By Martha Jo Tisdale
She stopped to pick up the hitchhiker despite her parents’ warnings. What harm could an old woman do?
* * * *
Charlotte was driving west on a country road in the most out-of-the way place in all of Texas, she was sure. The road curved, then straightened, then rose up for a ways, as far as ‘a ways’ could be. . .in Texas; then down and around yet another bend before going straight again. She was sure she was on the right road; she thought she was sure that she was on the right road. Not suddenly, but surely slowing down, Charlotte knew she wanted to stop but her parents’ continuous warnings created a strong hesitation. The figure on the side of the road looked quickly. . .but didn’t move quickly. “It’ll be okay” she said out loud as she eased the car to the side of the road.
She smiled a warm greeting as she reached across the seat to open the passenger door. “Hurry, get in quickly!” she urged as the woman stumbled and grabbed the door. Out of breath, the visitor said, “you’re a real lifesaver!” “And you’re real pretty too!”
All the while, Charlotte was rechecking her motive for going against her parent’s warnings. She remembered an old family story, but so far no one in her immediate family had ever talked about Great Grandpa and what had happened to him so many years ago.
Charlotte swallowed hard, then asked, “what’s your name?”
“Well, if I tell you, you probably won’t believe me!” the stranger replied. “I’m sure not from these parts, and just how I came to be standin’ ‘long side this beaten path is a tale you’ll want to tell your kids!” How many kids you got, honey?”
Charlotte sighed, “Honey? Oh my” took a breath and then said, “um. . .none,” and her louder voice said to the woman she had invited into her car, “If you won’t tell me who you are and where you are going I will have to stop the car and insist you get out!”
But first she needed to clarify something so she cleared her throat and held her head high and exclaimed, “my name is Charlotte Jackson. Do you know any Jacksons?” No response and now Charlotte was beginning to get very nervous.
“Okay, well then, I think we should just have a little chat” and she pulled off the road and turned off the ignition. She turned to face her ‘opponent’ who by this time was looking a bit ruffled. She said to ‘what’s-her-name’, I want the truth and I want it now!”
The response was unexpected, but given the lack of information forthcoming, it wasn’t too surprising. The grateful hitchhiker asked for coffee!
“You . . .want coffee?” Charlotte repeated. “Well, yeah, do you got any coffee?”
Charlotte fumbled around in her travel bag and came up with a thermos and a cup and poured the old lady some coffee. “I hope you drink it black” Charlotte said hopefully. She worried her passenger might spill it in her lap. . .and threaten to sue her.
“Yeah, is good, and thanks!”
“So maybe now you might feel like talking a little bit?” Queried Charlotte. “You can call me Charlotte — and I can call you . . . . . .?”
“Well, if you must know, my name is Hedy Lamarr!” “Ring any bells for ya, honey?” Lots of folk ‘round here think I’m dead, but actually I’m still truckin’. I wear this garb so as I won’t be recognized, not that you would, you’re too young.” “Hmmmm, no kids yet either; best get busy!” “Oh, why not call me ‘Eva’ — that’s my middle name. My real name is ‘Hedwig Eva Kiesler’ — now ain’t that some handle?” “So, can we get on down the road now, Missy Charlotte?” Eva said, in little sing-song fashion.
Charlotte was stunned. ‘Hedy Lamarr, Hedy Lamarr’, it was ‘zooming’ around in her head and she was so excited she was having trouble getting the car started and back onto the road.
‘Boy oh boy’ she thought. ‘If mother could only see me now! — Me and Hedy Lamarr!’