What started out as a rough day, all around… My coffee was cold by the time I got to take the first sip. Went further and further south as it went on. That’s how it started, and my day drifted downhill from that point forward.
A wreck at the mall, blocking my vehicle in its parking space until the shopper parked in front of me came out to leave and allowed me to pull forward. Almost an hour late for lunch with Jamie, but she understood the wait. I’d called her. The only problem then was the shift in the rest of my day, an hour late for everything I needed to do, and I’d missed the drive up window at the bank by five minutes.
I considered a sandwich for dinner at a drive through or fast food place, but I wanted to get home. There was left over roast beef in the refrigerator, and beans from the weekend. My mouth was watering for those baked beans, and a thick roast beef sandwich on Jamie’s homemade bread. A whole loaf of it in the back seat, neatly wrapped and bagged in one of Jamie’s famous “handle bags” made from old t-shirts she found at the goodwill store. This one was blue, with a flag on one side, and the words “God Bless America” on the back. She had been particularly proud of it when she presented it to me.
I only had to be on the highway for two miles. The back road home was almost six miles away, and I’d be driving for forty five minutes if I took that route. I opted for the highway, even in rush hour traffic, I figured it would be faster. And it was already six-thirty, so it couldn’t be that bad.
The ramp had been full of cars, and the entrance to the highway offered a long narrow access, but I would be able to speed up and merge into traffic as others had done. I thought. But the traffic was too fast, by the end of the lane, I’d had no opportunity to merge and the bridge railing was coming up fast. I hit the brakes and pulled slightly to the side, off the paved road, to the curb.
I’d parked on the curb side of the road only two miles from home, waiting for traffic to pass so I could get onto the highway. It just didn’t seem to offer a break, and the continuing lane ended before I was able to pull into that traffic. Nothing. I couldn’t possibly have pulled into it without causing an accident, so I edged my car into the sandy bank on the right side of the road and stopped to wait.
I don’t know where the darkness came from, the sun hadn’t set when I pulled off. It was a mystery. Traffic was bumper to bumper, but it had slowed a bit. Now, I thought I might be able to pull in between the pairs of headlights and make my way home. But darkness…
The mystery of darkness settled over me as I waited.
I’d paused only a moment as the sun was setting, at high traffic. My mind raced through the darkness, between the headlights. I tried to remember. Still, I sat there, staring into the rear view mirror, watching the lights pass. Time appeared to stand still, but the cars kept coming.
The night hours blurred together into more distance between the headlights, and still I waited. It felt only minutes, but it must have been hours.
A tap on the passenger window made me look away from the lights. The man standing at the window appeared to be bent over, to look inside. I rolled the window down an inch, to hear him.
“Lady, are you okay?” He asked.
“Yes, the traffic is so heavy, and moving so fast.” I answered, “I just pulled off to prevent an accident.”
“Okay, Do you need help?” He asked.
“No, I’m good.” I answered.
I realized he wasn’t wearing a uniform, and he looked like just an every day kind of guy, walking along the road as he walked on. I rolled up the window and watched him walk away. He kept walking forward. Cars swished past me.
Eventually, I decided it was safe to pull onto the highway, so I turned on my blinker and pulled onto the side of the road, speeding up before I pulled into traffic. Home was only a couple of miles away. I only needed to drive the two miles, and turn onto Procter, and home.
The deliberate rise, splat, thud of a flat tire is never pleasant, but less than a mile onto the road, I felt it, then heard it. I heard it beating the road. That’s when I realized I hadn’t rolled the window all the way up, on the passenger side. The flat tire sound was on the right rear. I pulled off the road again, and hit my flashers.
Two miles. I only had to drive two short miles home, but now… I couldn’t drive. Tears streamed down my face as I gazed at the blinking clock on my dash. 10:30? Where had the time gone. I felt suddenly dazed and alone. And the time mystery, how could hours mysteriously pass? How had time passed so fast?
I searched my purse for my cell phone and dialed the emergency road service number.
“Dispatcher. What is your emergency?” A kind voice responded.
“I’ve got a flat tire, on the side of the highway, about a mile between Carthage and Proctor exits, south bound. I’m on the side of the road.” She took my information, gave me a code number and texted me the ID of the driver who would be arriving within the hour.
I stared at the clock, still trying to figure out where those four hours had gone. I remembered specifically, six-thirty-five when I pulled away from the bank window.
The tap on the passenger window was unexpected. I hadn’t seen anyone drive up.
“Pop your trunk ma’am? I’ll get your tire changed.”
The voice through the window sounded heavy, deep, and rich. Tired, as if maybe he’d had a long day as well. I popped the trunk latch and remained in the car. I’d dealt with emergency services before, and I knew they didn’t want me out of the car.
I glanced in the rear view mirror and didn’t see the truck, but the man had popped the hatch back. He pulled tools from the back of the car.
One moment in time, I felt uncomfortable that I drove a hatch back. He had access to more than the trunk. I remember the feeling and the adrenaline rush that came with it. Momentarily blinded by fear, I glanced at my beeping phone and read the text.
“ETA 5 minutes.”
“He’s here.” I texted back.
Within seconds, I felt the car being lowered off the jack and the lug nuts being tightened. Before the attendant lowered the back hatch, he said, “I’ll bring the ticket around for you to sign it.”
My window was part way down for him to pass the ticket through, but when he got to the side of the car, he simultaneously reached into the car, popped the lock and opened the door. The split second it took me to realize what had just happened was more than enough time for him to shove me out of the driver’s seat. He slid into the driver’s seat. He closed the door, started the engine, and drove into the traffic on the road.
Behind us, yellow lights flashed, announcing the arrival of the tow truck.
© 2017 – Jan Verhoeff
Jan Verhoeff writes a wide variety of fiction, short stories, essays, and adventure mystery. Her exploration of crime fiction had resolved into this short introduction. Please leave a comment and share you thoughts and ideas about this venture, she’d love to know.