This was my 22nd day of being a Real Fugitive game show contestant. The ads screamed for you to watch as real people were chased like fugitives, all for big money. I won the honor for the latest match by correctly answering 15 questions about the 60’s show, The Fugitive. I decided to triple my possible earnings by letting the hunters use live ammunition.
The day before, I had reached a new plateau. No matter what happened, I was guaranteed $300,000 if I threw out the provided white flag and surrendered. Six more days and I’d be up to $450,000. If I made it through eight weeks, I would walk away with the grand prize: $6,000,000. Paid in installments over the next 20 years.
The last three weeks, I’d been sleeping on the sides of highways, in barns, even under a bridge. I’d been using the meager $1,000 in cash they gave me to buy Twinkies, Big Macs and Mountain Dew. But, as the show had gained popularity, it became harder to do. Three days ago, I had to bolt from a 7-11 after a stoned clerk recognized me as the “Real Fugitive” and picked up his phone. To make this game even harder, they were offering an undisclosed reward for my capture.
I no longer went to convenience stores. Hunger burned at my stomach, pleading for me to give up.
To top it off, I had twisted my ankle on day 17 ducking behind a Burger King dumpster. It was three o’clock in the morning. Two shots had been fired at me. I sat there for ten minutes, biting my lower lip, listening. Five days later, I’m thinking less about the shots and more about the dumpster smells of cheeseburgers and fries. That dumpster must have held the mother lode of discarded deep-fried food.
You may ask, why would someone do this to himself? Don’t I have a job, a sense of self-respect, a will to live? Nope. In my life, I’ve flunked out of a state college, alienated my parents and both of my brothers, and lost six decent-paying jobs because I can’t seem to get to work on time. This show was my ticket to escape from future failures.
I was too young. Life was too long. I needed to go all the way by any means necessary.
On day 21, I decided to spend my remaining cash on a gun. I kept my Real Fugitive contract folded in my wallet and there was nothing in there about doing this, only something about being prosecuted for any crimes I committed. I ventured into the city and limped up to men on street corners who wore baggy pants and backwards caps. I assumed they could sell me weapons. I was wrong the first eight times. The ninth time, I was able to score a .38 revolver and ammo for $350.
I figured that, eventually, they would rather kill me then pay me. One clause of the contract: winnings were not transferable to anyone else upon my death.
If they wanted to kill me, they were getting a fight.
On the show’s first day, they made a big ceremony out of my initial run. The announcer guy, with stiff graying news anchor hair and matching gray suit and tie, said, “From this moment on, you are a Real Fugitive!” and he pulled his arm from around my shoulder. I had to run after he said that line. It was in my contract to do so.
I was alone out here, in the American fugitive land. Before I used to hear about people on the run. The FBI’s 10 Most Wanted List. America’s Most Wanted with John Walsh. It seemed like half of America was on the run. Where are they now? Isn’t there a support network? Or is it just every man for himself?
There was a rush to being a fugitive. I savored it in the dead of night, when I was hidden and all was quiet. When this ends, I return to life as the loser I am, no matter what I win. They don’t make shows about that. On The Fugitive television show, I always wondered what Richard Kimble did after his name was cleared. How could he go back to being a doctor, drinking wine and eating cheese with his doctor friends, sleeping peaceful sleep?
It was late at night. I was behind a Wal-Mart dumpster, clutching my gun, ready to fire at anything.