a memoir poem

Driving along 
a deserted road
in a deluge
in the dark
my hands gripping 
the steering wheel
for dear life

I see him
in the headlights
there, ahead
on the right

standing, bent,
in the sheeting rain
thumb held out

—how can I
not stop?

Rain beats
the car roof
like a drum
as he flings open
the door and
slides into the
passenger seat.

“Thanks,” he says.

He’s wearing 
layers of clothes

a sodden cap
over straw-like hair

a scraggly beard.

“Sure,” I say.
“Where are you going?”

He looks at me
for a peculiar moment:
“The better question is
where are YOU going?”

His eyes
(maybe it’s just my 
overactive imagination)
are silvery
in the darkness.

“H-h-home,” I stammer.

“Then I’ll ride as far
as you’re able to
take me,”
says the stranger.
“How old are you,

What does it matter?
“Eighteen,” I say.

“You mean
that you have lived
to be eighteen
and no one
has told you
not to pick up

I blink.

“It’s raining…it’s
such a bad night…”
I start

but as I speak
I can hear
Grandma’s voice
reading a favorite 
book to me
when I was small
(Never Talk to Strangers!)
and what 
she always says
at our parting:
Take care of your
precious self…

he finishes:
“It could be
an even worse night.
You don’t know
what some people
might do.
There are a lot
mean people
in the world.
It isn’t safe
for you to
stop alone
like this.
If you let me off at
the next intersection,
it will be enough.”

I blink.

I drive on
to the next 
a well-lit place
where he opens
the door:

“Thanks for
the ride.
But don’t 
pick up 
any more
he admonishes.

The lights change
a horn blares
I’m only dimly aware
for watching
as the vagabond
into the

I blink.

Now I see him
now I don’t

as I take
the last turn
for home.

Lonely Highway. Colby Stopa.  CC BY 2.0.


with thanks to Katrina Morrison for the invitation to write a “Seeing the stranger” poem on Day Four of the Ethical ELA OpenWrite

and to Two Writing Teachers for the monthlong Slice of Life Story Challenge

and to the vagabond hitchhiker
whose advice I have heeded
ever since

26 thoughts on “Vagabond

  1. OMG! That was a terrifying moment! You made me so scared for you! Yourbuilt suspense using “I blink” – which was perfect. I held my breath until he left, and you headed for home. I also loved you remembering want your grandma told you – Take care of your
    precious self…. – It is something I always repeat to myself when I’m getting overwhelmed and upset. I’m sure you will repeat those lines to Scout and Micah – special girls for a special Franna.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Fran! I have not been slicing this year and haven’t had the opportunity to visit yet but yours was the first place I stopped. I have missed you and your writing. As I read this, I kept thinking, “NOOO!!! You do not pick up strangers!” I’m so glad you were okay. What a story.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, Kathleen – how I’ve missed YOU! I almost didn’t re-up for the SoLSC – it has been a TOUGH year. At the very last, I plunged in. As always, I am glad I did. Thank you for reading and I promise that I took that hitchhiker’s advice, after getting over my shock of his lecture! I hope you and all yours are well ❤


  3. Fran, this slice is another one of your vivid memories narrated so well by you. The story poem/memoir is luring me to continue reading to make sure you were safe back then. Thank the Lord that the stranger was kind-hearted!
    I just posted my pile-up poem so thanks for sharing yours and letting me whom the format came from.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a moment. It’s kind of amazing that you never wrote this memory before. It seems so vivid and instructive and ironic and emotional. Maybe too emotional to record. Anyway, we’re all fortunate that it showed up on the screen at this moment.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I actually thought I HAD written it. Searched my laptop and my blog…nope. It’s one of those things that resurfaces from time to time and you think, Man, no one would believe that happened – I need to write it down. It really happened. I am celebrating writing it at last.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Oh scary especially in the pouring rain… but how could you not…?! Definitely weird advice from a hitchhiker, was that his whole purpose? I’m glad you could finally write about it!
    I have picked up hitchhikers but never on my own.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Fran, somehow the pouring rain was the game changer. I think even if he had not had his thumb out I would have offered in weather like that. I’d have picked him up too – and I would’ve heard my grandmother’s voice of warning too. This was suspenseful and heartwarming all at once. I’m glad you are okay. And I hope he found his way. This was a nail biter today! I liked this on the second reading even more than the first and there is an image of a silhouette of a man if you scroll down looking at the shape.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Fran, oh my, your writing is so suspenseful. You hooked me and kept reeling me in. I was scared for you; it was like watching a movie! I love how you wrote about hearing your grandmother’s voice in this slice “Never talk to strangers” and “Take care of your/precious self…” The third time I read your poem, I finally realized more of the techniques you applied to your poem: alliteration, consonance, and ending your stanzas like a turn of a page in a book. The last one I mentioned was so effective keeping us all wanting to read more and more. You are an excellent writer in every style you write. Thank you for sharing your thrilling poem and your inspiration.

    Liked by 1 person

    • i have a lot of ideas for writing that just haven’t found their way into being yet – and this was one of them. The particular invitation to write about “seeing the stranger” triggered the memory. Thank you for noticing details and taking time to give such a gracious and uplifting response, Gail.


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