What’s your phone number? I have a ginormous favor to ask! I sent her my phone number, told her she had me really curious, and waited for the phone to ring. Five minutes later, it did. (Side note: This is what a dumbass I am. The phone rang, and I automatically looked at the caller ID and saw a name, followed by a comma and MD. Why on earth is Kate calling me from her doctor’s office? I worried. I hope she’s not sick! Ten or fifteen minutes later, AFTER I had hung up the phone, it hit me. MD = MARYLAND. D’oh!) It’s a long, involved story and really none-ya-bidness, but basically Kate’s mother passed away last month, and she needed someone to drive to scary-ass south Alabama to pick up her mother’s ashes. I said yes, of course, because that’s the kind of cheap, selfish bitch I am. The longer I talked to Kate and heard about her big, scary redneck brother (who had the ashes) the more I started thinking that maybe I wanted to see if Fred would go with me. What pushed me over from maybe to definitely was her warning that it was like Deliverance country down there. I’ve SEEN Deliverance, and I have no desire to be forced to squeal like a pig. After I hung up with Kate, I called Fred – who was on his way home – on his cell phone. I gave him a brief rundown of the situation. “So…” I said. “You wouldn’t want to take half a day off work tomorrow and go with me, would you?” “JESUS H. FUCKING CHRIST!” he bellowed. “Well, you don’t have to!” I said, taken aback. “You don’t have to – ” “NO!” he said in a slightly less belligerent voice. “GOD!” I said. “That’s okay, I’ll go by myself, it’s no big deal!” Sounding amused, he said “No, someone cut me off. That’s what I was swearing about.” “Oh,” I said. “I thought it was a mighty strong reaction!” He sighed and thought about it and finally said “Yeah, maybe. We’ll talk about it when I get home!” He eventually decided to take the entire day off, and said he’d go as long as we could leave early. “Like 7:00?” I said. “If you want to go that late,” he said. I think he was only half kidding.

* * *
Yesterday morning, we left the house by 7:15. After we’d stopped at McDonald’s so Fred could get his coffee and I could get a Diet Coke, we hit the highway. We’ve made the drive down 65 south plenty of times before, and we’ve done many road trips together, so the drive wasn’t too terribly bad. Driving through Birmingham sucked, as it always does, and then we left 65 and drove through some tiny towns. (A few weeks ago when Tracy and Kate were in the area where we were headed, Tracy described it as “The ass-end of nowhere”. That’s a pretty good description, although there’s an awful lot of that here in Alabama.) We were drawing close to our destination – a little town named J3mison – and decided to stop in Cal3ra to use the facilities. We stopped at a gas station (“I wonder if folks from J3mison consider going to Cal3ra to be going to the big city!” I said later on our way back through.) and headed for the store. Sitting outside the store in a lawn chair was an old man. Sitting next to him was a young man straight out of Deliverance. Fred greeted them with a big, friendly “Hi!” as we passed, and I nodded and smiled nervously, ready to scream if either of them grabbed for me. A few minutes later we were on our way again, and it wasn’t long before we were driving down a small state road, looking for a road to the left. We went past the road without even noticing it, and had to turn around. “God,” Fred said finally, slowing to a crawl. “This has to be it, because it’s at the right mileage.” “There’s no sign,” I pointed out. “I thought county roads were usually paved.” “This has to be it,” he repeated. “And they usually are paved.” He turned onto the dirt road.
