Monday, August 23, 2010

The Good Shepherd of Federal Way

December 2, 1970 Wednesday
That last gas stop took the last of my pocket change, and Chris had only a few dollars left and his patience was completely gone. So, while he engaged our arresting officer in verbal skirmishes, I deployed to the rear and called up the reserves – our friend Lou, who was waiting for us in Seattle. Lou wasn't at home, but Rita said she would call him at work and have him rush out to the scene in time to purchase our freedom before the banks closed.
So, noticing that Chris and his opponent were now solidifying their new relationship with Visual Venom, I stepped outside into the stormy evening gloom and found that a small crowd had gathered around Oatus to watch him clatter and spew.
Oh, yeah! We don't dare shut him down while we're waiting. We'd never get him started again; then we really would be in a pickle. An officer had stationed himself at parade rest between the Spectacle and the Beholders while Jeri Ann rapped at the crowd about the injustices being heaped upon us. Her dog, Metoo, peed on the Copgoblin's boot.
Before I even had time to be too concerned about this latest dilemma, a short, stocky older man appeared at my side with what looked like genuine concern in his eyes. He asked what in God's name was going on here, and suddenly I just broke.
“Well, we've been on the road for one month in that rig and by tonight we were hoping to be home free because we're dead broke and the truck's about to explode...”
He glanced at Oatus who had managed somehow to create a protective environment around himself with thick, billowing clouds of black smoke emitted during a spasm of backfires. The words tumbled out of me:
“ now this cop stops us, fines us and detains us and meanwhile the truck sits out here roaring away, using up gas and it's getting dark and we don't have any clearance lights and...”
“Where are ya headed?” the man asked suddenly, noticing the failing light and the need for haste.
“2020 N.E. 135th Place.” I knew that address as well as old “P.O. Box 96, Lagunitas, California, 94938.” It was home, even if I had never seen it, in this case.
“How much are they hittin' you up for?” he asked.
“At first they wanted $30 but now they've knocked it down to $20,” I sighed, feeling better after my little tantrum.
“Haven't got it, eh?”
“No, but I just called the folks we're going to be staying with and they're going to drive out and pay it,” I said.
“No need for that.” He waved his hand at the money temple. “These damned people cause more trouble than they cure these days. You wait here.”
I smiled and nodded. We were going to be here awhile and I was not particular about where I spent the waiting period, so, we would wait here.
I was contemplating how all this had ended so suddenly for us and with such apparent finality. It was stunning to me for it to be over just like that, all that effort and risk to life and limb in order to end up spending a night in a jail cell in Federal Way, Washington.
Well, the Cosmic Significance of It All (i.e., none whatsoever) was beginning to get to me when the man I was supposed to be waiting for miraculously reappeared with our ransom in hand.
After escorting our dumbfounded selves out of the police station, our savior introduced himself as Al Shepard, a local resident with connections to the Federal Way newspaper right next door. He had gone there while I was waiting and either sold them a story about the hippie vagrants being subject to police extortion or else borrowed $20 from their petty cash fund to bail us out. Possibly he had told the police he planned to file the story if they didn't turn us loose.
Whatever it was, it worked. As he ushered us out into the early evening gloom, he explained that most people can do well in life and become useful citizens if they just have a chance. He also felt that if he gave us a break, chances are that we probably had one coming; if not, then perhaps we could pass the favor on to someone in our future who needed one.
Still dumbfounded but nonetheless grateful, we said our good-byes after I called Louis to tell him that we had been freed, but Rita said that he had just left to come rescue us. She couldn't tell us how to escape from Federal Way but said that we needed to head “north on Highway 5,” and then take the 145th Street offramp to get to 135th Place.
Al the Good Shepherd stayed back a discreet distance from Oatus, motioning us out of the parking lot like he was freeing a cage of wild birds.

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