“Smedley Makes a Big U-turn with Uber”
We now return to the story of our hapless hero, a very discouraged Fred Bob Smedley, is now befriended by an elderly Uber taxi driver by the name of Clarence……
After telling of his own life’s uneven journey and how he finally found a peace and purpose for his life, Clarence indicated that this too could happen for Fred Bob and that Clarence wanted to help bring it about for Fred Bob as well. Clarence now asked Fred Bob if he would be willing to go for a ride down “memory lane,” a trip that begins at the home of his parents many years ago, winding its way to where he is today – a place where all his bridges are burned. He is jobless, broke, homeless, deep in debt, and totally dispirited – as he sits with Clarence in an out of the way coffee shop in North Little Rock.
Clarence explains: “This is how this ride works. In my Uber taxi I have a memory lane video machine that can go back in time, telling the story of a person’s life. When we reach a certain destination, the memory lane video machine will click on and start playing.”
“Whatever it takes,” declared Fred Bob, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”
So the two men piled into Clarence’s 2001 Lincoln Uber taxi and headed for Fred Bob’s family home in Smackover, where his Pap and Mama raised Fred Bob and his nine siblings, five boys and four girls. The memory lane video clicks on and the screen shows a tar-papered shack with no electricity or indoor plumbing. A voiceover announces, “There is a wood stove and oven range inside this four room shack. Also very noticeable are words of love, sharing, manners, and respect; and also God’s Word and prayers are heard. Seen are many examples of hard work bringing forth food from the garden plot.
The family is seen sitting around a large wooden table with plates piled high with steaming food. Heard are beautiful hymns and seen is the exchange of gifts, for it is Christmas Day. A plaid shirt here, a hair brush there, a game of checkers, bows for the girl’s hair, apple pie for all. There is talk of plans for next year and it is decided that Fred Bob is the one that should go on to high school as he has shown the most promise of all. The family can only afford to send one – its brightest and best. Mama and the older ones will home-school the younger ones while they all will work the share-cropped farm with Pap, hoping to set aside some money for a new roof and maybe even get connected to some electricity.”
Tears are streaming down Fred Bob’s cheeks as he watches this memory lane video. “Clarence, please, please! Let’s get out of here! I can’t take it!”
They next stop is in front of the Smackover High School building. The memory lane video clicks on: There’s Fred Bob jumping into a Ford 150 pickup with three other boys heading away while the school clock shows it is 9:30 a.m.. Fred Bob’s voice is heard to say, “School is for losers. Let’s get some weed and hunt for some girls.” And off they go.
Back in the taxi Fred Bob looks down at the floor, shaking his head, lamenting, “My God, what was I thinking, squandering my chance to become somebody, wasting my life on getting high, and ending up with nothing! If I only knew then what I know now, I could have saved myself and my family and friends from a lot of misery and shame! Please, Clarence, let’s drive away from here. It is too painful!”
One final stop is in front of Mary Jane Phickel’s home about ten miles down the road from the High School. The memory lane video clicks on: the screen shows a young lady about sixteen years old sitting at the kitchen table in a heated discussion with her mother and father:
“Honey, Fred Bob dropped out of school three years ago and does nothing but hang around with a bad crowd. It is true that his folks and siblings are wonderful people but Fred Bob is aslost as a goose. He will bring you nothing but heartache.”
“But Dad, I truly love him and I know he’ll change. Please let me go out with him just one more time” pleaded Mary Jane.
“Against your mother’s and my better judgment, then OK, but please end it tonight!” Dad pleaded.
Fred Bob back in the taxi was beyond grief and sorrow as he recalled the events of later that night – the crash into a concrete culvert killing Mary Jane – and himself being charged with a felony DUI.
Next Time: Fred Bob turns a corner.