Adopt-a-Highway by Rick DeMott

I was driving to work the other day and realized that I was lonely. I am 23 years old and I have little in the way of any enjoyment in my life. I get up. I go to work. I come home. I watch TV shows pre-selected for me by the American Family Association. I go to sleep. Adding church on Sundays and deleting the work part on the weekends, and sometimes the getting up part as well, my life is like the conveyer belt at the supermarket -- always going in circles with some sticky substance occasionally getting spilled on it.

Then my life changed. I saw it. It was right there, written along the barren stretch of highway that I have driven a million times before.

It was a sign! Adopt-a-Highway!

In attempts to calm my blues before, I looked into adopting a cat or dog, but I live in Los Angeles and it's easier to adopt a kid from Cambodia than to get a pet. And I just don't think I'm emotionally secure enough to bring a child from an impoverished country into my life right now. I really don't know how to cook ethnic foods, anyway, so the baby would just starve in my care.

It was a Monday when I saw the sign and I was nearly bubbling over with excitement for the weekend. At first, I was wondering if I was ready to bring a new roadway into my life. I travel the same six streets everyday, could I take the change? But my growing excitement made me feel I was mature enough to take on the responsibility. Some of the wise-crackers in my office kept asking me if I got laid, but I kept telling them I wasn't married. They're so weird sometimes. I don't even wear a ring, so how could they possibly think I'm having intercourse.

Throughout the week, I kept thinking about all the things that I could do with my new highway. I'd pick up all the trash people throw on it. I'd patch its cracks. I'd give it a good scrubbing every 15th of the month. Too many freeways these days are just filthy. But no other highway would have an adopted father as devoted as me.

On Saturday, I got up and bounded down to the DMV to adopt "my" highway. I filled out the paperwork (surprised by the ease), paid the money and they presented me with a certificate that said I had officially adopted a 2-mile stretch of Route 405 from mile marker 236 to 238. I was so happy I jumped in the air and told the man behind the counter, "God bless you." He said that I had to take that language outside because this was a government building.

I hopped in my Civic and raced over to my new baby. The speedometer nudged the 55 mph mark, as I speed up the 101. I merged onto the 405 with rapture I could only compare the feeling to what Abraham felt after God spared his son from the fire, which Abraham was setting because God told him to.

229. 230. 231. 232. 233. 234. 235. I slammed on my breaks and pulled over to the shoulder. It was beautiful. I started to cry with joy. Grabbing the present I had bought, I got out of the car and laid it down next to the small white sign that read: M 236. After a few minutes, I realized my highway was too shy to open the present, so I opened it for it. It was a new florescent sign that read: Daddy's Little Boy. I mounted it right below the 236. It sure looked swell. I waved at all the honking cars passing by. I wanted to thank them for congratulating me on my monumental moment.

Then it dawned on me -- I have to name my new bundle of joy. I thought and thought. Then it just came to me like a clear vision -- Wayne. It was conservative, but not too common, it was an homage to my favorite actor and subtly descriptive. So I started walking along the side of Wayne. Picking up trash, scrapping gum off his asphalt. Periodically I gave him a drink of my water. Freeways in California just don't get enough water.

However, I came upon something disturbing. On the other side of his eight-lanes was an Anheiser brewery. I didn't really like the element my son was accompanying himself with, but I let it pass. I was sure that my good influence would wean him away from the unsavory types that he hung out with before I came into his life. So I kept on walking. I realized my freeway was a gorgeous black color, much like the natives I met during my mission trip to Africa. The surface smooth -- dark. The exits like long legs spreading out. I got nostalgic and had to sit for a while.

I stayed with Wayne way past dark and told him that I would be back first thing after church the next day. By the time I left there were no cars in sight. I knew that Wayne would be lonely. I so desperately wanted to bring him home with me, but I only have a one bedroom apartment. I said goodnight and gave his mile 236 marker a caring caress before I ventured home.

At church in the morning, I showed people the photos of Wayne I took the day before. I said, "Isn't he beautiful?" They just grinned politely. I think they're a little racist. I told Wayne all about that morning's sermon, but he didn't give much of a response. I don't think he's been exposed to too much religion before. And that was never more apparent then when I saw his overpass. "Screw you" was written right in the middle. I couldn't hold back and I gave him a thorough scalding. I was not going to let any child of mine use profanity of such nature. I knew he grew up in a bad part of town, but this was unacceptable. I lectured and I lectured. He just stared at me like I was talking to a brick wall.

