Late One Night In Washington D.C.
West Potomac Park After Midnight
I was driving after midnight along the Potomac River when I first saw the car off the road resting against a tree in West Potomac Park. No one else was around and I continued on for a block before turning back to help.
I didn’t want to stop to help this late at night. But, it could be a woman alone, or a woman with children, stranded in that crashed vehicle.
So reluctantly I turned around to see if I could help the occupants of the car.
As I arrived a man staggered out of the vehicle with a cowboy hat pulled far down on his head. Asking him if anyone else was in the vehicle he said, “No”. He seem somewhat dazed and confused.
“What is your name” I asked, “he mumbled Will or Jeff something”. “Is it Jeff ?” He shook his head, Yes.
“Well you won’t be driving this car home”, I observed.
“Yeah, I swerved to avoid someone and ended up here in the Park.”
“Do you have a cell phone with you”, I asked.
“No”, he responded, “to easy to track me you know.” He seemed to be making no sense.
“You been drinking ?” I inquired. He shook his head, No.
Something to eat
“I just wanted to go out for a couple of hamburgers, you know”, he said adding a “Damn !” barely audible.
“Well can I give you a ride somewhere Jeff ?”, I asked next.
“Yeah, I still want that hamburger, and I know a drive-through over that way where we can get some”, he said pointing across the Potomac River.
“Wouldn’t it be better if I took you home Jeff”, I asked next.
“I don’t live too far from here and could walk”, he answered, without hesitating.
“Well I am not sure it is a good idea to be walking around Washington this time of night, and you might be injured”, I protested. “We will get you your hamburger, and then I will take you home”.
"Sounds good to me", he responded.
Lunatic, or con artist ?
The cowboy directed me to the drive through of an all night fast food emporium. He made it clear that he didn’t want to go inside the eating establishment, so we put in our order at the first drive up window. As we drove up to the next window to pay, the cowboy was searching through his pockets, clearly coming up empty.
“Friend”, he started, “it appears that I have no money, usually I don’t need any, others pay the bill”.
“Oh great,” I thought to myself, “probably a car thief, and worse yet an escaped lunatic in my car who should be delivered to the police, expecting me to provide him with a meal.”
“That will fourteen dollars and fifty five cents”, said the woman cashier at the drive-through window turning and looking more intently at my passenger.
“Is that you Bill under the cowboy hat ?”, she inquired.
“Yes Darling”, Bill or was it Jeff replied. “My friend here gave me a ride tonight”.
Stranger and stranger
“You know ‘Sir’, that if you call we will bring you anything you want”, she responded.
“I need to get out alone once in a while Darling”, Bill or was it Jeff replied. “Put this all on my tab Darling ?”
“Yes Sir”, the cashier replied. We drove to a space in the parking lot to eat our food.
I said, “I thought your name was Jeff, or is it Bill ?”
“Well it is both, William Jefferson is the name my mother gave me”.
Finishing our late night meal Bill / Jeff said, “I’d appreciate it if you could drop me off ‘friend’ at my house. Folks might be looking for me about now.”
He gave me directions taking us back across the Potomac River near the Washington Monument.
“Well friend, thank you for everything you have done for me tonight”, he said , "Stop the car anywhere along here."
"You sure, you'll be able to get home ?", I asked.
As I was driving by the White House he repeated, “You may leave me off anywhere here and I can get home."
"Good night friend", he said getting out of my car, "Thanks.”
Then he disappeared into the shadows.
"Was that ..... No it couldn't be .....", I pondered to myself on the long drive to my home.
Author's Final Thoughts
Picture sources are credited.
This story was originally submitted to the NPR Three-Minute Fiction Contest : Round Nine. The challenge was to to come up with an original short story that can be read in about three minutes. In Round Nine the contestants were asked to write a story about a President, real or fictional. This idea for this story came to me quickly and was a lot of fun to complete. I believe this "real" President did sneak out of the White House occasionally to get some fast food to eat but my story is a complete work of fiction. Hope you enjoyed reading "Late One Night in Washington D.C."
All Rights Reserved
Written : September 9, 2012
Hub Published : November 12, 2012
Hub Re-Visited : July 15, 2013
Hub Re-Visited : February 19, 2014
Hub Re-Visited : September 22, 2014
Hub Re-Visited : December 30, 2016
David J. Neuendorff
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