“Miles upon miles of cows, but not one pit stop in sight,” Marissa whined, staring out the car window.
“We’ll find one soon,” her husband Delwin said, pointing out an old southern homestead. “Would ya look at that wrap-around porch…..? Reminds me how Mamma used-ta sit in her rocker, knittin’ socks and sippin’ sweet tea.”
“Well, I’ve sipped enough sweet tea. Oh where oh where is a rest stop? Gas station? MacDonald’s….? Anything?! You and your county back roads. Should have taken the highway.”
“But less traffic here and lots of Carolina charm.”
Charm? Marissa wanted to either laugh or cry but afraid to move a muscle, fearing she’d wet her pants. Why did I drink all that sweet tea at lunch?
She unfolded her map, noting they were about forty miles to the next hole-in-the-road town. As they drove past newlyweds in their “Just Married” car, clanging with old tin cans, she sighed, remembering it would soon be their tenth wedding anniversary. I don’t know who I am anymore….Wish I could be more like my neighbor, Christy, a liberated woman who even takes separate vacations from her husband. Here I am, born in proper New England, traveling through “Hicksville” in the hottest month of the year to visit in-laws I don’t even understand or like. When do I get to take my vacation?
Then out of nowhere a run-down gas station buried in knee-high weeds suddenly appeared like a welcome oasis in a desert.
“STOP!” Marissa demanded.
As Delwin pulled the Chevy up to the gas station/garage, they heard a flapping sound, and then glared in disappointment at the sign taped to the door.
Marissa pounded her fist against the dashboard. “Oh great! Just great! First gas station within sixty miles and they’ve ‘GONE FISHIN’! Gonna find me a big thick bush in the woods…..”
“Now, simmer down,” he said. “At least they got ‘AIR’. Think we may have a flat.”
They stopped and got out. “Flat as Florida,” Delwin said, noting the right- rear tire. “But at least we didn’t have a blowout on the road.”
“Why must you always look on the bright side, Mr. Pollyanna?”
Then just as Marissa thought about finding a bush in the woods, an old rusted-out pickup chugged up beside them.
A sixty-something-year-old man carrying a fishing pole jumped out. He then helped an old woman in the front seat into a wheelchair that he’d stored in the back of his truck.
“'Hau-dE folks. Name’s Billy Joe…..Gimme just a sec and I be rite with ya,” he said, taking down the GONE FISHIN’ sign.
“Now how can I hep ya? Fill’er up?
“Rest rooms?” Marissa blurted out, crossing her legs.
“Ladies’ room ‘round the corner, ma’m,” he said tossing her a key.”
When she came out Billy Joe was changing their flat tire.
“Ya like sweet tea, ma’m?” He called out from the garage. “Thar’s a cold pitcher in the refrigerator. Jest hep yourself.”
“That’s what got me in trouble in the first place,” Marissa laughed. “Thanks, but no thanks.”
“Y’all from ‘round these parts?” The old woman in the wheelchair asked.
“Nope. Florida Panhandle. On our way to visit the in-laws,” Marissa sighed.
“Bessie Mae here…. Pleased to meet ‘ya….” She then reached for a little black-leathered Testament from her purse.
“Praise de Lawd, I can still read da Bible,” she said. “With this here rheumatoid arthritis I ‘bout had to gib up most everthang else. ‘Cept fishin’ with Billy Joe.”
“Tar’s all fixed,” Billy Joe said, wiping sweat off his brow. “Hotter'n a fresh-fried-fox in a forest far.”
“See ‘ya met my sweet, purty little bride. Gimme a lil sugar, hunny.”
“‘Tain’t she the sweetest thang? ‘Morrow’s our 45th weddin’ anniversary.”
Forty-five years together and still in love? Can’t spend much time apart with her handicapped and all….Just how do they do it? Marissa wondered.
“How sweet,” Marissa muttered, as Billy Joe planted another sloppy kiss on his wife’s wrinkled forehead.
“I reckon so, ma’m, but a good marriage still takes a heap of work,” he said. “And we git even closer on our fishin’ trips.”
Marissa thought about her own marriage and realized she’d “gone fishin.’”
Better start working on it before it’s too late.
“That pit stop came just in time,” Delwin said, handing Billie Joe a ten dollar bill.
Marissa took his hands, gazed into his thoughtful brown eyes and smiled.
“Yes, my dear Mr. Pollyanna. Just in time.”
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