Saturday, December 20, 2014

Jeb's Drive - a Christmas short story

This month's round-robin is a gift for readers. Mine is a short story. Hope everyone enjoys all the author's offerings!

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Jeb's Drive
Jeb glanced at the clock on the car's radio read. It was coming up on three thirty so he should be at Mom's house between five and six. Four hours of driving and three more to go was just too much damn much time behind the wheel, especially when traveling for a day he did not want to celebrate. Jeb sighed. His mom had asked, and she and he were the last family either had.

He hated Christmas. Had for five years, ever since only three days before Christmas, a drunk driver killed his Angie and their son Jeffy. His foot had pressed on the gas pedal with the unwanted memory. Tearing his thoughts away from the past, he slowed his speed to seven miles about the limit.

He would arrive in plenty of time for Christmas Eve dinner with his mom. Returning his attention to the actual task of driving, he saw a car on the side of the road quite some distance ahead. He watched as cars and trucks sped by. Coming closer, he saw the wind those vehicles created blew the light, dry snow on a man standing at the car's front. The old, but respectable looking Taurus's hood was up. Passing by he saw passengers sitting in the car.

"Christ, racism is alive and well." He swore some more and with some misgivings, he slowed and pulled to the side of the road. Looking over his shoulder, he slowly backed along the shoulder toward the stranded car. He got out and walked toward the huge man standing in front of the car. Hopeless wariness showed on the man's face.

"Trouble?" Jeb asked.

"Yeah. Car caught fire, wirings melted. Fire's out, but we're stranded."

"You have help coming?"

The man shook his stocking hat covered head no. "Police said they'd come as soon as they could, but they're really busy."

"Can I call a tow truck for you?"

Another shake of the head. "Can't afford it, and my insurance won't cover it."

Jeb looked in the car. A woman with a tear-stained face sat in the front passenger's seat, two young boys huddled in the back seat under a blanket. His heart clenched. They reminded him of his lost Jeffy. A pile of wrapped Christmas gifts lay on the far side of the two boys. He knew how distressed Angie would have been at the family's plight. Damn. He was thinking too much about her today after months of having wiped her and Jeffy from his thoughts. He'd had to just to survive himself. "Where are you going?"

"We are on our way to Springfield, Missouri."

Jeb pulled out his phone just as a police cruiser pulled up behind the stranded car. He put the phone back in his pocket. The trooper asked for the particulars and the man's license. The car would be towed to Maryville, the officer said, gave the name of the tow company, and then asked if Mr. Davis wanted to be taken anywhere nearby? Mr. Davis said there was nowhere for his family to go. They would have to wait for his family to drive from south central Missouri.

"You can't wait on the side of the road," the officer replied. "Direct them to come to the local police station. You can wait there. It will at least be warm."

Jeb had been watching the two boys in the car. Their worried and dejected faces made him make a stupid decision he knew he would regret. He handed his business card to the officer. "I'm on my way to Missouri. I'll take them. Please have any charges sent to my office. The number's on the card."
The officer looked at Mr. Davis, who stared at Jeb, still wary but with hope entering his eyes, "You sure?"

"That's very generous of you," the officer said looking at his card, "Mr. Smith." Garbled noise came through a device on the officer. Jeb heard enough to know there was an accident somewhere. After checking Jeb's driver's license to verify his identity, the officer left.

Jeb looked at Mr. Davis and nodded. "Yeah, I'm sure. Let's get your family and stuff in my car."

After some juggling of people, the few gifts, and a large amount of luggage into his car's trunk, Jeb climbed back into the driver's seat. The amount of luggage bothered him. Davis sat in the passenger seat. Mrs. Davis sat in the back seat with the boys.

"My name's Colton. Where you going in Missouri, Mr. Smith?

"Jeb. Columbia." He got back on the road and headed on down Interstate 55.

"Springfield's some distance out of your way."

"It's not a problem. I'm just going for dinner with my Mom, and I've already called to let her know I'll be late. Do you live in Springfield?"

"No Chicago. You?"

"Chicago. This is the first time I've been home in a couple of years."

