08 September 2005

Three Breaks: Part 2

Part 1

Part 2:

A kid's face was plastered to the front passenger window, and from the open sliding side door, an old woman called out, “Would you like a lift?”

I surveyed the interior: two old people and two young kids, grandparents and grandchildren probably. None were the threat I’d envisioned, so I got in. The Whitmans explained that they have a daughter and wouldn't want her to be walking alone on the highway. Having just considered my lackluster options from that position, I could truly appreciate the sentiment.

Within the next five minutes, it started pouring. I had really lucked out. They even offered to take me all the way back to Tallahassee, but I said the next gas station would be fine. It was a few miles down the road, so the grandmother peppered me with questions for the duration.

“In school?”

“No, graduated.”

“What did you study?”

“Film.”

“Oh.”

“What?” asked the grandfather, driving.

Louder, “Film.”

His wife contributed, “Movies, the-a-ter, acting.” Since it wasn’t worth the trouble to explain that my degree was for behind-the-camera efforts, I sat quietly, trying to take up as little space as possible. The interrogation resumed, “Have you got a young man in your life?”

Warily, I replied, “Um...no.”

“My nephew’s an insurance agent over in Drifton. You should give him a call if you ever need any help.”

“Hmm,” I murmured noncommittally. Fortunately, the gas station came into view. “Thank you very much for the lift.”

“Are you sure you don’t want to ride back to Tallahassee with us?”

“No, that’s ok. I need to take care of my car. Thank you, though.”

“Wilbur, go on in with her and make sure she can get some help,” Mrs. Whitman finished. It wasn't until we got out of the minivan that I noticed Mr. Whitman was missing an arm, his shirt sleeve neatly pinned up.

He held the mini-mart door open for me, and I smiled a little upon seeing the Georgia peach lottery symbol in the window: I would have my chance at the $220 million Big Game after all. Though most of the cashiers were crazed with lottery customers, the guy babysitting the Subway within the store wasn't, and he kindly offered me their phone. Once I'd called Triple A, I thanked Mr. Whitman again. I would've shaken his hand but his right was the one missing; he didn't offer his left, so I just let him leave.

The nearest service station was 20 miles north in Cairo (Kay-ro), Georgia. I bought ten tickets and waited. The storm dissipated leaving thick, warm droplets glistening in the sunlight. As promised, within 40 minutes, a large flatbed tow truck arrived from Royce's in Cairo. High off the ground, it took two large steps to reach the cab and though I kept looking for a handhold at the top, there wasn't one. The driver secured my faded red sedan to the flatbed and took us both back to Florida...

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