I left him that day very angry. I was only trying to be a disciplinarian. I didn't want Wayne to turn out like so many other freeways. Downtrodden. Smelling of oil, wine and urine. Even murdering innocent motorists because it's what the 101 or the 5 do. I slept uneasy that night. But when I finally fell, I was abruptly awoken by violent banging and shaking. An earthquake. Wayne!

I rushed to my car -- not even getting changed out of my Noah's Ark pajamas. I raced from my home in Burbank to see if my baby was fine. I had visions of gapping holes and fires ravaging poor Wayne. When I arrived at mile marker 236, I was relieved to find that Wayne was fine. But I knew it was just too dangerous for him to be outside all on his own. I had a hard time getting him to come with me. Cars raced by over top of him. I ran out into traffic yelling, "Leave him alone. What has he ever done to you?" I felt such a strong emotional bond with my son at that moment. And I think he felt it too. I strapped him into the car seat I bought for him and took him back to my apartment.

When we got home, I tried to make him as comfortable as possible. I let him sit on the couch, which he took up completely. I even let him have the remote. I didn't even mind that all he wanted to watch was NASCAR. I don't really like sports that much, but I watched it because he liked it. At 9 pm, I tucked him into my bed. His median strip peaked out from underneath the covers, which was so cute. I gave him a kiss and went back into the living room to watch "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman" reruns. Before I went to sleep on the couch, which now smelled like an auto body shop, I checked in on Wayne. He had one of his streetlights on and was reading "The Mouse and the Motorcycle," which I had bought him. I smiled and told him it was lights out. He switched off his light and waved goodnight to me.

After drinking my nightly glass of Strawberry Quik, I curled up on the couch, but I had a tough time sleeping. Cars whizzing by in the bedroom was driving me crazy. Periodically, I went into the bedroom to calm him down, but the cars wouldn't stop. I even put up detour signs, but they just started honking and honking.

I was tired when I went to work on Monday, but was happy to have a picture of Wayne on my desk to look at during the day. I was anticipating getting home and riding my Civic up and down his 2-mile length. Give Wayne a workout. I thought he could lose a few lanes or two. However, when I got home, Wayne was just lying there, not doing anything except letting other cars ride up and down him. It seemed so dirty to me.

Ashamed, I went into the living room alone. Not even my favorite show, "Diagnosis Murder" could cheer me up. I thought to myself, "Man, Dick Van Dyke is such a good dad, how does he do it?" But we can't all be Dicks can we?

Later that night I went to check on Wayne. When I got to the bedroom, I was shocked. He had taken off his painted lines and was watching a show on The Learning Channel about resurfacing roadways. I screamed at him, "I will not allow the viewing of porn in this household." Wayne said nothing. I was so enrage I hit him. I jumped up and down on his concrete surface until I heard a crack. I had hurt my child. I darted out of the room in tears.

I drove down to the local Pep Boys. I wore dark glasses and a large overcoat so I'd conceal my identity when I bought the gallon container of black pitch. I was mortified. By the queer look on the teller's face, I knew he knew what I had done.

When I got home, at first I couldn't bare going into the bedroom to face Wayne. I said a prayer -- summoning the courage -- and entered the bedroom. But to my horror, Wayne was gone. The only thing left behind was an orange cone left by the open window.

I called the police. They just hung up on me. Now I was starting to believe all those nasty things people have been saying about the LAPD. I drove out to marker 236, but he wasn't there. I drove around the streets of Los Angeles all night, but I couldn't find Wayne anywhere. I looked in the paper the next day, but it didn't say anything about Wayne's disappearance. I thought for sure a missing 2-mile stretch of the 405 freeway would be newsworthy. But I guess it didn't have enough sex and/or violence to make the grade. It just reaffirmed all the bad things that I knew about the LA Times.

The rest of the week was like hell for me. Some of the wise-crackers at work asked if I killed anybody. I just started crying. That Sunday, I had to travel the 405 to get to a revival meeting in Porter Ranch. As I came upon mile marker 236, I started feeling sick to my stomach. But to my surprise, there he was, right back next to the Anheiser brewery. You can take the freeway out of the bad neighborhood, but you can't take the bad neighborhood out of the freeway, I guess. I drove by and pretended like I didn't notice him. I know that was childish, but I didn't know how else to act.

Then it happened, my tire blew. My car spun out of control across four lanes of traffic, smashing into cars left and right and finally coming to a jolting halt on the median strip. Luckily only a family of five on their way home from church was killed. I guess good things happen out of bad situations sometimes. But it didn't change the fact that my own son tried to kill me.

