If you didn’t already know they were there, you’d never find them. Both the old pickup and the shabby little trailer hooked-up to it were so well hidden from the main road that even the County Sheriff’s patrols weren’t aware of them. And that’s just the way Jerry Little wanted it.
Jerry didn’t own the land where he was camping. It was owned by his brother-in-law. Now, ordinarily, Jerry would have set himself up some place on his brother-in-law’s farm, but Jerry’s sister would have none of that. So she arranged for Jerry to have access to some of her husband’s property down by the creek until Spring. But that would be it, she had told him. He’d have to sponge off somebody else after that.
The last five years had been rough on Jerry Little. He’d wrecked his other truck after having one too many one Saturday night and that landed him in the hospital with no insurance for seven weeks. When he got out, he was broke and nearly crippled, with only his pickup truck and shabby trailer to his name. That’s when he swung the deal with his brother-in-law and moved in down by the creek.
It was late one January afternoon and Jerry was inside his little trailer trying to get warm over his kerosene camp stove. Every bone in his body hurt and he’d spent the last of his available cash on a case of local beer, and that was about gone now. As he opened one of the last beers, he heard a commotion outside, and as he wiped the fog off the inside of the trailer’s window, he saw something very unusual outside.
It was one of those fancy stretch limousines pulling up near his rig, and it looked like a chauffeur had got out of the driver’s seat and was opening one of the rear doors for somebody to get out. Jerry took a long swig of his beer, reached for his jacket and cap, and continued to watch the limo. From the back seat emerged a tall, stately black gentleman, maybe around seventy or so, dressed in an expensive suit and wearing a fancy overcoat and hat. He said something to the chauffeur and then walked to the door of Jerry’s trailer, knocked, and called out, “Jerry Little, you in there?”
“Yeah, that’s me,” Jerry replied from behind the trailer’s door. “I got every right to be here. Just ask my brother-in-law. I ain’t trespassin’ or nothin’.”
“Jerry, you’re a hard man to track down. I’ve had people looking for you for years. I’m Jonah West, you know, from your old high school class at Fairview High, back in 1968. You remember me, don’t you, Jerry?” the fellow asked.
Jerry hadn’t thought about his high school years since he got out of the Army, but that name seemed to ring a bell. “Jonah West? You that black boy in my class. Sure, I remember you. Here, let me open this door and let you inside. You want a beer or something?”
As he opened the trailer door, the stench from inside hit Jonah West and he recoiled a bit. “Jerry, I don’t have much time. Why don’t you come into my limo for a few minutes. I think I can make it worth your while.”
“Can I bring my beer?” Jerry asked.
“Sure, Jerry, my driver will take it over for you. I’ve got a nice California Pinot Gris chilling in the back, if you prefer,” Jonah offered as he headed back towards the limo.
“I drink whatever’s on the table these days, Jonah,” Jerry quipped as he closed the trailer door and followed the tall black man to the rear of the limo. He slid in facing Jonah as the driver handed him his beer and closed the door, leaving the two men together behind the privacy glass. “So, you’ve been lookin’ for me for quite a while, huh, Jonah? Now that you’ve found me, are you disappointed?” Jerry wondered, looking around the sumptuous interior of the vehicle.
“Not at all, Jerry, not at all. In fact, I’m glad that I’ve found you in somewhat difficult straits. What I mean is that I think I’m in a position to help you out. And help you out a lot, Jerry!” Jonah announced.
“Hey, let’s have some of that California stuff you talked about. Just pour some into my empty beer bottle, will ya, Jonah?” Jerry suggested. “Now, what’s all this about helping old Jerry out?”
Jonah carefully filled Jerry’s beer bottle almost to the top with the Pinot Gris, poured himself about a half of a glass, and then began his story, “So, do you remember one afternoon in high school when I was getting beaten to a pulp behind the football bleachers by three white boys? And you stepped in and ran them off? You recall any of that, Jerry?”
“Sure, Jonah. No big deal. I loved to fight in high school, but I just hated it when other folks got bullied. So, you’re welcome, Jonah. I’d do it again today, too,” Jerry replied, grinning, and taking a sip from his beer bottle.
“I know, I know, Jerry. That’s just the kind of man you were and still are. And I’ve always appreciated what you did back then. Those three had been terrorizing me for months, and you put a stop to that for good, Jerry. You made me believe in the goodness of others, Jerry, and that has stuck with me over my lifetime. Have you, by the way, followed my career, Jerry?” Jonah asked.
