Two sisters and their brood encounter a roadside hero who rescues them from a breakdown.
| A spontaneous suggestion led to this road trip. It sprang from a pressing need to placate the "I'm bored" whine of five children. Two sisters, Laurie and Sandy, decided an afternoon spent in the country picking fresh strawberries might entertain their offspring. For the most part, the gambit had been successful. Initially, some squabbling came close to scuttling the expedition, but older sister Sandy prevailed. She won the role of driver. As the rest of them hashed out seating arrangements, she tried not to look too smug. This, like so many moments, could be a teaching experience. Youngsters are impressionable. To gloat openly is unacceptable, but big sisters rule. Forty miles later, Sandy felt glum and helpless. All she could do was steer the bawking beast of a car as it belched and shuddered onto the gravel shoulder of the highway. With one last rattle the car collapsed. The two sisters twisted their lips and shook their heads. Questions hurtled from the back seat shattered the brief silence. "What did you do? Where are we? Are we outta gas? Do we hafta stay here? Is the car sick? Can daddy fix it? Can we go home now? Mom, do somethin' !" Laurie and Sandy unbuckled their seat belts, and turned to face their audience. There were open mouths and gasps. "What?" exclaimed Laurie, "the car isn't goin' anywhere. It's deader'n that flat raccoon we passed." "Piece of garbage," Sandy's youngest muttered. Laurie's eldest blurted a curse that earned him a warning glare. He defended himself. "Dad says sh** happens all the time. This is some sh**." "I don't like this sh**," his sister sniffled. Sandy pinched her nose and pushed open her door. "Come on sister dear. Let's check out this piece of crap. You five stay put." The two siblings met at the front of the disabled vehicle. They fumbled and poked around the grill. A blonde head peeked out a back window and hollered, "Pull the doohickey stickin' out." Grinning, they followed the orders. With a creak, the heavy hood popped open. Laurie whispered, "Ha, he's his Nanny's grandson. What're we lookin' for? A thingamabob?" "I dunno," Sandy answered. "The kids expect us to do somethin'. We did. We got the hood up. You know what? I'm so angry I could spit nails." "Where did Mom get that anyway?" "Who knows? All we need is a flat tire, too." Laurie's hand flew to her mouth, but it was too late. The guffaws escaped. Giggling, they returned to the front seat. Five pairs of eyes stared unblinking. Wiping her own eyes, Sandy apologized. "Sorry kiddos. All we can do is wait for help." One little voice wailed, "But we don't have time to wait." "Let's turn on the radio," suggested Laurie. "It works, right?" "Yes we can sing while we wait," Sandy offered. Again, the sisters laughed. The song blaring from the car stereo couldn't be more apt. It had to be a sign of some sort, so they sang along to 'I Need A Hero'. Feet kicked in protest. Groans and moans attempted to drown out the singing. Five united voices yelled, "Mom!" As if on cue as the final notes of this tune faded, a battered pick-up truck stopped behind the sedan in a cloud of dust. A young man in torn coveralls jumped down, and loped to the driver's window. "Hi Ma'am. Are you in need of some assistance?" Nodding, Sandy felt a tug on her hair. "Mom," her son hissed, "he's a stranger." Shrugging him off, Sandy replied. "We do need a hero, and he's offering to help us. Do you want to stay here? We're really stuck." Sandy followed the would-be rescuer to where he stood hunched over her vehicle's engine. He wiggled wires and pulled hoses. He tapped the battery. Did he know what he was doing? Sandy couldn't be certain. "Here, hold this," this man of few words ordered. He handed over a round pleated object. He flicked a tiny metal lever he'd uncovered. "Okay, that oughta do it. Why don't you try starting the car?" Hiding her surprise and her doubt, Sandy returned the mystery object he'd given her to hold. As he remained hunkered under the hood, she hurried back to her place before the steering wheel, and turned the key in the ignition. Sandy expelled her breath in one big explosive "yeah." The car sputtered to life. "Give it more gas." She obliged. The motor began to thrum throatily. Cheering erupted from the junior passengers. "Hurray! It's alive." The impromptu roadside mechanic dropped the hood, and patted it. "I guess you're good to go." The two mothers thanked him effusively and offered to pay for his services. He declined to accept any payment. His eyes scrunched up and his brow furrowed when the kids cooed, "Our hero." Sandy and Laurie blushed and murmured, "Kids will be kids." The return trip home proved to be blessedly uneventful. Everyone had a story to tell of a good Samaritan who'd rescued them. The children exaggerated their imminent starvation. Hearing of this timely hero and the miracle he'd performed, Sandy's hubby, himself a car aficionado, investigated. He'd no sooner raised the hood when he asked, "Where's the air filter?" "The what?" "The air filter. Where is it?" "Um, I dunno. Maybe our guardian angel took it. I told you he didn't want anything, right?" "That's because he knew a brand new name-brand air filter when he saw one." (914 words)