March 8, 2003

Turn

A young couple, hitch-hiking cross-country, are picked up by a man in blue car. The man doesn’t realize this, but the couple are in a fight and have barely spoken for two days.

The woman takes the passenger seat; her boyfriend sits behind her.

Within a few minutes it becomes clear that the driver is insane. He keeps mentioning a letter he’s received from President Carter. This letter, he says, is a thank-you for certain work he recently performed for the president. He explains that unfortunately he cannot reveal the exact nature of this work, for security reasons.

“I would have to kill you if I told you,” he says.

“In that case I’d prefer you didn’t tell me,” says the woman.

This is meant as a joke, but the driver fails to get it. Instead he’s offended.

“You don’t believe me. You don’t believe the president wrote to me.”

“No, of course I believe you.”

“I have the letter in the glove compartment. If you don’t believe me, I can stop the car and show it to you.”

“That won’t be necessary. Honestly, I believe you, I really do.”

The driver says nothing, and nothing gets said for a long time, and then, abruptly, the driver turns off the highway.

The boyfriend, silent until now, is the first to speak. “Where are we going? Why are we turning here?”

The driver doesn’t answer. A few minutes pass before he makes a second turn, this time down a dirt road.

“I don’t think we want to go this way,” says the boyfriend.

“No, this doesn’t look right to me,” says the woman.

“Well, it is right,” says the driver, “so you two just shut up.”

At this the boyfriend reaches around the right side of his girlfriend’s seat and touches her flank. She brings her hand to his, and they hold hands like this, in secret. It’s the first time they’ve touched in two days.