There she sat, stranded along the side of the road. It was getting late and although she was on a relatively well travelled stretch of rural highway, she felt completely alone. One by one the cars whizzed past, seemingly oblivious to the flashing hazard lights on her car.
“Of all the nights to forget my cell phone, this had to be the one.” She thought.
To herself she said, “It’s only been a half an hour Carolyn, give it a little more time. Someone will stop before much longer.” Somehow saying this out loud seemed to give her some reassurance that it would really happen, but after another fifteen minutes ticked by without so much as a glance in her direction, she was beginning to doubt her own voice.
She considered walking to a place where she could get some help, but the service station up the road was about three miles away and the only thing behind her was even farther than that.
“Twenty years ago,” she thought, “I could have walked that there and back.”
However at the age of seventy-three and the sting of arthritis plaguing her joints, she knew that hoofing it was not in her best interest, if not completely out of the question.
“Damn it Harold!” she exclaimed, “Why aren’t you here to help me? I really need you right now honey.”
It had been nearly a year and a half since her husband of fifty-one years had passed away and this incident was just another painful reminder of how much she missed him.
“It’s funny,” she thought, “when you were around, you used to drive me crazy telling me how to do absolutely everything. Right now though dear, I’d give anything to have you here to tell me what to do next.” Reaching into her purse, she grabbed a tissue and wiped the tears that had begun to flow from her eyes.
The only good news to this situation, if there was such a thing, was that no one would be sitting at home worried about her being so late. She realized however, that also meant no one would be around to call for her if she stayed there.
Sitting in the near darkness with only the faint glimpse of a distant streetlight she started taking a mental inventory of the trunk of her car.
“Let’s see, I remember him showing me where the spare was, and I’m sure there’s a jack in there too. Hmmm, what about one of those things to turn the gizmos that hold on the tire. What are those called again? Are those the nuts or they the bolts? I can never keep those two straight. Well either way that wrenchy thingy must be in there too.”
A little more than an hour had gone by since limping the car to the side of the road and her hopes of getting help were starting fade. Convincing herself that all the components for the task at hand were probably available, she decided to give it a go. Popping open the trunk, she tried to recall anything she’d ever learned about changing a tire.
“How hard could it really be anyway? I’m sure I can do it.” She told herself.
After shifting various objects to one side, she lifted up the carpet that lined the trunk to reveal the doughnut sized spare tire that was held fast by a large metal wing nut. Underneath it she could see what appeared to be a small jack.
“How on earth is that tiny little thing going to lift up this whole great big car.” She thought.
“First things first,” she continued, “now how am I supposed to get this darn thing out of here?”
She started to fiddle with the wing nut trying to loosen its grip, but it was of no use. It was fused to the bolt and no matter how much she struggled to free it; she simply didn’t have the strength in her frail hands to release its hold.
As eager as she had been to try and tackle this dilemma, she was now aware that there was no way she would be able to do this on her own. To compound her feeling of despair a light rain was now starting to fall.
She hated this feeling of weakness and yearned for the strength and independence of her youth. Once again her emotions started to get the best of her and she began to tear up.
“God, please send an angel to help me.” She cried out.
It was no sooner than those words left her lips when she saw headlights approaching.
Again she prayed, “Lord let this be my angel.”
Like a sign from above the vehicle veered over to the shoulder and slowed as it drew near. Looking up with her fist clenched, she hollered, “Thank You!”
As the old beat up pick-up came to a stop a few yards behind her car, she raised her arm to shield the glare of the bright lights, while waving with her free hand in a gesture of thanks.
Her happiness and relief however, were immediately replaced by fear when the two occupants opened the doors and climbed out. Her so called angels were two rough looking, thirty something year old guys with grubby blue jeans and long stringy hair. They had a look about them that suggested there was trouble in the air.
She felt her body tense up as they walked closer and she feared for what might happen next. Starting to back towards the safety of her driver’s door she felt her left ankle twist slightly as her foot caught a small hole in the pavement. This caused her to stumble a bit, but fortunately she was able to right herself before falling. With this the two men raced toward her and she closed her eyes waiting for the inevitable to happen.
