenges of raising a vulnerable child of neglect.”
“Hitchhiking is dangerous business. More goes wrong than right. Standing near bushes near a highway is an invitation to do harm to a pretty girl. That’s exactly where you had your thumb out. Though not entirely safe, towns are better than standing in the woods.”
“Thanks. I’ll try to do dat.”
Diana continues rattling off advice. “After towns, the next best place to hitchhike is open highways, but they aren’t safe either. Never walk up to the driver’s side window. Try to keep the vehicle distance between you while assessing safety. Remember, at least half the people who stop are no good. So don’t be eager.
“If you get in, check the inside handle to see if it opens the door before sitting down. Some cars have child locks that prevent you from getting out if necessary.”
“Should I be writin’ all dis down?” Emma asks.
Diana continues without pausing. “Never tell anyone how much money you have. Divide it up. Keep 20 bucks handy for a meal. Hide the rest where no one will look, like inside a tampon bag. A backpack is handy, but don’t keep anything essential inside it. If need be, it can become a shield between you and an attacker. When necessary, leave it behind.”
“I’m sorry, did ya mean a clean tampon bag or da one where I put da dirty ones?”
“Think girl. You want your money in a clean bag! There are advantages and disadvantages to climbing into an 18-wheeler. As you see, there’s a bed. That’s pretty convenient for harming a young girl like you. All your questions about where the driver sleeps makes it sound like you are eager to jump back there with him or her.”
“I just asked cause yer a lady. So I reckoned dered be no harm,” Emma says.
“It’s obvious you’re a virgin who’s inexperienced on the road.
“Trust nobody. Always be prepared for trouble. I seem like a defenseless woman behind the wheel. Now, place your hand on my thigh.”
Reluctantly, Emma does so. Immediately, Diana swings a switchblade towards Emma’s throat. With wide-open eyes Emma lifts both hands.
Putting the knife away, Diana asks, “Now what if it was the other way around? If I pulled to the side of the road and put my hand on your thigh, what would you do?”
“I never thought about it,” Emma confesses.
“That’s something you should have figured out before you began hitchhiking. A diner’s up ahead. It’s time for breakfast.”