It was about 5 in the evening, when Randy and Shirley McGuire were headed home from a trip to Wal-Mart. Clammoring along in their old 1971 Ford pickup, their young daughter Tabby, was bouncing on her mother's lap. It was a fairly warm day, the windows were down and a gentle breeze blew through the windows. Randy, stuck his hand in his shirt pocket; retrieved a can of snuff and took a dip.
The old Ford was a hand-me-down, from Randy's father; rusty and with the paint peeling. A real find for Randy and Shirley for sure. Randy was laid off from the paper mill last year and used up his last of the unemployment insurance. His dad's truck became a way to get around. Things had been rough lately. Randy finally got a job at Bernie's truck stop; washing Big Rigs. It wasn't much, but it kept his little family together. Shirley, with her long blond hair blowing in the breeze, tells him;
“I don't know why, but I have to go to the bathroom. See if you can find a convenience store, or a McDonalds if you can.”
“Baby, we are out on Interstate; where is there a McDonalds? Let's see if there is something at this next exit; it's only a couple of miles; can you make it?”
“I'll try. Chances are, I'll have to.” She chuckles.
Tabby speaks up; “Mommy I got to go too. I got to go now.”
“Good grief, what is wrong with you women? Can't you hold it for another mile?”
“Randy, I can probably make it, but I bet Tabby can't. You better pull over somewhere.”
Swerving the old pickup over to the shoulder, Randy pulls to the grass off in the flat median and makes an abrupt stop.
“OK, Tab, you and mommy do your thing. Gosh how embarrassing!”
“Randy, you know how she is. Kids can't hold it like adults.”
“I know, I know, just hurry up before some cop comes by.”
As they climb back in the truck, Shirley says; “Now, that wasn't so bad, was it?”
Randy laughs, then turns to spit out the window; “ya'll ready now?”
“Yes, smarty, but I'm next remember?”
Pulling back out on the Interstate, Randy gets up to speed, when suddenly the truck shakes violently and ;”Kaboom!” The right front tire goes flying off the rim in a cloud of smoke and Randy coaxes the old truck to the side of the road.
“Dammit!” he says.
“Alright Randy, you know how I feel about you cussing like that. GOD don't take to kindly to that neither. Me and Tabby don't have to hear it either.”
“Well, it just makes me mad. We must have run over something in that grass out there and caused the tire to blow out!It just seems there's always something. What's worse, we don't have a spare!”
“Oh, no! What are we going to do? We are at least 10 miles from home, groceries in the back and I have two frozen chickens back there! Are we going to have to walk? Oh, Randy, why didn't you have a spare tire?”
“Look, stay in the truck and let me look at it. It's about a mile, or so up to the next intersection; maybe there will be someone up there that can help. Ya'll stay in the truck and I'll walk up there to see if I can find someone, or a telephone. I'll be back in a little while.”
“Randy, you're going to leave us out here all alone?”
“You want to walk up there, and I'll stay here?”
“No, it's nearly dark, besides, I have got to go to the bathroom; I wouldn't make it.”
“OK then, stay here, roll up the windows and lock the doors”, with that Randy took off towards the intersection.
After a little while, Shirley couldn't stand it anymore; “OK Tabby, you and mommy are going to go across that ditch and find a tree..”
As Shirley and Tabby got out of the truck, it was apparent that the so-called trees were further away than they thought, but they wandered on off in that direction. After about twenty minutes or so, they were headed back to the truck. It was dusky-dark and cars had their headlights on. Before they got to the truck, a pair of headlights peered off in the ditch, illuminating them.
Shirley, grabbed the 4 year old in her arms and said; “Come on Tab; hurry, get to the truck! Running as fast as she could, a tall man stood in the glare of the headlights. He was totally dressed in white; from his suit, down to his shoes. He spoke softly;
“Hello, do you need some help? I saw you running towards the pickup, is everything OK? There wasn't any lights on the truck; you could get hit out here.”
Shirley didn't want to tell a total stranger she was by herself; just her and the baby, but she broke down and cried; “please Mr., we don't want any trouble. We blew a front tire and my husband has gone to find help.”
“Don't worry missy, I am your help. Just hold on.”
As the stranger went back to his solid white Lincoln, Shirley and Tabby crawled back in the cab of the pickup. Feeling safer there, she locked the doors. The stranger pulled up alongside the pickup and motioned her to roll down the window. He asked;
“Which way did your husband go? Straight ahead? Look, I hate to leave you two alone out here; wouldn't you rather ride along to see if we can find him?”
“No, we'll wait, but thanks anyway.” At that, the stranger waved good-by and sped off.
Shirley thought it was odd that a guy, in his mid-forties, dressed totally in white, driving a white Lincoln Continental, would stop by to help. She wondered if she should have gone with him, pondering on the notion that she could have at least saw Randy and picked him up. She wondered too; who was this man?
Randy finally got to the intersection and there was a station there, but it was closed. Luckily, there was a pay-phone. As he fumbled with a quarter to make the call, a solid white Lincoln Continental pulled up alongside;
“Hey there, I just left a little lady and a child back about a mile, are you her husband? She said that you blew a front tire. You don't have a spare do you?” He laughed.
“Yeah, I'm Randy McGuire; that's my wife back there and no, I don't have a spare.”
“Well, jump in; you do now.”
Making the overpass and speeding down the road, the man in white said;
“Now-a-days, it's not good for people to be stranded. It's a tough old mean world out there, full of tough old mean people. It's a good thing I came along.”
“Yes sir, I appreciate this. Was my wife scared? I hated to leave her and the baby alone like that.”
“Oh, she was fine. Don't you worry.”
As they passed by on the other side of the Interstate, they honked and waved. They had to go to the next intersection a mile back to cross over. Finally, pulling behind the old pickup, Shirley was peering out the back glass, squinting to see who it was.. Directly she saw Randy walking towards her;
“Oh, thank GOD you are back. We were starting to get scared. Did you get help?”
“Yes, this fellow picked me up and said he had a spare.”
“Randy, I was petrified, (hugging him close), our truck raised up and dropped down by itself! I was so scared and so was Tabby. We were afraid to get out. It was dark”.. . . . . .then the solid white Lincoln Continental's headlights went out. Randy walked back to the car;
“Holy cow, he's gone!”
“What? What do you mean he is gone? The car isn't there?”
“I mean, he disappeared. Now what? What about the spare tire? Shirley, hon, what happened to the truck?
“I don't know Randy, it raised up by itself and came back down. What else can I tell you.?”
Randy walked to the front of his truck and there on the right front, was a brand-new tire and wheel. Puzzled, he got out his cigarette lighter, struck it and sure enough, there was a new tire and wheel, big as day.
“I got to have another dip of snuff! Who put that tire on? Didn't you see anyone?”
Coming around to the side door of his pickup, Randy opened the door. Inside was an envelope laying on the frayed and tore seat cover. Inside the envelope was two crisp $100 dollar bills and a note;
“Thought you might could use some tires. You never know when you might have to entertain a stranger.”
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