Jason Steadman had developed an early aversion to seeing his name in print. He'd made the front page at seventeen, arrested for possessing "less than one ounce of marijuana." The county mounties found three seeds in the lining of the coat he was wearing. Those three seeds cost him a college scholarship.
On the positive side, they kept him out of the Vietnam War, an irony compounded by the fact that the friend he'd borrowed the coat from had attended Stanford on a Navy ride, and, with Phi Beta Kappa key in hand, and gold bars freshly pinned to his collars, had gone off to Vietnam to die.
His subsequent acquittal, buried on a back page, did little to unravel the damage. His departure was mourned only by his parents, who nonetheless pestered him about the perils of smoking dope.
He, too, had earned a Phi Beta Kappa key. He'd played the anti-war activist, but in truth had not cared, figuring war was as certain as death and taxes. Before graduation, as headhunters dropped from the sky like shock troops, he'd dutifully traipsed to the barber shop, and from there to Berkeley's best men's store. Properly trimmed and attired, he'd engaged in the ritual dance.
He'd opted for public relations, a straight path to the devil's lair. Still, it beat his friend's fate, and it gave him the anonymity he craved. In retrospect, his arrest added a splash of color to an otherwise dull tapestry, a life spent in servitude, bending to please his taskmasters in the corporate hierarchy.
"How far are you going?" The voice was tentative.
"Prineville," he replied, staring into the darkness, the question rumbling down the corridors of his mind.
"It has a nice sound," the voice said as they plunged on through the night.
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