The Hitchhiker Headed to the Grand Canyon

Kira Gunville, Creative Writing student

If there was one piece of advice from her grandpa that had stuck in Olivia’s head it was about hitchhikers: never, ever let them ride with you. Her grandpa had been a trucker up until he died, even though he was “retired.” He used to take her on week-long trips in the summer out east near Vermont and New Hampshire. Man, did she miss her grandpa.

The death of her grandfather had come unexpectedly and had hit the whole family like…well, like a truck. It was the first close familial death that Olivia had experienced in her short twenty years of life, and it had sent her into a depression.

So, her friend Delia had suggested Livi drive out to Arizona to visit. That’s what she was doing right now. It was a several day trip from Ohio to Arizona especially considering Olivia had ADHD and could only stay focused for a few hours at a time. Also sleep…and food. Livi loved food. Speaking of, her stomach rumbled at the thought, so she took the next exit and stopped at a gas station. After grabbing lunch at the connected McDonald’s, she made her way outside to her car.

There was a girl of about seventeen or eighteen sitting on the hood of her car smoking a cigarette. Livi scrunched up her face. She hated the smell of cigarette smoke.

“Excuse me, can I help you?” Olivia asked none too politely.

The girl lifted her head up, and her jet black hair smacked her in the face, causing her hood to fall off. She scrambled off of the car. “I-I’m sorry I just was looking for a place to sit down that wasn’t covered in gasoline. There w-was just a spill,” the teenager stuttered, pointing to the ground.

Olivia looked, and the girl was right. There was gas everywhere and workers were rushing to get it cleaned up. How had she not noticed? She sighed, “Where’s your car?”

The girl looked down. “I don’t have a car.”


A shaking of the head. “My dad’s back home, ma’am.”

Olivia ran a tired hand through her short, brown hair. “Are you a runaway?” The girl certainly looked like it. She only had a backpack and the clothes on her back…and that damn cigarette. Her hair was ragged, as if she had been cutting it with a knife or a pair of safety scissors. The hoodie she had on was worn. Whether it was from the elements or sleeping on the ground or both, Olivia didn’t know. Her blue jeans were in the same condition: dirty, ripped, and just altogether unappealing to the eyes.

“Not exactly. I turned eighteen just over a month ago,” she muttered. Runaway girl looked nervous: she kept pulling her sleeves lower and lower over her hands, her eyes flicking immediately to anything that moved.

Olivia frowned as she watched the girl. It appeared that she knew that Olivia was there, but she kept looking around. She wasn’t just nervous, Olivia observed, she was scared. The wind picked up and blew the hood off of the teen, but the girl pulled it right back up. In those few seconds, Livi had caught a glimpse of something red. It was blood, she knew that much.

“Get in the car, Kid,” Olivia directed. She was surprised at the words that came out of her mouth. The voice of her grandfather came to her mind: No, no, no, no, no. No hitchhikers. They are dangerous. You can’t trust the- But she was cold and hurt, so she allowed the girl to climb into her car, watching her rub her arms to warm up. “So, what’s your name, hun?”

The girl looked over at her a bit skeptically. “L-Lexi.”

Olivia smiled warmly. “Well, Lexi, are you heading anywhere in particular or do ya tend to just go with the flow?”

Lexi offered up a shy smile as she answered softly, “Grand Canyon. I’ve always wanted to go there.”

“That’s just a bit of a walk there, Kiddo…and it doesn’t seem that your trip has been too great as of thus far,” Olivia noted as she pulled out and headed back onto the highway.

Lexi fidgeted in her seat a little, looking out the window and hugging her backpack close. “Yeah, I know…Hey, you never told me your name.” The poor kid, Livi thought, anything to divert the topic.

“Olivia, but my friends call me Livi.” She briefly took a look at Lexi, who was a little more calmed down now. She decided to keep the talk going. “I’m on my way to the Colorado River for a little getaway with a friend of mine.” Lexi nodded, and her hood fell a little. Olivia saw the cut again. Immediately, it was pulled back up. “Lexi…what happened?”

There was pain her blue eyes, but only briefly as she covered it up, her face now a mask of stone. “Ah nothing. Just a little scratch.”

There was silence as Olivia drove, trying to think of something to say to that. It was obviously more than a scratch, but Lexi didn’t want to talk about it for whatever reason. Did someone do that to her? Was she in danger? Olivia suddenly felt an overwhelming sense of protectiveness for the girl.

