Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: COMMUTE (07/07/16)
- TITLE: Travel Insurance
By Cindy Duncan
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Chase looked at the clock on the dashboard. Six forty three. He was six minutes behind schedule, with not much hope of making it up. Traffic was backed up worse than usual at the “last stop,” the name he had given to the final traffic light before merging onto the freeway to the city. He took the last bite of his sausage biscuit, and washed it down with black coffee. Chase scanned the scene as he waited for the light to turn green. Something was different. As traffic began moving in front of him, he realized what it was. The old man was gone.
For three years, every morning, the old man had been on his front porch. Even in the winter, he was there. Sometimes his head was leaned forward, sometimes back. Usually he looked like he was sleeping. A couple of times Chase thought he might be dead, but he was always there. Until now.
Chase kept glancing towards the old man’s house, hoping to catch a glimpse of him coming out the front door to resume his place on the porch, but it was not to be. As he merged onto the freeway, where he would endure the last forty-five minutes of his commute, his heart rate quickened. Anxiety began to rise up in his mind as he imagined all the ways this drive could end poorly.
Chase grabbed his phone and scanned through his playlists, looking for something to calm his nerves. When he looked back to the road, the truck in front of him had stopped. Applying his brakes suddenly, he barely had time to avoid hitting the truck. An older woman pulled up beside him, and lowered her window. “You really should put your phone down and pay attention,” she said, as she rolled past him.
“I can’t do this anymore,” Chase thought, as he considered responding to the woman with some choice words that he only used when he was alone in the car, in traffic such as this. He couldn’t imagine doing this the rest of the week, much less the rest of his life.
By Friday afternoon, Chase had almost hit three cars, been cussed at by several people, and arrived at work rattled and shaken every morning. The thing that bothered him the most, though, was that the old man never showed back up on the porch. As he exited the freeway on his drive home, he felt compelled to pull into the old man’s driveway. He parked his car, and walked to the front door. He couldn’t help but notice the empty chair on the porch as he reached to ring the doorbell.
“Yes, could I help you?” The little gray-haired lady looked at him warily, pulling her sweater closed with one hand, while keeping the other on the door latch.
Chase stood back away from the door, in an effort to make her feel at ease. “Yes, ma’am, my name is Chase Davis, and I couldn’t help but notice that the gentleman who usually sits on the porch has not been there this week. I was just wondering if he’s okay.”
The lady’s shoulders dropped, and her crystal blue eyes, still swollen from many tears, met Chase’s. “He passed away Sunday night,” she said, her voice shaky. “Did he know you?”
“No Ma’am, but I feel like I knew him. I saw him on my way to work every morning, and for some reason, I feel like his presence helped lower my stress level. I know that sounds crazy.”
“It doesn’t sound crazy at all,” she said, as she opened the squeaky screen door, and joined Chase on the porch. “He prayed for you every morning.”
“What? Why would he do that? He doesn’t even know me.”
“He made that drive for thirty-five years. The only way he survived it was to pray for the drivers around him. He said it kept him from cussing them out.”
Chase couldn’t hold back his laughter. “I can certainly relate to that.”
“When he retired, he started sitting on the porch in the morning, praying for everyone waiting at the traffic light. He prayed that your drive would be smooth and stress-free.”
“That explains why this week has been so bad.” Chase glanced out at the afternoon traffic. “But it also lets me know how I can make it better next week.”
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