Monday was a gray day. It had been raining off an on and fog hung thick along the sides of the road. We were driving along Clear Lake, that winding road that passes by little towns with older-style motels and boat docks in various states of decay.
Tommy and I were both tired after spending the weekend out of suitcases.
We were on a stretch of road in between towns and saw a white car pulled over on the opposite side of the road. Tommy shook his head and said: “Why am I the type of person who has to stop?”
“Is there someone in the car,” I asked.
“OK,” I nodded.
He’s like that.
A few weekends ago he stopped for a 19-year-old who had a flat tire. The kid didn’t know how to change a tire. Tommy muscled under the car and found the spare, wedged up under the bottom of the trunk of the minivan. The kid had been traveling from some other state and didn’t know where the spare was located. The two lay under the car until they were both red in the face and sweating. Tommy was trying to show him how to change the tire, but ended up doing it all himself. The kid was grateful.
Monday I wasn’t surprised when he stopped for the old man with the broken-down car.
He likes to say: “Pay it forward.”
“We don’t have a cell phone, but we can call at the next town,” I said.
He walked across the road, and I was proud that he is that type of man.
A man with a white beard was behind the wheel and I got out of the truck to stretch my legs. I saw the two of them talking briefly.
Tommy gave a departing gesture and the man rolled up his window to keep out the rain.
Tommy walked back across the two-lane road toward the truck and the man rolled down the window and thanked him again. Tommy, in mid-stride, looked over his shoulder to tell him “no problem.”
Just then, a car whizzed around the blind corner. Tommy was two feet from the unbroken yellow line.
I yelled “Honey! No!”
Tommy stopped, just an instant before a car zipped past at about 45 miles an hour and then disappeared around the curve into the fog.
He strode quickly across the street and opened the door to the truck.
“Thank God you yelled,” he said.
“I think I just saved your life.”
“He said he had triple-A and was waiting for a tow,” Tommy said, as if nothing had just almost happened.
He started up the engine and we drove for a few minutes.
I asked him to pull over at the next safe place along the road.
“I want to hug you,” I said, crying.
He found a gravel area along the road and pulled the truck over as cars whipped by.
I hugged him with all of my strength, that kind of hug that likely leaves indentations on your skin. It was raining, so my tears just added to the wetness on his T-shirt.
“I can’t believe how close that was,” I said, hugging him.
“We’ll have to tell this to Leify when we get home,” he said. “Tell him how important it is to look to the left and look to right when crossing the street.”
“Then look to the right again,” I said.