I flip on the BBC's The Lord of the Rings and settle into the Zen driving mode.
About 20 miles north of Canton on I-55, something startles me out of my dream state. My car, Elvis by name, begins to slow down when I press the accelerator and the engine makes a surprising sputtering noise. I pull over, but as soon as I do, Elvis peps up again, determined to go a little further.
I see a sign for Canton and grit my teeth, hoping to make it to Canton in time to fuel up. I've never run out of gas before, and it's dark, I don't have a phone, and I've managed (for the first time in six years) to take my trusty CB radio out of the car for a new set of batteries (I don't carry a cell phone and still don't want one). Hot and nervous, I think we're gonna make it, but within another mile, I'm stationary with hazard lights on the side of the road. Every dummy light on the dash screams its unique annoyingly bright color, and buckets of shame fall from the sky directly onto my head.
Since I had seen a Canton sign recently, I sigh, bow up, and decide to just walk it. I throw everything into the trunk, grab my license (so they can identify my body and later make a made-for-TV movie about this night), my debit card, and a credit card (should things go amiss even further).
It shouldn't be more than two miles. I can do two miles.
After the first quarter mile, I begin to worry, because I can't see any major light pollution ahead, designating the 50 gas stations that live in Canton. At this point, I pass a clearing of a few fields and a small section of small houses. I hear talking and see the upper torsos of two young black boys, probably in junior high.
I consider the risks of humbly asking for help or walking the rest of the way at night along the highway.
I decide to take my chances with humanity, and my general ability to hold a conversation with anyone, no matter their station, who speaks English, of course, or excuses my terrible Japan-glish.
I skip over the first house with the light of a TV in the window and go to the second house which I had seen the boys near. However, when I knock on the partially ajar door, a young voice yells from inside, "Who is it?!!"
How on earth do you explain to a front door that the people inside don't know you from the average random serial killer and how you need their help? They didn't go for it, and without seeing a single face or hand or baseball bat, the door slams shut.
Reluctant to try the walking again, I pat the warmth of embarrassment out of my cheeks and knock on the door of the first house. Reassuringly, there is a sticker for the Fraternal Order of the Police on the plastic screen door. An older black man, lanky and calloused, opens the door. Over the cigarette in his mouth, he tells me to hang on, and I wait for him to return with an axe. His wife comes to the door. I shake hands with her, introduce myself and how far it is to Canton. She says it's way too far to walk and that she and her husband would drive me.
I jabber the whole way, trying to make everyone, especially myself, a little more comfortable. Mrs. Marvis Morris, since I asked of her name, explains that they do this all the time, and quite often around the holidays when more people are traveling.
Along the way, she stops along the side of the dark country road near a plastic green fenced area where her husband gets out. I quickly assess my surroundings and figure I probably can't take out the old man but I could give Mrs. Morris an elbow to the face and drive the car away if this place was where they intended to kill me and bury my body.
To my relief, he returns with his gas can where he'd left it the day before, puts in the trunk, and we continue the nearly twenty minute drive (well, add in that it was a curvy road, but that's still damn far!) to Canton. It wound up being another 13 miles to Canton had I walked the straight path along the interstate.
Habib, the gas station attendant complete with his maroon turban (he was really cool and nice; I saw him again later when I stopped to fill the tank the rest of the way) sells me five dollars worth of gas and we set out on the return drive to my car.
By the end of the car ride, I'd told a few of my flat tire horror stories (I am the primarch of the plane of flat tires; I've had at least twenty in my short lifetime and many of them have been on that same route from Oxford to Hattiesburg), learned of Mrs. Morris's daughter and grandchildren, and listened to other stories of people they had helped. All this with the background music of am ethnic gospel tape. But I didn't care in the least. They could have listened to Satan has risen again for all I care. They were really wonder people, if a little quiet at first.
I arrive in Jackson too late and the gang had already left to go to a movie. So I sneak in the back door, write an apology note to leave on Glover's computer, Fedora, made a few long distance phone calls, went through Ellis's underwear drawer, used Glover's toothbrush, borrowed a few movies (okay, everything from phone to movies is a joke, for those that took it seriously), and got back on the road.
All things considered, I had a pretty easy time of running out of gas late at night in BFE Mississippi. It could have been immensely worse, and this way I got to meet some very nice people, even if I did disrupt their evening.
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Morris. I owe you. I think I might even send you flowers if I can afford them.
And people wonder why I stop to help people on the side of the highway...I've been stuck there many times.
Forces of Darkness: 0