My assignment: 19 year old serviceman, heading back from leave, route 61, 3AM.
I read it over again on my way to dispatch. Nothing good happens out and about at 3AM. What on earth was this kid thinking?
“Matt, reporting for duty?”
“Yes sir. What kind of trouble is he in?”
“You know I don’t get all the answers, but I have some interesting looking stuff for you.” Captain Mike said handing me a box, “Everything you need is in there.”
“Oh, you’ll need these too.” The captain handed me a set of keys, “Upon your arrival you’re sure to spot your ride.”
“No wings tonight? Huh.”
“Not this time. Who knows? You may like it,” Captain smiled, waving as I headed out.
I found myself outside a diner, closed for the night. I fingered the keys in my hand and looked around. Driving, we had no use for it where I came from. I’d driven an old beat up jalopy and an army jeep once, while on assignment. So I’d only driven twice. So far I didn’t understand the enjoyment of driving.
I spotted the only vehicle in the parking lot. I was interested. There sat a cherry red 1965 Mustang Convertible. The captain must have requested it. I unlocked the trunk and tucked the box safely inside, next to the spare. Before leaving it there I peeked inside the box and found a fan belt and an odd tool of some kind. Relief swept over me, car trouble. Thank goodness it wasn’t anything worse.
It was a beautiful night, clear skies, twinkling stars, and the moon hanging low over the evergreens. I slipped in behind the wheel. I noticed my attire had changed to blue jeans and a t-shirt. I looked in the mirror to find the clean cut face of a twenty-some year old. I smiled at myself and started the car. I had an hour to get there.
The engine roared as I headed down the quiet road. The top was down, and the wind felt amazing. I turned on the radio and a soft melody played. This was much better than the 1923 jalopy and the jeep. No wonder everyone loved the chance to drive.
The road was surrounded by groves of trees and then fields of cotton and beans. The houses were miles apart from each other. The road was empty. I hadn’t passed a single driver, nor seen a house in over ten minutes.
As I came around the bend I saw my assignment. He hadn’t spotted me yet. He was leaning against his car, head in his hands. I slowed down. Crickets chirped all around us. As I parked he looked up, surprised.
“Sir, where did you come from? I just looked up moments ago and hadn’t seen any headlights.” The young man said as he walked towards my car.
Ignoring his question, I stepped out of my car and asked my own, “Do you need some help with a tire? Have a blowout?”
“I wish it was just a blowout. I threw a belt on this ‘poor man’s Porsche’. I’m on my way back to base. if I’m late…I don’t even want to think about it.” The young man went on about how he’d been visiting his family and his girl. He wanted to make the most of their time together, so he had stayed as late as he could and now was driving all night to report back in by six sharp.
I held out my hand and introduced myself, “Call me Matt.” We shook hands.
“Let me see what I have in the trunk.”
“Sir, I mean Matt, I don’t think you understand. This is a 1961 Corvair Monza. It needs a special belt and requires a particular wrench to replace it. “Jimmy said following me. I unlocked the trunk and pulled open the box.
“I think I have you covered. I’ve got a new belt and the wrench needed.”
“You’ve got to be pulling my leg.”
“Nope, got it right here.” With that I proceeded to help Jimmy fix his car.
Jimmy thanked me multiple times. Then we were on our separate ways. He had been so relieved he wouldn’t be AWOL, that he didn’t give much thought (at least not at the time), to what I was doing with exactly what he needed, at the exact time and place.
I checked my mirrors and saw his wonder when my taillights disappeared before his eyes.
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