“Ma’am, you ok?” she heard, opening her eyes again.
“Startled and frightened she managed to stutter, “Ye...yes, I…I think I’m alright.”
“Ma’am, we don’t mean ya no harm, we jus saw yer lights a flashin’ an thought yous in need of some help.” One of the men said. “You got some kind a trouble with yer car?”
With a sigh she said. “Please forgive me, I’ve been out here for a while and I’m just a bit jumpy.”
the second mand spoke up, “Awe, tain’t nothin’, I know we ain’t much to look at, but we really are decent guys. So what’s the matter with yer car?”
“I’ve got a flat tire and I can’t seem to get the spare out of the trunk. I’d be happy to pay you for changing the tire if you are interested.” She said.
“Shoot darlin’ we’d be happy to fix that for ya, but you sure don’t hafta pay us nothin’ fer it.” As the driver continued he said, “This here’s my brother Jimmy and folks call me TJ.”
The three of them shared handshakes and pleasantries then TJ said, “It’ll take us bout ten minutes or so and we’ll have ya fixed up a ready to go. Ifin ya like you can sit in yer car and wait or if ya prefer you can wait in our truck. It ain’t real pretty but the heaters a runnin’ an it’s nice and warm inside.”
“If it’s just the same to you, I think I’ll wait in the car. I don’t know if I could climb into your truck. It looks kind of tall.” She said.
“Suit yerself ma’am.” He replied.
She got back into her car and sunk into the seat, as the two men got busy changing the tire for her. Sitting there she tried to rationalize her earlier reaction to the men, blaming it on all the news stories she’d heard of about women alone being taken advantage of by non scrupulous individuals.
No matter how hard she tried to explain it away to herself, she realized she was just stereotyping them. She took one look at them and determined without any cause that these two unkempt young men were out to do her harm.
“Shame on you Carolyn!” She mumbled. “How dare you pass judgement on them.”
Continuing her self lecture she thought, “You asked for an angel and you got not only one, but two of them. Sure they didn’t show up in pearly white robes with wings on their backs, but angels none the less, are exactly what they are. Let this be a lesson to you. You may be seventy some years old, but you still have some things to learn.”
“KNOCK KNOCK KNOCK” Jimmy tapped on the window.
“Ma’am, yer good ta go.” He said.
She got back out of the car and with a twenty-dollar bill in each hand said, “Now please boys, let me pay you something for your trouble.”
In unison they both put their hands up and TJ said, “No ma’am, we thank you kindly, but we can’t charge you nothin’ for helping out a neighbor.”
Jimmy continued on, “Ya see, our mamma done died two July’s ago and we made a friend of hers a promise that we’d help out folks when we could on account a what he done for us.”
“ Did you say July?”
“Yes ma’am, July 20th a year and a half ago.” Said TJ.
She replied, “Oh my goodness, that’s the same exact day my late husband Harold passed away.” Her knees trembled a bit as she felt a cold shiver run through her body.
Composing herself she asked, “Tell me about this promise you made?”
TJ told her about how their mother had suffered through a long bout with cancer and had accumulated a tremendous amount of bills with all of the various medical procedures. He went on to explain that their family was dirt poor and had no way of paying for even a fraction of her bills and if it hadn’t have been for a friend of the family who had graciously offered to pay all of her expenses her time on this earth would have been even shorter and with a lot more pain.
“We offered to pay him back any way we could.” Jimmy said, “but he wouldn’t hear nothing’ bout it. He just told us someone done helped him when he needed it most and all we was to do was to pay it forward in kindness whenever we could. I still don’t know zactly what that means, but I guess it stands for we should help out our neighbors whenever we can.”
Carolyn stood there dumbfounded. Hear were two men, who from the their attire, speech and mannerisms, had grown up in decidedly different social circles than she had, but right now were teaching her a very valuable lesson about life.
“The world needs more people like you boys, thank you.” She said.
“No need to thank us ma’am, I guess now yer just gonna hafta help out someone when you can next.”