To the left of the road was a trailer park. “Oh,” I said. “She didn’t mention he lived in a trailer park.” “There’s no way to get to the trailer park,” Fred pointed out. “I don’t think this is it.” We saw a mailbox with a number on it. We were heading for, say, number 666, and the mailbox was in the 200s. We passed the end of the trailer park, and then it got scary. We passed rusted-out trailers, trailers that were listing to the side, trailers with broken windows and doors, and everywhere we looked were ominous signs that said “Keep Out!” and “No Trespassing!” “Okay.” I seized the moment to discuss our plan. “We’re going to stun him with perky niceness, grab the ashes, and get the hell out of there. If he asks us in, you say we can’t stay, you’ve gotta get back to work, okay?” Fred suggested a Plan B. “If he gives us any trouble, I’ll snatch the ashes, throwing them to you, then roll and tackle Digg3r while you make an end run around the front of the Jeep!” “Why am I imagining that that scenario will end with us hiding in the woods while they burn our Jeep and then hunt us down?” “I have SEVEN bullets in my gun,” Fred said, seeming to feel that this would reassure me. “It’s a small gun, and I hear he’s a big guy,” I said. “But I guess you wouldn’t need to kill him. As long as you slow him down, we’ll be okay, right?” I imagined having to call Kate and say “Gee, not only did we not get the ashes, but we accidentally killed your brother! Sorry!” We slowed down as we approached a blue trailer. The number on the mailbox was the one we were looking for. We discussed which of the trailers was on the same piece of land as the blue one (the blue one having belonged to Kate’s mother), and decided that the one with all the vehicles in the yard had to be it. We pulled into the driveway. I stated the plan again. “Stun ’em with niceness, grab the ashes, get the hell out.” “I don’t want to be here for more than five minutes,” Fred said. “I don’t want to be here for more than one.” We walked up the driveway and up rickety steps to a front deck. “Ready?” Fred whispered. I considered fleeing, screaming, back to the Jeep. “No,” I said, nodding. Fred reached out and knocked on the storm door. Immediately, we heard the yapping of a dog. Relieved that I wasn’t hearing the deep “WOOF! WOOF! WOOF!” of a big dog, I smiled at Fred. “At least it’s a little dog!” A moment later, the inside door opened. A very large, very scary man peered out at us. “Uh, are, are you, uh….” Fred sputtered. “Uh, Kate’s brother?” I plastered a big grin on my face and tried to look as friendly and non-threatening as possible. He nodded, and then smiled at us. He turned and grabbed something that we couldn’t see. Sure that the next thing we’d see would be the business end of a rifle, I thought about rolling off the deck and running for the Jeep. Fred could take care of himself, I figured. Digg3r’s hands came back into view, holding a small box. He opened the storm door to hand it to Fred and hesitating, apparently remembering his manners. “Would you like to come in?” he asked politely. Confident that SINCE WE’D DISCUSSED THIS POSSIBILITY Fred would decline, I was surprised to hear him eagerly say “Sure, we’ll come in for a few minutes!” I’m sure my smile faded more than a little. We stepped into the living room of the trailer and were approached by a small yappy weiner dog. She danced around us, yapping as loudly as she could, her ears flopping every which way. “Oh!” I said, bending down to pet her. “You’re so mean! You’re so scary!” Digg3r seemed to think I was actually afraid of her. “She won’t bite,” he said reassuringly, and when she wouldn’t shut up he locked her in another room. At some point, Fred introduced both himself and me – in scary situations I tend to clam up, whereas he’s more, it appears, of a babbler – and I kept the grin plastered across my face. I’m sure I looked a bit addled, if not simpleminded. “Have a seat!” Digg3r encouraged. We sat carefully on the couch as Digg3r settled into his recliner. And then Fred began to talk. And talk and talk and talk. About the drive. About the weather. About how we’d gotten lost for a few minutes. Grin in place, I thought shutupshutupSHUTUP at him. Finally, he seemed to hear my thoughts. With no segue, he went from “…and we really could use the rain” to “well, we don’t want to take up your whole day!”, and popped up to a standing position. “Oh, it’s no trouble,” Digg3r demurred, waving his hand about as if we were welcome to take up as much of his day as we wanted. Which spurred Fred into babbling about how he had to get back to work. “I have to get back to work,” he said. “Well, not BACK to work, since I didn’t work this morning, but I have to get TO work…” I thought I was going to have to shoot him with his own gun. Finally, he took the box of ashes and handed it to me. I made a comment about how heavy it was (We weighed it later and found that it was 6 pounds. Apparently when you’re nervous, 6 pounds feels a lot heavier than it is.), and we shuffled toward the door. This is always the point in the movie when the bad guy pulls out a gun and says something like “Oh, it’s not going to be QUITE so easy, Mr. Bond!” before he starts shooting. As I headed for the door as quickly as I could get the babbling Fred to move his ass, I kept an eye on Digg3r’s hands. We said our goodbyes, and then headed down the driveway. “Now is when he comes running out with a rifle and shoots us in the back,” I predicted. And then, when we were in the Jeep, “Now is when he comes running out with a rifle and shoots out the tires.” And then, when we were driving down the road, “Now is when he comes running down the driveway with the rifle and shoots out the back window, taking off the top of my head.” And then, when we were back on the state road, “Now is when he’s changed his mind and called the cops to track us down and get the box back.” And then, after we’d stopped at the McDonald’s in Cal3ra to pee and get breakfast, and we were on the highway headed for home, “Huh. That was almost anti-climactic.” THANK GOD.
* * *
By the way, no. It did not freak me out to have the ashes of my sister-in-law’s mother sitting on the table (in a box on the table, I should say) all night. That’s not the sort of thing that freaks me out, I guess.
* * *
I’m about ready to go steal Gizmo from Kate and Tracy!