After I was released from the hospital, I went to my apartment and tried to forget what had happened to me. I watched "America's Funniest Home Videos" and even got a little sad when they played a clip of a little boy hitting his father in the groin with a wiffle-ball bat. Even though my son was a psychopath I still did love him. I decided to go to bed early. I closed my eyes and started into my common fantasy of helping the angels destroy Sodum and Gamora. Then I heard it. A car outside. I got up and looked out my window. Had I ever heard a car outside my apartment before? I think not. I looked in the shadows behind the dumpster and I saw him. A patch of asphalt that could only be Wayne. I stared at him all night -- he didn't even move a muscle. What did he want? To finish the job?

The next morning, I walked cautiously past the dumpsters on the way to my car. I pretended like I didn't notice Wayne watching me. But I could see his yellow florescent eyes glowing. I was very nervous at work, always looking over my shoulder. My phone rang. I picked it up and I heard cars honking incessantly. I hung up quickly. It was Wayne -- I knew it. My mom called me five minutes later from her car and said she tried to call me earlier, but was disconnected. It must have been when Wayne was prank-calling me. I told my mom all about what was happening to me. She didn't seem very worried. She was never a good mother. She didn't even baptize me until I was 10. I wonder what she would have done if I had died before then and went to hell. I'm sure she'd be sad. Finally, she went into her traditional mothering mode and started grilling me about visiting her and dad, not eating too much sugar and if I was keeping up with my medication.

When I got home, I was on edge. I kept flipping between PAX and TBN on my TV. Then like a miracle, my finger slipped off the jump button and onto the channel button. It was Discovery and they were airing a program entitled, "America's Deadliest Highways." And there before me was Wayne. All over the country he traveled. Disguising his red, white and blue 405 sign with various other numbers. I hadn't adopted John Wayne like I wanted -- I had gotten John Wayne Gacy!

I had forgotten to get the mail, so I cautiously left my apartment and went to the mailbox. I heard horns honking like taunts. Wayne was playing with my mind. I scooped up my mail and ran to my door -- slamming it shut and locking it. As I sifted through the mail I came upon a flyer and was suddenly overtaken with a sinking feeling in my bowels. There was another revival in Porter Ranch. I'd have to confront Wayne and his beer-swilling buddy once again.

The day of the revival came. I sat on my couch watching the clock. It was time for me to leave, but I was petrified. I paced around the room frantically, but then suddenly I got a calming feeling. Wayne was keeping me from God! It all became clear -- this had become a classic good versus evil tale and I knew what I had to do.

My vigor grew as I approached marker 236. And when I arrived I dramatically spun my rental car across Wayne's surface. I popped my trunk and pulled out a jackhammer, which I had carved a cross on the tip. I let Wayne have it. I drove into him like Saint Michael will do to the demons on the day of rapture. Wayne let out a high-pitched wail like thousands tires screeching. Soon after the police showed up. I rethought my growing bad opinion of them because they were coming to aid me in my valiant stand against tyranny. But they didn't come for Wayne -- they came for me. Satan had not just stolen Wayne's soul but that of the entire LAPD as well.

The officers took me to the station and I told them all about Wayne. They didn't want to hear it. How the blind man can't see is amazing. It's so hard to raise a child in America these days. I recommend to anyone who reads this that you shouldn't adopt a highway, they don't give you love just grief. I think when I get this all settled, I'm going to go back to Africa.


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I like this story. There's not enough wholesome writing on the internet these days. "Some of the wise-crackers in my office kept asking me if I got laid, but I kept telling them I wasn't married. They're so weird sometimes" is one of the funniest things I've read in a long time.

I was thinking that the "dedicated Wayne" was Wayne Brady, being both black and wholesome, you know? But our Bible-beating friend being a fan of the Duke is cool. Makes me want to adopt something in the name of Charles Bronson real bad.

This is a very funny story with some pretty absurd ideas. Visualizing the highway in the guy's house is pretty amazing because you have to suspend a good deal of disbelief. I find myself downsizing the highway chunk in order to imagine it sitting on the couch, but at the same time, I realize this is wrong because it is indeed a giant slab of highway.

On a critical note, I feel like the story could have been wound a little tighter -- ideas seemed repeated (I got that he was a blindly ardent Christian pretty early on) -- and some of the verbs could have been strengthened by replacing the "be" derivitives. Just being picky and constructive because this kind of commentary can only help. Please don't maim or slander me.

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This page contains a single entry by published on May 10, 2005 7:59 PM.

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