A vacation plan goes wrong leading her to what she was looking for all along.
|It was not the vacation I had planned on. I probably should have plotted my route more carefully. I'm sure Google Maps or someone could have laid out a plan to include major gas stations and repair shops along the way. My vehicle gave up trying somewhere outside a town so small there were no road signs advertising anything helpful up ahead. I could only thank the gentleman (I hoped he was a gentleman) who stopped his road-weary pickup truck to assist me.
"I’m Ben Mason. You just passin' through? “He asked around the chaw in his cheek.
I was never so sure of an answer. "Yes, as soon as I can get my car going again. I’m Susan Baxter.” As we reached the edge of town, one glance around confirmed there was nothing to keep me here.
"Well, Charlie stays pretty busy down at the garage. I'm sure if you ask nice he'll work you in, though."
I was getting more worried, “You sure he has a tow truck? I tried to call AAA but couldn’t get a signal.“
“Yeah, we ain’t got one of them signal towers out here. Don’t you worry, he’ll get it hooked up and bring it in alright. By the way here we are.”
I wasn’t sure which looked worse, the old garage, the cars and trucks parked around, or the scruffy dog that darted between them.
My knight in shining armor was bending down to find the mechanic who was changing oil on a Chevy Impala. “Charlie, I brought this nice lady in to see you. Her car broke down out by Hog Back Rd.
“I’ll be another half hour before I can get out there. I’ve gotta get Doc Wilson rolling again. What kind of car?” Charlie asked without stopping his work.
“It’s a BMW. You can work on it?” I was skeptical.
“I had one in here maybe five years ago. You remember, Ben? From Chicago, he was. Yep, I got ‘er fixed up finally.”
It took Ben and Charlie both to get the BMW hooked up for the tow. Not exactly a AAA operation but they seemed careful at least. Back at the garage Charlie determined an alternator seal had failed. That didn’t sound too bad.
“I’ll have to order that part. Maybe a week. I’ll ask ‘em to hurry it, though.” He knew she would ask.
“What? A week? What am I supposed to do til then? Is there a hotel here?” She couldn’t imagine staying here.
Ben answered. “No. Miss Millie Johnson has a rooming house but I think she’s full. My wife would be happy to have the company. Our girls are both gone so we’ve got the room.”
What I wanted to say was, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Instead I responded, “I couldn’t do that. There must be something else.”
Ben wasn’t deterred. “Mary will just about have lunch ready. You come with me and we’ll talk about it with her over some good vittles.”
I felt beat down and was hungry anyway. Off we went in his old pick up to a Victorian house on a tree-lined street. As I got out of the truck the most luscious aroma filled the air. I looked at Ben and he just grinned.
Inside I met Mary in her apron as she stirred the chicken and dumplings in a large pot on the stove. Her smile was welcoming and made me feel as if unexpected guests were not unusual. I found myself enjoying conversation as much as the meal. As I described my life in the city I felt it slip away like a bad memory. I felt strangely at home and forgot the plans I had made for a week at the beach.
The first day I spent in my room relaxing and enjoying the quiet. I began to venture out to help Mary with her daily chores. I shelled peas and shucked corn for dinner. I told her of doing such things as a child with my Grannie Stone. We laughed and shared stories and recipes while baking bread and cleaning silver.
Mary asked if I had a beau back home. “I do have a special friend. I’m not sure if he is a beau exactly. We’ve been dating a couple of years. He travels a lot so it’s hard.”
She smiled, “Next time you’ll have to bring him with you.”
I thought it would be nice to have time with him away from the hustle and bustle of our lives.
On Wednesday night I joined them for prayer meeting and pot luck after. Thursday we attended a basketball game at the county high school and I cheered as if it were my alma mater. When Friday came around, Charlie called to say he had the part and the car should be fixed by the end of the day. I suddenly felt pains of loss, as I knew my time here would soon come to a close.
Saturday morning Mary taught me to put up jars of green beans and tomatoes from her garden. “You know, if you had come a few weeks later we could be making peach preserves. Why don’t we plan that for next year? You bring that special someone, too. He and Ben can get in some fishing.”
“I’ll sure think about that, Mary.” As I drove toward the city on Sunday morning, I knew I didn’t have to think about her offer very long. “We will definitely go back next year.”