I checked the weather this morning before heading out and it said that there would be a twenty percent chance of rain and thunderstorms. So naturally, eight miles into my walk, it starts to downpour. Luckily I saw the rain coming and hastily packed away my phone, iPod, and camera, and then pulled out my rain gear. I zipped up my coat as the first rain drop plopped onto my hood. Within minutes it was pouring cats and dogs and both my shoes and socks were soaked. I continued to walk on, fighting off the fowl mood that the rain had brought with it. About a mile in, the rain coming down harder than ever, I heard a loud bang from behind me and I spun around to see the cause.
An old (and I mean old) red pickup was clamoring down the road, backfiring every few feet. It pulled up even to me across the road and the window rolled down. A middle-aged man was in the driver’s seat and shouted out the window towards me. Through his thick accent and the sound of the rain I couldn’t make out what he said. I ran across the road and walked up to the rolled down window. “Huh?” I asked.
“You crazy coot! Watcho doin’ out here in this here downpour? Hitch up with us, we’ll wait it out withcha!” He said, smiling, revealing his six remaining front teeth which were all dirty and brown. I looked over at the other man in the truck who was much older and was also smiling. Like his driver, also was sporting a nearly toothless grin.
“Ummm…” I began to decline, but at that very moment the rain started to come down even harder. So I unbuckled my pack, ran around to the other side of the truck, and jumped in. The older man was now sitting in the middle seat and smiling at me as I crawled in, soaking wet. They couldn’t believe I was out walking in this weather and didn’t seem to grasp the reason why I was doing it. I told them countless times that I was doing it for charity but both only ever responded with a laugh and a “Welllll…shoooot…”
We sat there in the smelly pickup truck for probably twenty minutes, waiting out the rain. The older man was named Fat John and for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why. He was tall and extremely skinny with a scruffy beard and a head of wild hair. He was smoking a cigarette and was now on his third can of beer. It was 10 AM. The other man was Fat John’s son, Manny. Luckily, he was not drinking a beer, but rather popping Everlasting Gobstoppers into his mouth every few minutes. They were both working as carpenters and were on their way towards Nashville to do a job there for the day. As I sat, they told me about their past jobs, their lives, their fears, and their ex-wives. Most of the conversation I missed because of their thick drawls and the pounding of the rain on the truck’s roof. Fat John eventually began to sing some sort of jingle, slapping his hand on his leg, Manny nodding his head to the beat.
Finally the rain stopped and the clouds seemed to break. Smelling like cigarettes, beer, and a wet dog I hopped down out of the truck. “It was mighty fine meeting you,” said Fat John, very serious-like. Manny nodded as the truck started up and putted down the road. As the truck’s backfires faded into the distance I began to walk, breathing in the smell of the newly wet earth. For three more hours I continued to walk as the clouds began to turn black once more. I passed a sign saying the town I was to end in was still three miles away. Quickening my pace, I began to walk up a rather steep hill as it began to rain. By the time I had reached the top it was pouring and the wind was blowing extreme gusts that were stopping me dead in my tracks. From on top of the hill, it didn’t look good…
The black clouds were overtaking the sky, which had just turned an eerie green. A violent bolt of lightning caused me jump and moments later the loud rumble of thunder issued from out of the sky overhead. I pulled out my phone to see if I could make a call. I had no service. The road I was on was off the highway and I hadn’t seen much traffic all day. I decided that the top of a hill probably wasn’t the best place for me to be standing, what with the lightening, so I began to trot down the road which was now streaming with water. As I neared the bottom of the hill another lightning bolt shimmered across the sky, this time much closer. I was debating whether to keep moving along or to run through the grass field to my right and into its neighboring forest when a loud bang sounded from behind me. I spun around in time to see the great red pickup pull up to my side, only inches away. There, Fat John and Manny were beaming at me. As the rain pelted down harder and the wind tossed leaves and debris through the air, Fat John flung open up the passenger door and yelled for me to get in.
“Woooooooo-eee!” Bellowed Fat John as I jumped into the seat, lightning lighting up the sky around us.
“Fat John! Manny!” I stammered. “What are you guys doing here? What about the job in Nashville?!”
“Well we saw that there storm comin’…” Manny started, his voice wavering a little as if he was slightly nervous… “And we both said ‘Shoot, we can’t let our friend walk in that! Job or no job!’…so we turned tail and came back to find ya…” Even in the darkness of the storm I could see that Manny was blushing.
“Your friend…” I repeated quietly, a small lump forming in my throat. As I turned to tell them how much I appreciated it, Fat John just patted me on the back and the truck lurched forward. The sky was alight with bolts of lightning, thunder booming from all around us. When I finally found my voice, I joined in singing with Fat John and Manny as we drove down the country road through the wind and the rain. I can’t imagine that any of us sounded particularly good or in tune as we all smiled and sang… But that’s why friends are great. Because none of us seemed to care.
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