A bad attitude infects the responses of others, but not always.
|Mary Ann pumped gas into her rust and yellow sedan. From beneath the awning, she frowned at the rainfall. It had rained ever since she started crossing the Appalachian Mountains. Looking back at the pump’s increasing dollar amount, she growled. If she used her credit card, he’d find her. He being that pig of a guitarist she’d played four years of bar gigs with: Mike. The service station’s lamp posts glistened. Its sign illuminated a cheerful design. But the wet, gloomy forest reflected her mood better. It surprised her Mike hadn’t turned her in for stealing his car. Well, it was sort of hers too.
She glanced toward the station’s cashier. The windows were fogged with condensation as the air conditioner battled the humidity and lost. Blurred, misty rainbows struggled to advertise tasty, baked goods were available inside. Mary Ann’s stomach growled. All right, already. I’ll use the dang credit card! Mike’s probably guessed I’m going home to my parents, anyway.
Inside the store, she dropped a pile of trail mix, baked goods and other snacks onto the front counter. Not an actual meal, but it would do for now.
She jumped when something moved near her feet. A black cat’s tail twitched. Mary Ann hissed at it and pushed it away with her foot.
“Here now!” said the clerk. “Don’t be treating Diablo that way.”
“Sorry,” said Mary Ann, not feeling sorry at all. “It startled me.”
The clerked huffed and taking her credit card said, “Diablo here can put a curse on you. You best apologize to him.”
“Don’t be ridiculous.” Mary Ann snatched her sack and headed for her car.
A pickup truck drove into the pump aisle opposite her's as she approached. Getting out, the middle-aged man looked at her car. “You’ve got some pretty bald tires there.” The work shirt’s embroidered name tag said his name was Hank.
“Well, Hank,” Mary Ann said, “why don’t you just mind your own business?”
Hank held up his hands in surrender. “No need to get all riled up. I only meant to be neighborly.”
Tossing her sack into the front seat, she gunned her car out into the rain. As the next miles passed, her windshield wipers maintained a squeaking rhythm. Considering her predicament, her irritation with Mike grew. Her tension grew. So did her speed until her car skidded toward a mountain road barrier. Shrieking, she stomped on the brakes. Spinning, the car ricocheted off the guardrail and back into the two-lane roadway. Fishtailing and slowing, she finally got to a safe stop with her rear tires resting in a ditch. Mary Ann sat and shook for several minutes. That dang cat had cursed her!
The rain drummed on her windshield. Eventually, she felt calm enough to drive again. Stepping on the gas, the rear wheels spun.
You have got to be kidding, she thought. Who buys a rear wheel drive now a days? Gently she tapped the gas, spinning deeper into the mud.
It was time to call a tow truck. Tugging her cellphone from her jeans, the screen showed zero bars of service. A swish of water surprised her. A car had driven past without stopping. Her outrage turned to fear. What if no one stopped? Could this pouring rain deter neighborly decency? Perhaps a driver could ignore a stranded car, but what about a stranded wet person? Surely they would stop then.
What could act as a rain poncho? Not the plastic snack sack. A small blanket acted as the back seat cover. It would have to do. Getting out, the rain hastened her movements. Extracting the blanket, she wrapped her head and body in it. Moments later, she was soaked. Even so, she was loath to discard its meager protection. Once again, she saw a vehicle approaching. Scrambling up the embankment, she pulled the wet blanket off and tried to wave it around. It was too rain heavy to be effective. It didn’t matter. The vehicle should see any movement. As she waved, it drove by without stopping.
Mary Ann let out a string of words which would have embarrassed a teenage bully. She had to be visible. Raining or not, it was still the middle of the afternoon. What else could she do? Another vehicle was approaching. Cellphone in her hand, she activated the flashlight feature. Weaving it over her head, jumping and yelling, the pickup slowed down as it passed her by. She held her breath. Would it come back? Yes, the reverse tail lights were on. The truck backed onto the shoulder and stopped just in front of her car.
With a groan, she recognized the man getting out of the cab. It was Hank, the jerk from the gas station. Did he recognize her? She couldn’t tell.
“Bald tires give you the slip?” Hank said.
Was that a joke? She didn’t know how to react. He had recognized her. How was this going to go?
Then he gave her a good natured smile that dazzled her like a sunbeam from behind a cloud. It was irresistible. With relief, she smiled too.
“Thank you for stopping. Is there anything you can do to help me?” asked Mary Ann.
“Are you sure you don’t want me to mind my own business?” Hank asked.
“I’m sorry for my rudeness. Please help if you can.”
Hank smirked. “I definitely can and will.” Pulling a towing chain out of the back of his pickup, her car was back on the roadway in no time. Well, Mary Ann thought, Diablo's curse is dead.
She handed Hank her credit card.
“You just use that card for new tires.”
Driving carefully along, Mary Ann knew she couldn’t run away from Mike. She loved him. Yet, she needed more from him. They’d either work their relationship out or not. Time would tell.
She caught a magical vision in her rear-view mirror. When had the rain stopped? Stopping the car, she stood in the light of a beautiful rainbow.