Leap didn’t drink much, had never smoked, and had never had a wife, so he wasn’t too broken down. Still, 64 is 64.
Leap followed the genetic pattern of the American species. He headed west. That wasn’t hard in Nebraska where all county roads are routed by compass. He was in the middle of nowhere, half way to Rockville, when a pickup ground to a stop beside him and the driver motioned him to get in. The cow manure crusted on the wheels and fenders was reassuring; this was not a TV person. Besides, the sun was coming up, Leap was tired, and an old man walking down an empty road would be easy to spot from the air. Paranoia, or whatever you call it when they are really after you, had set in. Leap had no problem imagining a horde of drones fanning out across the landscape, looking for him.
True to form, all Leap got from the driver was a nod and a grunt until they were back up to speed and a mile had passed under the tires. Then the driver said, “You’re Hed.” Leap admitted that he was. “Saw your picture in the newspaper. Heard about the ruckus in Dannebrog.” Then he called the newsmen a word that two men in a truck might use, but would never like to see written down. Leap agreed with him.
Another mile passed. The driver said, “How did you get into this mess, anyhow?”
“How does a guy get struck by lightning? Bad luck. Real bad luck.”
“How come you’re running for President?”
“I’m not! Some (and he used that word again) from Tulsa called me up and tried to get me to run as a joke. I said no, and he didn’t take no for an answer. Now the whole country wants me to run, or pretend to run, and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”
At Rockville, the driver turned left, crossed the Platte River and followed highway 68 toward Ravenna. He said, “You got any money? If you’re gonna run, you’ll need money.”
“Some. I took the rainy day money out of the sock drawer before I left.”
“I could loan you forty.”
“No, you keep it. But thanks.”
They drove on in silence. Fifteen miles later, as they were coming into Grand Island, the driver said, “I’ll drop you at the bus station.” Leap nodded. He didn’t ask the driver’s name. It didn’t matter, really. In the short time he had lived in Dannebrog, Leap had met a dozen men and women who would have helped him out just as automatically, with no hesitation and no thought of reward. In fact, Leap would have done the same himself.
At the bus station, he walked around the pickup and reached up to shake the hand of his new, anonymous friend. For the first time he saw him full face, not profile. He was tanned and whiskered, lean, maybe forty years old, with a ball cap and a khaki shirt. He grinned at Leap and said, “Running from president. God almighty. Only in America.”
Leap said, “What would you do if they tried to stick you with the job?”
“Run like a deer, leap like an antelope, burrow like a prairie dog. Anything it took to get away. Good luck. I hope they don’t catch you.”
** ** ** **
For those of you who don’t live in Nebraska but still recognized the name Dannebrog in the last two posts, yes, you’re right, this is also an homage to Roger Welsch, who would also run from President. more tomorrow