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Tuesday, April 06, 2004

Tonight, on my drive home from the night class where we discuss the flamboyant gypsy violinist, I saw him by the side of the road.

Black leather jacket, cigarette hanging from his sneering lip, a collar with spikes around his neck, a lumpy sack thrown over his shoulder. I always stop for hitchhikers. Especially if they are doberman pinschers.

He got in.

"Nice spring day today, huh?"

He didn't say anything.

"Definitely feels like spring, don't it?"

He didn't even look at me.

I would give it one more try. "I like spring. Don't you?"

He thrust a paw into the sack. Out came a butcher knife and an apple. He began peeling the apple. A long strand of apple peel snaked its way down to the car floor. When he finished that apple, he took out another one. He peeled it. Then another apple and another one.

One eye looked ahead. The other eye watched the dog. There were no cars behind me. I could run into the black woods flanking the Barnet Highway and try to survive until morning.

I could stop the car. I could fend off the inevitable butcher knife attack and escape unscathed. An easy plan even I could execute. The doberman was, after all, wearing a muzzle.

Putting the car on autopilot, I turned both eyes to the doberman. My right hand reached over the glove compartment. The doberman's eyes were on me.

I always keep a very sharp pencil in the glove compartment for emergencies. Rule #22 in the solo traveller's safety book, Sour Cream Spears and Other Self-Defense Techniques.

The doberman continued looking at me. "Put down that pencil. The pie is almost done."

I dropped the pencil. Then, shaking off momentary shock, I slammed the brakes. Drat! The doberman was wearing his seatbelt. But the apple pie on the dashboard flew through the windshield.

We both jumped out of the car, the doberman clutching his butcher knife. The apple pie, steaming in the cold night air, was beyond reconstruction. The dog scowled. He retrieved his sack from the car. Two lights emerged from the darkness. Still wielding his butcher knife, he flagged down the lone car. The driver, a middle-aged itinerant wax fruit peddler, seemed scared. She beckoned the doberman to hurry up. He hadn't even slam the door shut when she floored it.

Alone with the fast-cooling pie, we both flinched when an invisible owl hooted. I had to get out of there. The sight of the apple mush left me nauseous. Besides if a cop passed, there would be uncomfortable questions. I ignored the pie's pleas and returned to my car. I said "goodbye, apple pie" like Clint Eastwood did in that Sergio Leone balloon animal western extravaganza.

When I got home I hosed off the bits of apple stuck to the car tires.

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