Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Blowout (04/28/11)
TITLE: The Grapevine
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George didn’t know that it wasn’t reasonable to pull, especially with an even older pickup with a too-small six-cylinder engine. He was getting married and his wife-to-be would be joining him in San Diego.
He willed the trailer up the Grapevine. When George gave up the 4th gear, then the 3rd gear, just when the 2nd gear seemed hardly able to pull any more and the impossibly slow 1st gear was going to be engaged, George heard a gun shot go off. Then a sickeningly flopping sound came from behind him. He didn’t have to pull over because he was already on the shoulder. He stopped and examined the smoking rim where the tire used to be.
George felt a sickening dread in his stomach as he realized that he would not only need a new tire, but a new rim as well. The sixty dollars he had in his pocket pressed thinly against his leg as he bent down and jacked the trailer up. He threw the wheel into the back of the pickup truck, left the trailer behind on a wooden block, and started out towards the nearest town.
The first auto parts store clerk looked at him with a look of astonishment when George asked him if he had anything to replace a wheel that old. He told George to try a repair shop a mile down the street. The look of astonishment gave way to one of respect when George didn’t act discouraged as he turned and left the store. The clerk noticed how old the pickup truck was and how young and impossibly thin George looked. It reminded the man of when he was younger. He smiled as he looked out the window after George.
To save money on gas, George walked to the auto repair shop. The old guys laughed together when they heard him ask if they had a wheel that old. Their smiles turned softer and they looked at George closely when he asked where the nearest junkyard was. One of the men looked upwards and to the right as if some bird had flown into the corner of the room and he smiled.
“Hey I know this old coot crazy enough to have a five lugged rim that would work for you!” He walked out the door and motioned for George to follow and get in his pickup. “I’ll drive you!”
They drove down a dirt road that was not designed for human beings. The truck bounced to a halt. The driver jumped out and an old man came out to greet them. His frail body, shrunken with age, was almost completely lost the large dirty overalls he used to fill out a decade ago. Minutes later, completely contradicting how old and frail he looked, he returned around the corner of an old, leaning shed, carrying under one arm a heavy wheel and in the other a large, used trailer tire.
“I always knew these would come in handy one day!” the man shouted, as if he was finally proven right against the accusations of his wife, who had died over a decade ago. She always complained he shouldn’t store up so much junk.
The man from the repair shop and the old man couldn’t have been happier if you told them they had won the Reader’s Digest Sweepstakes. The old man only wanted ten bucks, even though it would have cost three times that in a junkyard and the repair shop put the tire on for two dollars. Both old men smiled the smiles of young men for days whenever they thought of George driving down to start a life with his new wife.
George got back on the road. The wild ride downhill from the famous Grapevine grade didn’t scare him even though it should have.
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