Stan had a bit of bad luck. His wife left him. But before doing so, she stole his identity and then burned down his house to collect the insurance. Then Stan lost his job because incidentally his wife was also his boss.
Normally this sort of total life-collapse only happens during an economic crisis when suddenly there are masses of homeless people who can’t get work. But no, just Stan.
He couldn’t even live in his car. Naively, he had left it on the roof of a parking garage during a lightning storm. The garage was the tallest building around, so the car was struck by lightning and exploded. His wife had stolen the insurance for that too.
All of this made Stan feel pretty loserish. Stripped of all possessions and everything that had made up his sense of who he was, he had nowhere to go and no one to turn to. He slept on park benches under a blanket of newspapers he had picked out of the trash. For sustenance, he licked the algae off river rocks, sucked the moisture out of tree bark and stole acorns from squirrels’ nests. He had considered going vegetarian before, but this wasn’t exactly what he had in mind. Needless to say, this was an all-time low for Stan.
The one thing he hadn’t lost was his will. No one could steal that, burn it down or leave it on a rooftop in a lightning storm. He had been raised to believe that America is a land of opportunity, and whatever hardships befell him, the idea had become inextricable from his soul.
Sitting on a park bench on a warm, sunshiny day, he watched the well dressed, well fed passersby going about their financially carefree lives. “These people…” he mused, “… they all have money! Even that pudgy elementary schooler at the ice cream stand is spending five dollars! How can I get them to pay me?”, he puzzled, but glancing around, nothing struck him.
Across the street was a lively playground. A little girl was laughing as her father joyfully gave her a boisterous piggyback ride through a field. Stan looked on fondly until a yellow taxi cab passed by blocking his view.
A feeble voice called out, “Young man, excuse me… but would you help me cross the street, please?” Stan turned to see a man hunched over with a cane. “Gladly,” he answered, and accompanied the elderly gentleman to the other side. He was exceedingly slow, and while crossing, the driver of the yellow cab honked the horn and shouted brusquely, “Come on! I’ve gotta get somewhere!” Thinking quickly, Stan knelt down and said “Here, get on my back,” and he lugged the little old man the rest of the way across the street.
Then Stan was approached by a man of considerable fatness, panting like a dog under the hot sun, his chest bowl drenched in sweat. “Hey, man… This may seem like an odd request, but I’m trying to get to the candy store, and I’m so tired ’cause it’s so hot… Could you give me a ride like you did with that old guy?”
A flash of inspiration. Stan reacted, “I can do it for ten dollars.” Huffing and puffing, the chubby guy said “Sure”. At this point, there were more unusual things Stan would have done for ten dollars.
The portly passenger climbed onto Stan piggyback-style. All the way to the candy store, his sweat rolled down Stan’s neck as if squeezed from a sponge. But it was the sweet-smelling sweat of opportunity, the bodily fluids of a satisfied customer, and Stan was grateful for them; he found them luscious and savory. Afterward, he left the sweat glazed on his neck, glistening in the sunlight, and it heightened his feeling of the soft, cool breeze. In the last five minutes, something had changed within Stan. He felt a new energy pulsing through his veins. He had an entrepreneurial vision.
He thanked his portly passenger. Exhilarated, ten dollars in hand, he rushed to the nearby Walmart and bought a black sharpie marker for $1.19. He found an empty mac & cheese box in the trash outside someone’s home, unfolded it and wrote in large, neatly printed letters, “PIGGYBACK TAXI”.
Thus began Stan’s career hauling passengers across town on his back. The orders began rolling in. It wasn’t much money, but at least Stan was saving, and it was more dignified to him than begging.
He had a few regular customers. Every morning he took a group of kids carpooling on their way to school. He got to know the townsfolk well and enjoyed a bit of amiable conversation with them as they rode, their legs wrapped around his waist.
Before long, he worked up enough money to invest in a slick pair of rollerblades. This was faster and more efficient, which meant he could carry more customers throughout the day and expand into the neighboring towns. Eventually he bought a GPS and strapped it to his arm.
Then one day Stan’s routine was interrupted. In the middle of the road stood a man with high-and-tight hair, black sunglasses and a black outfit. His sleeves were short enough to reveal two clean-cut biceps, each with a bulging green vein running down the middle. “Halt!” he ordered. “Police! I need to use your vehicle!” the man shouted, thrusting forward a silver badge. Stan had no notion of objecting to what this man said. Nor did he hesitate to get moving as the officer mounted his back, pointed straight forward and ordered “Follow that van!” Ahead of them, a large, black van with tinted glass was speeding through a four-way intersection.
Stan put his legs in gear. The officer must have been pure muscle, as he was heavier than a whole carpool of children. “Go straight!” he ordered. “But it’s a red light!”, Stan whimpered feebly. “Do it, I said!” And Stan obeyed. The ominous van fired into ignition upon seeing the pursuing officer on top of a taxi driver. Stan accelerated when the officer spurred him like a horse and went “Heyaahhh!” He wasn’t sure why the officer was actually wearing spurs.
The officer whipped out a sleek, silver pistol of massive girth. The ear-piercing crack of bullets filled the air, and onlookers screamed in horror. Then he landed a clean shot on the back window. Shards of glass whipped back at Stan. He jerked his head to the left; a chunk was lodged in his cheek and several in his neck. Remarkably, the glass didn’t puncture any major veins. A group of jihadi warriors peered menacingly through the broken window, and with two AK-47s they began spraying bullets in Stan’s general direction. The officer stood up tall on Stan’s back, looking for a clear shot. Stan was forced to squat as low as he could.
The unlikely car chase descended down a long mountain highway. By now they were rolling so fast that Stan couldn’t control their direction. The little wheels rumbled violently beneath his feet, rattling his legs uncontrollably. It was all he could do not to fall forward and drop the law enforcer. Stan understood that losing his balance would mean death. He squinted his eyes hard and began reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Then he looked up. In the glare of the sun, he saw the menacing silhouette of a man sticking out of the sunroof lifting a long, cylindrical object up onto his shoulder.
A rocket launcher.
Stan heard the maniac scream “Allahu akhbar!”, and a chill of terror pierced his entire nervous system. But the rocket exploded a few yards behind them. Thanks to their speed, Stan and the officer narrowly skirted the blast, but flying chunks of asphalt hit Stan from behind, and several bits of shrapnel sank into his calves. It took an inhuman feat of endurance to remain standing, which would have been impossible if not for the greatest adrenaline rush of Stan’s life.
Finally the officer shot out a rear tire. The van turned left so hard that it rolled over and continued to roll, bouncing up off the pavement. Stan barely managed to veer left around the ongoing wreck. With the last of his strength, he leaned back onto the brakes built into his rollerblades. He slowed only a little before the brakes snapped off. Stan and the law enforcer fell sideways and continued to roll. Without sustaining too much road rash, they finally came to a stop. Stan lifted his head to watch the van fly clear over the guard rail off a cliff leading into a canyon. As the van went into free fall, many voices shouted “Allahu akhbar!” simultaneously, as if in chorus. Then the van exploded mid-air like fireworks.
Stan’s life-threatening ordeal was abruptly over, but he was badly shaken up, trembling from head to toe, his nerves utterly exhausted. He lay his head down and lost consciousness.
As Stan recovered, the President of the United States visited him in the hospital to present him the Congressional Medal of Honor. He became the CEO of Piggyback Taxi Inc., which grew into a multi-billion-dollar company that created jobs for the millions of Americans whose spouses absconded with their insurance money. He also started a charity for people whose cars get blown up by lightning.