She finally spoke, “It was your truck. When it backfired, it scared the bejeezus out of me. It sounded like a gunfight at the O.K. Corral.”
“Yeah. I know. It’s funny you say that. I thought the same thing earlier. But I’ve just gotten used to it.”
“That clunker is a hazard.”
“It’s not a clunker. It’s a classic, actually.”
“Oh, I know. That’s a ‘56 Ford 100.”
“Very good. How could you tell what year it was?”
“You were wearing a seatbelt when I drove by you. The ‘56 was the first model where a seatbelt was an option.”
“Why is that?”
“Most girls wouldn’t know that.”
“Well, I’m not most girls. And I happen to know a lot more about cars than just that.”
“No, you’re definitely not most girls.”
“Are you being facetious?”
“No. It’s not every day you meet a girl with dirt on her face that knows a thing or two about cars.”
“You should see yourself. Go look in my mirror.”
She put the kickstand down and walked over to the truck. Leaning into the driver-side mirror to examine her face, she laughed. “You weren’t kidding.”
I stood behind her, staring at her reflection. “You’re a mess.”
Truth was, even with filth on her face, this girl was so amazingly beautiful that my heart was palpitating.
She brushed her fingers along her cheeks then straightened her back suddenly and accidentally knocked right into me. I hadn’t been paying attention to anything but her face in the mirror and had gotten too close.
“Sorry,” she said.
“That was my fault. Let me…get you something to clean your face.”
Reaching into the open window of my front seat, I grabbed a piece of paper towel and wet it with some water from my bottle. “Here.”
“Thanks.” As she wiped her cheeks, she looked down and said, “Oh no.”
“There’s blood seeping through my skirt. I think I cut my knee.”
“Let me see.”
She backed away. “No. I can’t let you.”
“Oh. I’m sorry. I was just trying to help. I didn’t mean anything by it.”
“I know you didn’t. It’s just…I’m not allowed to—”
Holding up my palms, I said, “I get it.”
A car started to approach. I nudged my head toward the grass on the side of the road. “Let’s get out of the way. Go over there and check your leg. Make sure it’s okay.”
She walked to a grassy area several feet away and lifted her long skirt with her back toward me. She yelled over to me, “Can I have a clean paper towel with some water?”
“Yeah…yeah, of course.” I fumbled through my truck for the items, unable to figure out why I was suddenly on edge and nervous. Wetting the paper towel, I walked over to where she was now sitting down on the grass.
“Thanks.” She took the paper towel and stuck it under her skirt to clean the wound.
“Are you alright?”
“Yeah. It’s just a scrape. I’ll put some antibiotic on it when I get home later.”
When she stood up, there was an awkward silence as we just looked at each other. I could sense that I was making her nervous, yet there was something unspoken between us that kept her from running back to that bike.
Suddenly, it was like a light switch went off inside of her. “I have to go.”
“Alright.” I stood frozen in the same spot just watching her leave.
As she hopped on her bike and started to pedal away, I got in my truck and attempted to start it. I kept turning the ignition over and over, and nothing was happening. It was embarrassing because the girl was still within earshot. She’d called it a clunker, and I’d defended it. Now, this was proving what a piece of shit the truck really was—classic or not.
I heard her voice behind me. “Has this ever happened before?”
She came back.
“No. It’s always started for me.”
She walked around to the front of the truck. “Lift the hood.”
“I was going to do that myself. You don—”
“Open it up.”
I couldn’t help laughing at her persistence. “Yes, ma’am.”
I was pretty good with cars but intentionally let her have at it, watching it all unfold like a show.
I could see she was checking the fuel pump.
“It’s not the fuel pump,” she said.
I stuck my hands in my pockets, amazed at her knowledge. “Alright.”
After a few minutes, she said, “I just checked the butterfly valves on the carburetor. That’s not the issue, either.”
Where the hell did this girl come from?
If she were smart, she’d check the electrical. I decided to test her. “What will you be looking at next?”
“The plug wires.”
Good girl. Wow.
A couple of minutes later, she turned around with grease on her face. “Two of them came loose. It must have happened from the vibration on the highway. That’s why the truck won’t start now. Stopping it was a big mistake.”
Actually…I was thinking that stopping the truck was the best decision I made all day.
I couldn’t contain my smile. “What are you gonna do next?”