Paying it Forward

My wavering mind was snapped back to the here and now with an earth shuddering bang. The car in front of me, an orange Mazda, swerved and slowed as its hazard lights ignited and the driver looked for a place to pull over. Shreds of rubber sprayed from the front end of the car.

Though the recent surge in cellular phones has made me much more apathetic to the plight of roadside breakdowns and the need for me to stop when more adequate help was only a phone call away, it occurred to me that in the wake of the hurricane, servicemen were probably a bit busy. And the bushy, blond hair that sat behind the wheel of the handicapped car in front of me seemed in need of immediate help. As the car pulled onto a side road and stopped, I followed and set my hazard lights as I got out of the car.

I approached the Mazda on the driver’s side, and as I approached, I could hear the faint sound of weeping coming from the cracked window. I knocked as gently as I could, but still the woman jumped and looked at me with wide, reddened eyes.

“Are you okay?”

“What do you want?” she asked briskly.

“I saw your tire blow and thought I might be able to help?”

Her head cocked to one side, her eyes never deviating. “Really?”

“Uh huh.”

“People still do that?” she asked.

“What can I say? I’m trying to bring it back.” I smiled. “Do you have a spare?”

She sighed. “I think so.” She wiped the tears from her eyes, and checked herself in the mirror with a look of disdain.

As I stood there waiting for her, it felt like the grief I’d felt in the car before stopping had doubled. She opened the door with an exhausted grunt, and I knew that I was feeling her emotions. Though I couldn’t see her aura as I had with the people in the park, I knew that I was sensing it.

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Oh, just peachy,” she said as she swung her legs out. “Hormonal, achy, bloated, and moody, but other than that, I’m fine.” She maneuvered herself to the edge of the seat and let the weight of her distended belly emerge. Her hands gripped the edges of the door jamb as if she were being pulled back by a vacuum. “Have any experience with beached whales?”

She released a white knuckled grip and allowed me to help her out of the car.

“How far along are you?” I asked.

“Technically, I’m in my eighth month,” she said, waddling her way to the back of the car, the keys in her hand clanging together with each step, “but it feels like twenty-seven.”

She opened the trunk to reveal a potpourri of beach chairs, towels, books, cd’s, magazines, aluminum cans, paper bags, and other assorted sundries. “I know there used to be a spare tire back here somewhere.”

She leaned into the trunk and started moving debris to the sides, clearing a path to the hatch housing the spare. As she struggled to pull up the carpet clad fiberboard, I stepped up and gave it an extra boost. Unfortunately, there was no spare.

“I probably ate it,” she said with a shrug. “I’ve had some really strange cravings lately.”

“I’m pretty sure I staved off my appetite and still have a donut in my trunk if you want to use it to limp to the tire shop.”

“I couldn’t ask you to do that. I can just call a tow truck.”

“Got Triple A?” I asked.

“I’ve got a brother in AA. Does that count?”

“I don’t think so. Not unless he’s got a heck of a lot of chips. Got fifty bucks for a tow?”

She rubbed her belly and leaned against her car. “I don’t suppose my current amount of sex appeal is going to help me get a discount, will it?”

“I think I’ll just get the tire.”

“You really don’t have to. I’ve got a credit card for a tow.”

“Yeah, but I’m not going to leave a pregnant woman alone by the side of the road so as long as I’m gonna be here waiting for a tow truck, I might as well pass the time by changing your tire.”

“Guess I can’t argue with that logic.”

This is an excerpt from How to Survive an Estralarian Mind Meld. Come back weekly for the next part or order your copy in ebook or paperback today!

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