“So you’re the writer who wants to hear my story?”
Yessir. I’m the guy. Thanks for taking my call, I know you’re a busy man.
“Busy? In a retirement home? Yeah, I’m slammed. Say, I knew a Dietrich when I was in high school, ‘bout 70 years ago. In Chicago. Bill, Bill Dietrich. You related to him?”
“Well, good for you. Bill was a sorry piece of work. Nobody would wanna be related to him.”
Your daughter Janell told me you have a story.
“Story? Aw jeez, I wish she wouldn’t have told you that. I don’t like telling that story on account of people think I lost my mind. I’m sorry, sir, I don’t think I want to tell it today. I’m just not in the mood.”
Okay. I absolutely understand.
“It all started like this, you see. I’s working in sales in Chicago, I never got to see my family. It was real hard, my kids hardly knew me, I missed their birthdays and everything. But when you’re a young guy, you only care about money.
“Well, back then they didn’t pay for salesmen to fly unless you were a hot shot, so I drove everywhere. Had a ‘66 Chevy Caprice, I’d driven it to almost every state.”
That’s a lot of driving.
“Don’t I know it. So one night, I’m driving, and I’m missing my daughter’s birthday because I’m on the road to some little Indiana town. It’s late, I’m riding over this big, tall bridge over a river or creek or something. Listening to the radio. And I see an enormous light coming toward me. I mean big.”
“Yep. And the closer I get, I can see it’s actually TWO SETS of headlights, coming at me.”
And you’re on a bridge?
“A very tall bridge.”
So what happened?
“Well, right away I can see it’s two delivery trucks, and the idiots are passing each other, side by side, hogging up the whole road. Our horns are honking, I’m screaming. We’re gonna hit. If I aim right or left I’ll fall about a hundred feet down and, you know… Splat.”
Oh my God.
“Mine too. Well, listen, you do a lotta confessin’ when you’re about to wreck. So I just close my eyes. And I start screaming apologies to my daughters and my wife for everything, for never being home.”
So you wrecked?
“Hold on. I’m getting to that. See, while I’m screaming, everything just goes dark. And—snap!—all of a sudden I wasn’t inside my body.”
Oh. I see.
“Hey, I told you people think I’m nuts. But I’ll warn you, it gets worse, sir.”
What gets worse?
“I mean, you’re gonna think I’m a total whacko in a second.”
“‘Cause I was floating, way above the world. Just… Outta my car. Way up there. Flying. Up, up, up. Woooooo…. You think I’m crazy yet?”
“Well, I can’t describe it. But I was in a place with people. People I grew up with. People who had died. But now they were just as real as I am to you. Coulda touched’em. Coulda reached right out and shaken their hands.
“But they didn’t see me. Or if they did, they wouldn’t give me the time of day. It was almost like they knew I shouldn’t be here, like it wasn’t my time.
“So then I’m thinking, ‘Uh-oh. I must really be dead. My life is over.’ And suddenly I’m real sad and I’m crying because, listen, I love my daughters, and my wife…”
“Well, that’s when this guy comes walking to me and puts his hand on me. Big guy. Huge guy. Maybe, oh, twelve feet tall or so. Dressed like a normal guy, except he was just—you know—a giant. Hello? You haven’t hung up have you?”
No, sir, I’m just taking notes. Twelve feet tall, dead friends, floating, giant. Please, go on.
“So this guy says to me, ‘Randy, you still got important things to do on earth.’
“And I says to him, ‘What kinda things?’ But the guy just tells me to follow him.
“Well, I do. I follow him, and the next thing I know, I’m awake in my car, and my car is okay, but it’s in a ditch. There isn’t nobody around for miles. And I’m bleeding on my elbow and a little banged up, but otherwise, I wasn’t hurt. Just a little cut that was all. My car was fine.”
In a ditch? But I thought you said you were on a bridge.
“Okay. Here’s where it gets weird. Brace yourself, buddy. Because when I came to, my car was miles away from that bridge where I blacked out.
“Miles in the OTHER direction. What I mean to say is, the bridge was still miles AHEAD of me. Like I hadn’t even crossed it yet.”
You’re joking. But how is that even…?
“See what I mean? Nuts, right?”
“So then I get outta the car, and I’m looking around for skid marks or something, but nothing. My car runs perfect, no problems, and it’s like the whole thing never happened. So I just turned around and kept on driving until I got home. And that’s my story. You think I’m crazy, don’t you? Tell the truth.”
No, I’m just trying to put it all together.
“Look, believe me, I’ve had all the same questions you do. Why do you think I never tell this story? All I know is that I’m not dead.”
So what happened after that?
“What happened? I quit my traveling job and I never missed another one of my kids’ birthdays.”