Of course it wasn't really Willie Nelson, you should know that from the start.
In the interest of full disclosure and all that. ;-)
Fred, our trusty Ford Taurus, is getting up in the years. We bought him new (yes, a name and a gender for both our vehicles - we dance just on this side of nutto around here) in 1999, those long, lazy days before diapers, pacifiers, and tantrums.
He's been a very reliable car, mostly because both Knute and I are OCD when it comes to vehicle maintenance (once again, that just east of crazy thing) but after ten years, little things wear out and break.
Knute had mentioned some stuttering in the engine late last week but he didn't get a chance to take Fred in for a looksee because he was too busy with that whole earning a living for us thing as well as physical therapy three times a week*.
So I was not at all surprised when my cellphone thrummed on Monday morning as I pulled out from dropping the big kids off at school.
"Fred is dead," Knute said. "At least, his battery is."
I headed down the highway to where he was stranded at the physical therapist's office**. The PT is in a nice little township not far from us, one of those places where every green-green-green blade of grass bends in the same direction when the wind blows and every house is tastefully accessorized with seasonally appropriate lawn decor.
When I pulled in to the parking lot, I saw Knute next to Fred. Fred's hood was up and Knute had his jumper cables ready. The parking lot was about half full of cars; people who looked just as neat and tidy as their diagonally cut lawns walked from their cars to the building, from the building to their cars, their cell phones firmly attached to their ears.
I parked Claudine next to Fred and popped her hood, explaining to little Tom that jumping a battery had nothing to do with jumping rope.
"Remember when Candace had to fix the spaceship on Phineas and Ferb?" I asked. "Positive to positive, negative to ground."
Unfortunately, unlike that episode of our fave cartoon, the jump did not work. Click-click-click went the engine when Knute tried the key.
"You need bigger cables," said a voice. "Hang on."
I peered past the opened hood and saw long, long hair over the back of a Harley Davidson jacket. Cigarette smoke swirled and parted as the stranger walked back toward his car and fetched his own cables.
For the next ten minutes, Willie Nelson's doppelganger fiddled and fussed with the cables between our cars. When it became clear that the battery wasn't the issue, he pulled his hair (seriously peeps, twice as long as mine) back and peered into Fred's engine block, poking until he found the starter.
"That's your problem," Willie said. "I'd tear it out of there for you, but I just had surgery."
"That's ok," Knute and I said at the same time. "Thanks for helping us."
Willie told us how we could jump the starter using a screwdriver to bridge the charge between the posts ("Just be sure you're real clear of it.") but as both Knute and I had no desire to make our Monday any more challenging with the addition of electrocution, we called a tow truck instead.
While we were on our phones, Willie packed his cables back in his trunk and drove off. I never did get to really tell him thank you, not just for trying to help us but for putting his day on hold to do so.
It came as no surprise to me then, when Becky - while unloading her backpack to start on her homework after school - said she had some big news for me.
"Guess what? Third grade has morning prayer on the twenty-sixth and we're doing a play and I get to be the person who helps!"
"You mean you get to be the Good Samaritan?" I asked.
"Yeah, that's it!" she said, her brow furrowing. "How did you know?"
Because my dear Jesus loves to have a good laugh on me, my dear girl.
*My man plays softball with the passion of a kid hoping to catch the eye of an agent; this is good for his mind and spirit but it's hell on his body. He nearly broke his kneecap sliding for a catch - which he made - last week.
**Given how much we've paid the PT lately, I feel a misguided sense of pride in ownership for the brand-spanking new PT office building I'm funding. It's quite lovely, thank you.
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