I popped my own trunk and wrestled the donut from its resting place, along with the jack and wrench.
“My name’s Alicia, by the way.”
“I’m Steve,” I said as I placed the jack under the car.
“Do you do this often, Steve?”
“What? Change tires?”
“No. Come to the aid of sweaty pregnant women.”
“Not very often. I guess you’re the first actually.”
“Hmm. How do I rate such an auspicious honor?”
I scratched my head with the tire iron. “Well, let’s just say that it’s a day full of firsts for me.”
“And what do you do when you’re not rescuing damsels in distress?”
I twisted off the first of the lug nuts. “Well, apparently I’m writing a book.”
“Apparently? Are you unsure?”
“I’ve got some reservations.”
“What’s your book about?”
“Marketing?” I twisted off the next lug nut.
“You mean, like, for business?”
She cocked her head to one side. “Huh.”
“You don’t seem like the business type.”
“Tell me about it.” I twisted off another lug nut.
“Why’d you decide to write a book about that?”
“That’s a good question,” I said.
“I thought so.”
I struggled with the next lug nut and stood on the crowbar to get the seal to break. When it did, I busied myself with getting it off.
“So is there an answer?” she urged.
“It’s complicated,” I responded.
“Yeah, everything’s more complicated than you think it’s going to be when you start it.” She leaned against the car and rubbed her swollen belly. “You got any kids?”
“Your life can’t be that complicated, now, can it?”
I struggled against the last lug nut. “I still manage to complicate things plenty on my own.” The seal broke and I fell forward as the wrench gave way.
“You okay?” she asked, reaching out to help me up.
“Yeah, just a little klutzy.”
I got back to my knees and put the jack under the car. As I lifted the car to put some air under the tire, I seemed to get more and more discouraged as I went. On three occasions, I tried to get the tire off only to find that the car wasn’t high enough yet. When I finally got it off, I sat back to catch my breath.
“Do you ever look at a task ahead of you and feel that you’re completely inadequate to accomplish it?”
“Every day.” She rubbed her belly again. “This was a bit of a surprise to Michael and me. That’s my husband. We hadn’t planned on having kids. We actually considered getting him… well, you know. But I guess we just figured the pill would be enough.” She looked at her belly. “This one had other ideas.”
“Yeah. When I found out I was pregnant, I thought, now if I can’t succeed at not becoming a mother, how am I gonna succeed at actually being one?”
Not quite sure what to say, I just nodded.
“But, you know, eventually I just figured if this one wants to have a life so bad that he’d go against the odds to be conceived, well, maybe there’s hope for me.”
“I guess he wanted it awfully bad,” I said as I put the donut on the car.
“I know, right? I mean, we were careful. I’ve been on the pill since I was a teenager. Little guy’s a tenacious one, I’ll tell you that.”
I started screwing the lug nuts back on. “Think you’ll be a good mother?”
“I don’t know, but I’m gonna do my best. It’s definitely the biggest challenge I’ve ever had to face. And whether or not I’m ready for it, it’s ready for me.”
“Hmm.” I continued screwing on lug nuts.
“How about you?”
“How about me?”
“Are you really ready to write this book?”
“It’s gonna be a challenge.”
“Are you ready for it?”
I tightened the lug nuts. “I don’t know. But it seems like it’s ready for me.”
“That’s the way it works sometimes,” she said. “We don’t always get to choose our challenges; we’ve just got to face them as they come.”
I lowered her car and removed the jack. “Well, you’re all ready to roll. Just take it slow, okay?”
“You too, Steve. I can’t thank you enough.”
“No. Thank you, Alicia.”
I gave her my number so she could return the donut when she got a new tire. As I watched the orange car limp away, I realized that Alicia was right. I still didn’t like a lot of what had been happening in the corporate world. And I wasn’t quite sure if I had the moxie to actually be a good influence, but if there was any way that what I did could have an effect on it, I was still in the game.
I started the car and turned on the radio. Once again, Bono sang that it was a “Beautiful Day.”
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!