Jerry shook his head.
“Okay, no matter. Just suffice it to say that I’m in a position to pay you back, Jerry Little. For that act of courage you performed towards me all those years ago, I want to grant you one wish, Jerry. I’m rich, my old friend, and I can make your life shine again. It’s the least I can do. So, name your wish, Jerry, and I’ll do my best to see that it gets done,” Jonah said, smiling and rubbing his hands together.
“You’re not joking, are you, Jonah? You’re about as serious as a heart attack, aren’t you? One wish, huh?” Jerry wondered, looking around again. “One wish, hmm. Okay, I’ve got it!”
“Just spell it out, Jerry, and I’ll have my people get going on it, as long as it’s reasonable, of course,” Jonah answered. “What’s your wish, Jerry?”
“What I want is for Donald Trump to continue as President for four more years,” Jerry said excitedly. “Or eight more, if you can swing that.”
Jonah shook his head and indicated that he couldn’t make that happen. “Sorry, Jerry. We’re going to need something a bit more doable, okay?”
Jerry didn’t seem too fazed by this as he came up with his second wish, “Well, how about if you put all those Confederate statues back up? You know, the ones that were torn down this Summer. That’s doable, right?”
“No, Jerry, I don’t think that’s feasible, either. Keep going, though, we’ll find something sooner or later that makes sense,” Jonah said encouragingly.
Smiling, Jerry excitedly shouted out, “Close all the abortion clinics in the country. Yeah, close ‘em all down. That’s what I want, Jonah!”
Jonah shook his head again and suggested that Jerry rethink his priorities. “How about something with a nice, fat price tag, Jerry? You know, a new house and truck, or a condo in Florida. Think in that direction, my old friend.”
“Hmm, “ Jerry mumbled. “I know what I want. Just the ticket! I want forty thousand assault rifles with plenty of ammo, all legal like, okay? I want to give most of ‘em away. I’ll keep a few, of course. That should be doable, Jonah. I mean, it’s got a nice, fat price tag, don’t it?”
Jonah was getting a bit ruffled by this time. “Jerry, even if I could do that, I wouldn’t. But I’m going to give you one last chance to come up with a wish that I can make happen without violating my conscience, okay. This is it, Jerry! Make it a good one, my old friend.”
“So,” Jerry asked, “You want me to come up with something with a fat price tag that’s not going to offend your dainty sensibilities, is that it, Jonah?”
Jonah nodded and checked his watch.
“Okay, here goes, Jonah. I want you to build me a big old boat. You know, really big. Out of wood, Jonah. And it’s dimensions are gonna have to be 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high. You with me so far, Jonah?
“Wait, Jerry, let me write this all down?” Jonah answered, hastily scribbling down the measurements.
“And I want that big old boat to be launched in New Orleans, into the River, Jonah, and then moored there until the right moment,” Jerry continued, a distant look in his eyes.
“Right, right. Sounds doable so far, my friend,” Jonah said in an encouraging tone, writing furiously.
“And I want that big old boat to be ready to take on two of every kind of animal there is in the world, Jonah, with a two weeks’ notice. No more than that!” Jerry declared. “Two weeks!”
Jonah looked up from his notebook and asked “Is that all, Jerry? I think this is doable, I really do. Anything else, Jerry?”
“Yeah, make sure there’s a two year supply of Lone Star beer aboard, too, Jonah. No, make that a three year supply,” Jerry added. “Oh, and a stateroom for you and one for me, too.”
“Well, Jerry, I must say, you had me going there for a while. I was worried with all that Trump stuff and all that stuff about statues, clinics, and assault rifles. But it looks like you’ve got your head on straight about this boat idea of yours. Might make a lot of sense, giving the way things are headed,” Jonah remarked, closing his notebook.
Jerry finished off his Pinot Gris with one swallow and dropped the empty bottle on the floor of the limo. Leaning in towards Jonah, he belched slightly and then said, a good old boy grin on his face, “I was just screwin’ with you about Trump and the other stuff, Jonah. But I had to make sure you’d go along with the whole boat thing. I think we’re on the same page now, though.”
Jonah smiled and answered, “I could have used a man like you in my organization, Jerry. Anything else before I have my driver let you out?”
“Yeah, you got any more of this California grape juice? I’m just about out of beer over at my place.”