By: Dwayne Parton

Biscuits with a Vagabond

I woke up early. It’s Saturday. I rarely wake up early. I feel great. I think I’m going to go to Waynesville but I’m not 100% sure. I get in my car with Bobbo, said Bob-O. Maybe I should just spell it like that. Just a quarter-mile or so from my house is a bridge which crosses over Fontana. On it I see a hiker. He’s dressed in all black. Black boots with black denim jeans patched with black patches and a black long sleeve undershirt covered partly by a black tee-shirt. He has a black beard that’s rather scraggly and black wiry hair all slicked back and held in place by of all things, a backwards brown hat. I assumed he was a thru hiker when I first saw him, but now that I’ve stopped I’ve realized he is not.

He doesn’t speed up to jump into my car, but walks at his leisure to my passenger window. “Wanna ride?” “Sure…Is he ok?” He says inquisitively pointing at my dog. Bob-O growls at strangers. I reach back and use the seat belt to restrain him and assure the hiker he is. The hiker gets in my car and puts his pack in his lap. “Thru hiker?” I ask hoping for a yes. I can instantly relate to thru hikers and I like picking them up.

“Where you head’n?”
“Well, I’m going to Waynesville. So I’ll take you that far, if that sounds good.”
“That sounds great.”
It’s awkwardly quiet for a moment.
“What’s you name?”
“Michael” and he shakes my hand.

Bob-O likes him, so I reach back and set him free. Michael informs me that he is not a hitchhiker. He never sticks out his thumb. “People will always think what they want about you, but I will not give them a reason to put me in that box. I just walk and if a kind soul wants to pick me up, then they can.” I’m surprised by how thought out this is.

We get to Waynesville, and I tell him that I will just take him on to Asheville. Our conversation has remained pretty steady and I can get what I need in Asheville. “What do you like to do?” “I draw.” Apart from being a vagabond, he’s an artist. He carries sketch book and draws with Micron pens. I ask him if I can see some drawings and he pulls his deviant art page up on my phone.

His drawings are mostly dark fantasy. They are scary but I try not to show any sign of judgement. I focus on the pen strokes, the quality of the craftsmanship. How well they are executed. These drawings are fantastic. He knows they are dark and he comments somethings like: “I am inspired by the world around me. I draw most of my drawings at night. What happens at night? People dream. Sometimes they are nightmares. I imagine that each time I draw I’m helping someone with their nightmare.” We talk about art until we get to Asheville.

“Are you hungry? Have you ever heard of Biscuit Head?” I ask.
“Yeah I’m hungry. I usually eat pizza. Mellow Mushroom or something. I have some food stamps. Can I get your lunch?”
“Well, can I take you to Biscuit Head?” I insist.
“Sure” he shrugs “Do they have pulled pork biscuits?”
“Yeah they do.”

Biscuit Head is always packed and now at 11:30 the line is out the door. “Do you mind waiting?” “I have nothing but time” he laughs and takes a sip from his Monster energy drink. “This is all I drink. I love it.” he says as we wait in line. “I don’t know how, that stuff kills me.” We make it to the front and he get’s the pulled pork biscuit. It’s delicious and well worth the wait. Afterwards I take him downtown to the Used Bookstore he wanted to visit. This is his stop. “Best of luck” I say as we part ways. He’s thankful and we’ve become brief friends. I imagine he’ll sleep on a bench tonight but he wants to. This is his layover, and he loves it. The trip was unexpected but I like to think things like this are orchestrated. I leave feeling blessed to have had biscuits with a vagabond.