"Yeah, us too." Colton rambled on about how fast time went, missing family, and making memories for his boys. Before long they fell into the non-personal conversation of strangers in which Lucy, Mrs. Davis, joined. Jeb told them he was a financial manager with a large Chicago company. Within the hour they were approaching the Poplar St. Bridge and the boys, Dace and Jadyn, were in awe of crossing the Mississippi River for the first time. Jeb heard one of the boys whispering he was hungry. Lucy told him they'd eat when they got to grandma's.

"I'm hungry too, and I have to make a pit stop, can you wait until were about ten minutes beyond the other side of the Bridge? We can stop, get out, and stretch our legs."

"And pee!" Dace said from the back.

"Yeah, that, too," Jeb said as Colton laughed and Lucy hushed her son.

It didn't surprise Jeb that the family used the facilities at the stop and walked around the parking lot but didn't buy food. They waited inside the car for him. When he got back in, he had eight burgers, fries, and soft drinks. "Sorry," he said to Lucy, "I know you would have probably picked milk instead of soda, but this was easier."

"There are eight burgers in this here bag," she said.

"I missed lunch, and Colton doesn't look like a one small burger man."

"Thank you," Colton said, looking pleased but abashed. Soon back on the road, Jeb heard the boys munching and slurping their drinks, after which silence fell. Everyone in the back seat was asleep, and he and Colton remained silent for the next two hours, until Colton called his family to let them know how much longer before they arrived. When the call ended, he said, "It is very kind of you to go so far out of your way for us. I stood on the side of that road for an hour."

"I know Christmas is a big thing for kids. I'd hate to let your boys have a bad memory." Angie would have reamed him for such indifferent negligence.

"You got family?"

"Had. Just my mom and I left now. My brother died in Afghanistan two years ago."

"My condolences. Still, thank you. Truth be told, we may be staying in Springfield. We're losing our house, and my job is iffy."

"Sorry to hear that. What type of work do you do?"

"I'm a mechanic-repairman for a local appliance store."

Jeb asked him about what he did and what his background was. It appeared Colton was under-employed.

It was getting darker when Jeb heard rustling in the back seat. "Are we there yet?" one of the boys asked. The voice sounded so much like Jeffy, Jeb nearly cried, but sucked in a weary breath.
"Almost," Colton reassured his son. It didn't seem too long before Colton was directing him to the family's home. As the car pulled in the driveway, a dozen people came out the front door, and were soon hugging Colton and his family. Jeb felt envy stab him.

He turned and lifted the luggage from the trunk. Many from the group surrounding Colton's family came and helped take the bags into the house. Soon only he, Colton, and what Jeb assumed were two brothers, stood by his car. The men offered Jeb their hands and he shook them, listening to their gratitude for delivering Colton and his family. They offered to pay for his gas. Jeb declined.

Jeb looked at Colton, handing him another of his business cards. "If you decide to go back to Chicago, give me a call. I think I can help you with the employment situation, maybe even your house and a ride to get back."

Colton's eyes brightened even in the dark. "Thank you for what you've done for my family." Jeb just nodded. Colton gave directions for the fastest route to Columbia. "It's a little over two hours. I hope you have as good a Christmas, Jeb, as good as the one you've given my family."

Tired, but feeling somewhat lighter in spirit, Jeb resumed driving. He called his mother and told her what happened and apologized for missing dinner. "You haven't, I saved it and we'll have it together whenever you arrive." Laying his phone down, Jeb drove a few more miles before he finally smiled. "Merry Christmas, Angie, Jeffy."
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The above story was loosely based on an event that took place at Thanksgiving, not Christmas. For more Offerings go to the following author's blogs:

Merry Christmas!

5 comments:

  1. Rhobin. What a great story and inspiration. And thank you for starting this wonderful monthly tradition. Love it. Merry Christmas to you and yours, and another New year...this one better, I hope.

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  2. What a lovely story, Robin! This is the true meaning of Christmas where we help our fellow man. It makes one grateful for the blessings one has.

    Merry Christmas! And may your New Year be full of love, laughter, and dreams come true.

    Marci

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  3. People helping people always makes for a good story, especially so at Christmas. Merry Christmas.

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  4. I loved your story and it's perfect for Christmas - a reminder of the true meaning, and to help one another - not drive by. Merry Christmas, Rhobin.

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  5. Rhobin, loved the story. Ever consider making it into a novel? If you do, I want to read it.

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