Button, Foster, Thumb

A short piece incorporating three random words, written in 20 minutes.

by Marcus Jonathan Chapman

From one of the darkest spots on the sun, came a dude name Kafi. Blasting out of a solar flare, he broke through earth’s atmosphere and landed on the 10 freeway, somewhere between Texas and California. He looked up at the sun and waved his middle finger at it. Then he turned around and stuck out his thumb by the highway, waiting for a ride.

How Kafi knew to hitchhike is a question for anthropologists or psychologists or any of the “gists” that like to spend their time thusly. As for me, I’m mostly interested in his belly button, or the lack thereof, or really, its strange ability to appear every time Kafi peed. Which was also interesting because he urinated out of his left eye.

I was driving back to California after a trip to New Mexico where I picked up some dried chilis to be used as flavoring for table olives. I saw Kafi, on the side of the road, sticking out his right thumb and dabbing his left eye with the other arm. The picture it painted was one of heartbreak. This man had been left in the desert to die or broke down a few miles away and had started hitchhiking. Either way, the liquid streaming out of his eye touched me.

Pulling over and rolling down the window I asked, “Need a lift?” He gave a huge smile and climbed in through the open window before I had a chance to stutter out that he could open the door. Then he sat with his head where his legs should be and his legs dangling over the headrest.

The position freaked me out a little. At this point I wasn’t sure if his smile was sweet or scary.

“Where are you headed?” I asked. He just stared at me. After a few seconds he repeated back what I had said in my voice exactly.

“Where are you headed?” The perfect copy of my voice, at that moment, I dismissed as a fluke.

“I’m going to California,” I said.

“I’m going to California,” he said.

“Great, then I’ll make good time.” I said.

“Great, then I’ll make good time. I’m going to California. Where are you headed?” He said.

“I’m going to Colton, about an hour East of Los Angeles.” I said.

We were quiet for a while. I had turned down the radio a little bit to ask him if he needed a lift. A few miles down the road I noticed him shivering uncontrollably.

I looked at him and he pointed at the sun. I turned down the AC. He watched me and then reached for the dial, cranking the heat all the way up.

A few more miles down the road and I was sweating profusely but Kafi was still shivering. We passed a sign that said, “Fosters Freeze, 1 mile”.

“Let’s get some ice cream,” I said.

“Let’s get some ice cream,” he said.

Glad to be in agreement, I took the next exit and we pulled over for an ice cream. I stepped out of the car, grabbed my keys and went in. I ordered two of the largest, most deluxe items you could get. When I returned to the car, I found Kafi eating the chili’s whole. He wasn’t red, or sweaty or crying, or anything.

I stood staring at him as he ate, the ice cream melting in my hands. He noticed me, smiled wide and stuck out his thumb.

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