Monday, July 17, 2006


Like most people, there have been times in my life where it seems like a black cloud is hovering over my head; everything goes wrong - the car breaks down, the phone bill comes in at a record $241, my job is discontinued because of budget cuts, and the price of gasoline is astronomical. But in my case, when the black cloud appears it can stick around for years at a time.

The first black cloud appeared when I was 16 years old. My parents had divorced, and I had lost my Grandnannie – my great-grandmother – and the only person who (I felt) really cared about me. I was an angry teenager, withdrawn, and lashed out at anyone who tried to become close to me. I was an uncontrollable wildcat, so my mother kicked me out of the house and into the world. I was about to taste reality firsthand.

I bought my first car, a 1968 Dodge Coronet, and moved into an efficiency apartment. Independent living was great and I enjoyed every minute; I was finally on my own, but I lost an opportunity to go to college because of my negative behavior. I had been accepted at Burdett School in Boston, and now had no way to pay the tuition. I was working in a pizza joint downtown, but the escalating energy crisis made the cost of living and driving to work very expensive. Determined to make it on my own, I found a second job as a legal secretary. The money flow was running smoothly once again, but the practice in problem solving would not prepare me enough for future events.

Two years later the black cloud returned with a vengeance. I was laid off from my job as a legal secretary. Jobs were scarce for an untrained teenager, and I resorted to traveling with a carnival working the midway. It was my job to lure “marks” to my balloon game, and convince them to spend as much money as possible; a little cloth bear was all they had to show for their efforts. Life as a “carnie” was not very profitable for me, and eventually I was fired for giving away too many prizes. I hitchhiked along the East Coast, never knowing where my next meal would come from or if I was going to have a place to sleep. It was risky behavior but I didn’t care. I had a knife and would use it if needed. One day a van full of hippies stopped and asked if I wanted to go with them to St Augustine, Florida. Eager for a new adventure I climbed into the van. Little red flags of alarm were going off inside my head, but I hadn’t yet learned to listen to my instincts. I would soon regret my decision.

Several hours passed, and I fell asleep. When I awoke, my knife, cash, and jewelry had been stolen. Searching the van for my belongings, I noticed that my new acquaintances had left, and I was alone with the driver. As I studied his appearance, an uneasy shiver ran down my spine.
The middle-aged man had long, thin, scraggly blonde hair, and was tattooed over most of his upper body. Staring out the window, I quietly pondered my situation as the big cities turned into small towns. I was hopelessly lost – desperate to get away – but I didn’t know how without alarming the driver. “He’s got to stop for gas sometime,” I thought.

As I watched the scenery change from small villages to dense forests, the van stopped in front of a run-down cabin. “Why are we stopping?” I asked. The man stared at me for a moment before replying, “This is my uncle’s place. I gotta get some money.” We got out of the van and approached the cabin. He tried the door, but it was locked. I suddenly realized that this was a bad situation, and was about to get worse.

The man noticed my panic, and pulled a gun out of his pants. He pointed the gun at me and growled in a menacing voice, “Don’t get no idea of runnin’. You ain’t goin’ no where!” He grabbed my arms and tied me to a tall oak growing in the yard. I was terrified. As the scraggly-haired man looked for something to force the door open, I pleaded with him to let me go, but he would not budge. Again, I struck up a conversation with the man hoping to lure him into a false sense of security.
After what seemed like an eternity we reached a compromise; I would stay with him for the summer, and then take a bus home to Maine. That seemed to calm the scraggly-haired man and I quickly plotted my next move. “Why don’t we go into town and find out how much it is going to cost?” I suggested. He pondered this for a moment before replying, “Okay. I wanna go see my Ma anyway.” During the long ride into town my little voice – my intuition – told me that if I don’t get out of that van I would never see my family again.

On arriving at the bus station, I ran inside and asked the clerk for a one-way ticket to Maine. I didn’t have any money for the ticket so I used the payphone to call my mother. I explained the situation to her, and she agreed to wire the money to me. After a while, the scraggly-haired man was beginning to get suspicious, and came inside to see what was taking so long. When he saw me on the phone, he started to get anxious. “Come on,” he said. “Let’s go see my Ma.” I quickly glanced at the clerk with pleading eyes, and told the scraggly man I wasn’t going anywhere. “Is there a problem here?” the clerk asked. “No,” the man growled. Turning again to me the man said, “Come on! I’ll bring you right back!” This time the little voice inside me screamed “Don’t go with him or you will never make it back alive!” “No,” I said and quickly sat down in a chair, my white knuckles gripping the sides. The man angrily turned on his heel, and walked away. Once the van was out of sight I breathed a great sigh of relief, but kept a watchful eye on the door.

Three hours later the bus pulled in. Before leaving the security of the bus terminal, I glanced over my shoulder to be sure I wasn’t being watched. Satisfied there weren’t any black clouds lurking by, I gratefully boarded the bus, and rode off into unchartered territory.


At November 11, 2008 7:06 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am touched by your story.It kind of remnds me of me before and now.Those little black clouds.Although.... I do want to be a carnie.HA HA HA Good luck and take care. _belinda


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