It was commonplace for teenagers to hitchhike in the Southern Texas in the 1980s. I was no exception. The Shire was vast, and although serviced by a train line, hitchhiking was cheap. I had no fear of getting into a stranger’s car.
The last train departed from Caringbah shortly after midnight, carrying the last of the pub’s drunken revelers. We rarely caught this train nor did we waste money on taxis. After the pub closed, we headed for a road on the far side of the dimly lit commuter car park, opposite the train tracks, and frequented by bikes and skinheads.
This particular night, at closing time, I was, as usual, very tired and had no money left.
“We’ll have to hitch,” I said to my friend Jodi. Out went our thumbs.
A white work utility soon slowed down.
“Hey, do you want a ride?” The driver leaned across to the passenger side window. His long orange sideburns matched his bushy mustache. “Where are you going?”
“Gymea,” we said together. Jodi lived at Grays Point, on the edges of Gymea Bay. When hitchhiking, we always gave Gymea as our destination from where we’d walk to Jodi’s.
The utility’s driver said, “That’s where I am going. Where in Gymea?”
“The railway station is good,” Jodi said.
“Easy. Get in, girls. I’m John. You’re a pretty pair, aren’t you? Why doesn’t one of you get in the front with me?”
“No, we’re alright,” Jodi said, joining me in the back.
He drove off slowly.
“Girls, I’d be more comfortable if one of you hopped in the front.”
“No thanks,” Jodi insisted. He tossed a packet of cigarettes into the back.
Jodi and I lit up.
“Okay, listen here. One of you really needs to get into the front seat.” His voice was now menacing.
Jodi edged closer to me, disturbing a pile of clothes on the back seat to reveal a glinting chef’s knife with tons of blood on it . We looked at each other knowingly.
“I’ll get into the front seat with you,” Jodi said.
As the car slowed, we opened the doors and jumped out.
We ran in the backyard of a nearby house and hid in a garden shed. A car door slammed. Headlights beamed down the driveway.
“Girls, girls, where are you? Come on, I’ll drop you home.” His voice was angry.
Jodi and I bolted out of the shed, across the yard and onto the house’s rear veranda, pummeling on the glass sliding doors.
“I can hear you girls. I’m coming.” The man loomed closer.
An elderly woman came to the door and shooed us away with a broom.
“Help us, please. The man has a knife. Please help.”
The woman opened the door, rushing us inside.
We heard the man’s footsteps retreat quickly. A car door slammed. Through the woman’s front window, we watched the utility fishtailing toward the city turnoff.
I never stuck my thumb out for a ride again.