After forty-five minutes of silence, Lexi spoke up. “So, uh, you can just drop me off whenever…” she suggested timidly.

Olivia allowed for her gaze to linger on Lexi. She looked tired, sore and defeated. No, Olivia refused to toss this poor girl to the side of the road… “I’m headed that way anyway, and as long as you aren’t some con or serial killer I don’t mind giving you a ride.”

Lexi looked at her in shock. “N-No, I can’t accept that. You’ve already given me a ride this fa-”

“I’m happy to do it, Lexi,” Olivia cut her off. “Let me do a solid thing in my life, okay, Kid? Sometimes people are actually decent, and not looking to exploit you. I don’t know how you got that cut, but that’s not okay. Let me take a look at it when we stop.”

Lexi stayed quiet for several minutes as she took what Olivia had said in. “But…”

“But nothing!” Olivia exclaimed. “I am not going to let an eighteen-year-old make a journey across the whole freaking United States when I am going to pretty much the same place she is.”

The two remained silent for the rest of the night until Olivia pulled into a Holiday Inn parking lot. After getting a room and hauling their needed belongings upstairs, Olivia pulled out a first aid kit from her bag and instructed the younger woman to sit down in front of the light.Lexi grudgingly obliged, pulling her hood down and refusing to meet Olivia’s gaze.

The ugly abrasion ran from temple to chin, running over Lexi’s cheek, and Olivia had to stifle a gasp. No one could get a cut this deep on accident. The girl had been in some kind of fight…

“Let me see your hand, Lexi,” Olivia demanded, leaving no room for negotiation as she gently grabbed her right arm. Lexi chewed on her lip, but didn’t say anything. As Olivia pulled the girl’s sleeves up over her hands, Lexi winced in pain. There was blood on her knuckles too, and it had dried onto the cloth, tearing away when Olivia moved the sleeves.

“Um…maybe we should do this in the bathroom…?” Lexi suggested as blood started pooling onto her hands. Olivia could only nod, completely taken aback by the girl before her. What happened? Did she hurt someone? Would she hurt her?

Lexi ran warm water into the bathroom sink and brought the chair from before into the bathroom, sitting down. Olivia shook the thoughts out of her head and gently took Lexi’s hands in her own, moving them under the water to wash the blood away.

“I guess you’re wondering what happened,” Lexi asked in a whisper. Olivia didn’t respond as she continued to clean the girl’s wounds. “I was in downtown Chicago…not really the safest place for any woman. They just came out of nowhere. Three of them…” She paused to take a shaky breath. “Two of them were bigger than me but the other guy was about my size…some kind of initiation. H-He tried to…” Olivia knew what the man had attempted to do, but neither of them were going to say it out loud. “Anyway, I ended up kneeing him in the balls. He had a knife, obviously, but I got a few good punches in and was able to run off down some side streets. Then I heard a gunshot. I guess he failed initiation…”

Olivia finished wrapping Lexi’s hands and moved her attention to Lexi’s face, dipping a q-tip into hydrogen peroxide before running it along the cut. “Did you report this to the police?” The girl’s silence was all the answer that Olivia needed. After the dried blood was cleared, Olivia took a good look at the cut. “Lexi…this needs stitches.”

“Can’t you do it? Please, I don’t have the money…”

“Lexi, I’m not a doctor!”

“You’re an ER nurse. Don’t tell me you don’t know how to do stitches.”

“What? How do you know that?”

“The power of observation is an incredible thing. I saw your hospital ID when you paid for the room.”

Lexi never seemed to stop amazing the older woman. She’d been through hell the past couple of days, she was observant, and she was hitchhiking at only eighteen years old. Olivia sighed and gave in.

“Fine. But it’s not going to look pretty.”

“I never asked for it to look pretty.”

Olivia preformed her mini operation on the girl that night and the two went to bed, Olivia taking the pull-out couch after much debate between the two. The next day they spent driving until, finally, they reached the Grand Canyon.

“Are you meeting anyone?” Olivia asked in concern.

“Yeah, my cousin. She should be here within a few days.”

“A few days?”

Lexi smiled at Olivia. “Such concern…yes, a few days, but it’s nothing I can’t handle. I have a tent and enough money to get me through for food. Don’t worry about me.”

The two said their goodbyes, and as Olivia started making her way from the national landmark, she couldn’t help but worry.

Her grandpa was wrong about one thing. Not all hitchhikers were horrible people.