This story is by Tammy Adams and was part of our 2017 Spring Writing Contest. You can find all the Spring Writing Contest stories here.
Mary stared at the flat tire and sighed.
“Aw, chin up, Mare. It could be worse. At least you have a spare tire. Hey look, a Shell sign!”
Mary glanced over to see her best friend of 42 years pointing to the Shell sign up ahead.
“Um, Jill. That sign looks pretty freaking old.” Mary chuckled as she walked to the popped trunk and began unloading stuff. Why the heck did she have all that stuff in her trunk? She wondered.
“Where’s Dave today?” Jill asked taking a few items out of Mary’s hands and setting them on the ground.
“He’s at the lake with that Sam guy from work. Bass fishing.”
Finally Mary uncovered the hidden treasure, the jack.
“Dang! Had to work to get this.” Mary walked around Jill and squatted next to the tire.
“Yay! Progress!” Jill said.
“Yes, progress. Would you please get the tire out while I put this thing together?”
“Sure.” Jill disappeared behind the car as Mary worked to get the jack in the right place.
“Where do these foreign cars keep the spare?” Jill’s head appeared to the side of the trunk.
“What do you mean? And this is a Toyota, they make these here.”
“Okay but there’s no spare in the trunk, just a hole.”
Mary stood and walked to where Jill was staring at the obviously empty hole then she bent over and peered under the back of the car. She remembered her mom had a car with a spare tucked under the trunk that had to be unscrewed. There was nothing.
“Well, poo. Okay, at least we have our cell phones so it could be worse! Right?” Jill stepped to the open passenger side door and reached in for her phone. Standing back up she gazed down at it with her mouth twisted in a grimace.
“Ruh Roh, raggy. Battery is dead. How about yours?”
Rolling her eyes Mary looked both ways, stepped into the road to open the driver’s side door then unhooked the phone from the charger and stood up.
“Hey, I got a text from Dave on a strange number. Maybe that Sam guy’s.”
“And?” Jill asked.
“Lost my phone in the lake. This is Sam’s number. Won’t be in cell range till around 8 tonight. Call you then.” Mary read.
“Awesome! At least he can be reached unlike he-who-shall-not-be-named. See, it could be worse.”
Mary shook her head, wrinkled her nose at Jill and looked at her phone again.
She hit reply and typed. “Hey. Tire blew and the spare is gone, not sure why. Call me ASAP. Love you.” Pressing send she turned to Jill.
“Well, I guess we can put all this stuff back in and start walkin’ to the Shell.”
“Sweet! See Mary, we’re making memories.”
“Memories. Okay, we’re making memories.”
Soon both were walking down the shoulder of the highway towards their oasis, the Shell gas station.
“I’m so glad that we aren’t on some lonely road in the middle of nowhere. That would be so much worse.” Jill looked around at the empty highway and grinned.
Mary couldn’t help but shake her head and chuckle. She glanced at the clock on her cell phone.
“I had hoped we would get to my aunt’s house tonight. Granny’s funeral is at 10:00 in the morning.” Mary sighed as she mentally calculated the miles left versus the hours left.
On and on the two walked chatting about shopping, music videos, church service, work, the dogs and finally how close the exit ramp was beginning to look.
Jill glanced at her watch. “Wowzer! That took almost an hour.”
Mary quickly looked back towards where her car would have been but she couldn’t see it anymore. She felt her stomach drop. “What time is it?”
Jill looked back at her watch. “Ten to five.”
“Hopefully they don’t close at five.” Mary said as she quickened her pace.
“Really think they would? At least it’s still daylight. It could be worse.” Jill was having difficulty keeping up with long legged Mary.
At five after five the girls ran up to the vacant gas station door and pulled on it. Locked.
“Oh no, Mare! It’s closed!” Jill pointed to a sign taped to the window beside the door.
“What? No!” Mary read the sign and groaned. This Shell station was closed for good.
Mary sat down and tried to temper the sudden hysteria that was beginning to bubble up from within her.
Jill walked a few feet away to the road and looked left, then right.
“Let’s pull up Google Maps and see what’s close.” Jill suggested.
“That’s actually a good idea.” Mary thought.
“Well?” Jill plopped down next to her.
“Loading.” Mary mumbled.
“So glad you have your phone! It could be so much worse.”
Mary gritted her teeth. Jill’s little saying was becoming a real life Jumanji game.
Jill looked over at the phone in Mary’s hand.
“Goodness, taking long enough?”
“I know, right?”
Mary closed it and tried again. Finally Google Maps opened and both girls huddled close to look.
“Jill, there is nothing close. Nothing.”
“Maybe if you pan it to the left?”
Mary moved the map over several times until a restaurant icon appeared.
“Click on that and maybe they have a phone number?” Jill offered.
Mary clicked on the icon, found the number and called.
After what seemed like forty rings a tired sounding woman answered. Mary explained their situation and the woman on the other end promised to send help.
“Thank you so much!” Mary gushed, thanked her and hung up.
“Cool.” Jill sighed in relief. “I’m so glad someone answered and is sending help. See, it could be…”
“DON’T!” Mary cut in. “Don’t say that, please.”
Jill looked at her surprised. “Okay. Why?”
“Seems every time you say that, it does.”
Jill grinned and stood up.
