Nancy heard the tire’s loud pop. The car skidded for a moment, then Nancy guided the thud-thud-thudding car to the roadside. She climbed out and heaved a heavy and worried sigh; the tire was beyond repair.
The lonely road stretched ahead for who-knew-how-many miles and an endless prairie surrounded her. The solitude and silence struck her like a punch in the gut, and she noticed the aloneness of her life. But Nancy was not lonely; she enjoyed the time by herself. Traveling to the big city for a crowded library convention, she knew no one that would drop everything and drive for hours to her aid.
Nancy pulled out her cell phone and dialed the number on her AAA card. No dial tone; she squinted at the screen as the heavy sunlight darkened it. There was no signal.
“Oh, boy,” Nancy mumbled, and opened the trunk.
She tried to recall her father’s instructions for changing tires; he died thirty years ago. Closing her eyes, she pictured her father kneeling beside their old brown-and-white station wagon, but the memory was too foggy and imprecise. She tried to follow his movements through the hazy memory, and only remembered the long scar that ran down the length of his forearm. His blurred face pricked Nancy’s chest; at least the memory of his arm and the scar that marred it was crystal clear, albeit useless at the moment. She then focused on his voice, and though she recalled its pitch and cadence, his words and instructions came back jumbled and incoherent.
Nancy shook her head, then rummaged between her knickknacks and suitcase for the tire changing kit. Blanching, she realized she had no jack. Nancy placed her face in her hands and let out a quiet, despairing sob.
“Help me please, Dad,” she prayed.
Tears threatened to roll down her cheeks, but she pushed them back and wiped her eyes with the tips of her fingers. With a little shake, she squared her shoulders and grabbed a bottle of water from the trunk. She closed it and resolved to walk until she found help.
“Need help?” A voice said behind her; Nancy jumped.
A young clean-cut man in a plain white t-shirt and jeans with rolled-up cuffs revealing Converse sneakers stood behind her.
“I’m sorry,” Nancy stammered, “I didn’t hear you approach.”
The young man smiled, “That tire’s blown, would you like help in changing it?”
“Yes, please,” Nancy replied, “I would’ve done it myself, but I just realized I have no equipment.”
“No worries, I’ll do it.”
The young man kneeled and placed the jack he carried under Nancy’s car.
Nancy’s eyes widened when she saw the long scar running down the young man’s forearm as he pumped the jack. Tears stung the back of her eyes. She was about to mention the scar, but the young man had finished changing the tire and was wiping his hands on a handkerchief.
“All set,” he smiled, “good luck and have a nice day.”
Flabbergasted, Nancy stammered out a thank-you, as the young man climbed in his car and drove away. Nancy watched until the young man’s brown-and-white station wagon vanished in a flash of sunlight.