“Oh Mary. Silly girl. I wonder if there’s an unlocked door so that we don’t have to sit out with the bugs.”
“Go check it out. I’m gonna try to call that Sam guy’s number and leave a voice mail.”
Mary called the number from the text and listened to the rings.
“We’re sorry, the number you dialed has a mailbox that has not been set up. Please hang up and try your call again.”
“Dadgumit.” Mary pressed end.
She reopened the text and typed. “Hey Dave. Not sure if you got my other message yet. Please call me ASAP.” Pressing send she stood to find Jill.
“Hey, where are you?” Mary called out.
“All the doors and windows are locked.” Jill exclaimed coming around the corner of the building. “But at least we have a covered porch.”
Mary opened her mouth to interrupt but Jill held up her hand. “I’m not going to say it could be worse.”
Mary groaned and laughed. “You just did.”
“Woopsie.” Jill’s eyes twinkled. “Did you leave a message?”
“No. His voice mail isn’t set up. Moron. I texted him again though.”
“Oh good. Bet we’ll get a call soon.”
Jill looked the front porch over really well before sitting down. “I hope there are no ants.”
Jill hated ants. Hated. Ants.
Mary grinned and sat down too. “In the movies, ants have families and feelings.”
Jill shook her head. “In real life ants have to die.”
Mary chuckled then sighed a worried sigh. “What classes are you taking this semester?”
Jill kept the conversation light and fun for the next hour as the dusk turned to dark. She was trying to do anything and everything to keep Mary’s mind off her grandmother’s funeral the next morning.
“OUCH!” Jill slapped her arm. “Dang mosquitos.”
Mary stood and stretched then grinned at Jill as she heard a loud truck coming.
“Just in time! I hate being snack food for bugs.” Jill slapped at her cheek and smiled ruefully.
Up pulled a 1950 Chevy and out stepped the last person Mary ever wanted to see in the entire remaining years of her life.
Jill’s mouth fell open and she stood gawking.
“Oh. My. Gosh.” Mary sputtered.
“What are you doing out here, in the dark, calling for help?” Her ex questioned which made Mary itch to slap the smug look right of his face.
“The tire blew and the spare wasn’t in the trunk. Wonder why, Jody?”
“Had to use the spare last time I drove to Tuscan. Ever heard of checking the car before you head out on a road trip? Jody folded his arms across his chest and looked down his nose at her.
Feelings of less crept up into her heart but when she looked over at Jill who had the pure look of disgust on her face she found the courage to speak up to him.
“Would you please help get the tire changed or take us somewhere we can buy one?”
“Sure. Get in and tell me where the car is.”
With a wink at Mary, Jill climbed into the truck first making sure she was in the middle.
“We walked for about an hour.” Jill volunteered.
“No joke? Didn’t know ya’ll knew how to walk that far.” Jody laughed at his non-funny joke as the girls stared out the window.
“Nice. So I get the silent treatment.” Jody said arrogantly.
“Did you bring a spare?” Mary asked turning to look in the truck bed.
“Nope, brought tow chains.”
“Why?” Mary demanded.
“Don’t have any tires laying around. Hafta tow it and get one tomorrow morning.”
Mary looked at Jill and raised her eyebrows.
Jill hid her grin behind her hand and whispered “at least we aren’t being eaten by bugs….”
“Worse.” Mary whispered back.
“I don’t have to help. I can drop you off right here.” To prove the point he pulled the truck over and slowed down.
Mary knew it was truly bad when she actually thought about letting him drop them off.
Instead she drew in her breath and said. “We appreciate your help. Please continue.”
Jody laughed and pulled back onto the road.
“What happens if the chains won’t work to tow my car?” Mary asked.
“Well, we leave it.”
“Is there a hotel somewhat close?” Jill interjected from between them.
Jody nodded. “One in town.”
“Perfect! See, Mare, it could…..”
“But they got closed down last week on accounta bed bugs.” Jody added.
“Oh. My. Gosh!” Mary spat out.
Awkward silence reigned in the truck for the drive back to Mary’s car.
“Thank you, Father! Ohmygosh!” Mary prayed out loud with relief and excitement and thankfulness. Up ahead she saw Dave’s car parked right behind hers. Her car was jacked up and her heart soared at the sight.
“Who’s that?” Jody sneered.
“My knight in a silver Audi.” Mary giggled. Jody snorted.
Jill just sat between them grinning from ear to ear.
After Jody pulled a U-ie on the road and parked in front of Mary’s car she jumped out and ran straight into Dave’s open arms.
“Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!” Mary hugged him tight.
“I got your text believe it or not. We usually don’t get anything out there! We headed straight in and drove the road till we saw your car. I tried calling you but it kept going to voice mail.
Mary couldn’t help but keep smiling through moist eyes she was so relieved. “I was so worried we wouldn’t get to Dawson in time for granny’s funeral.”
“Well, looks like ya’ll don’t need me anymore. I’m out.” Jody jumped into his truck and spun out in the gravel leaving them coughing from the dust.
Jill and Mary looked at each other and said in tandem “So much worse!” Then started laughing like exhausted school girls that had been up all night.
“What’s so funny?” Dave hugged Mary tight and kissed her forehead.
“I learned that things could be so much worse but then get so much better right after.”