Crystal sighed as she made her way back to the car’s open passenger side door. She reached inside and pulled her cell phone from the cup holder in the center console. As she stood back up, she tapped a button on the side of the phone. The screen remained blank. She held the button down and the Motorola home screen flashed to life. Almost immediately the phone’s screen dimmed and flashed the message, “Battery life is at 0%. Please connect charger.” This message was followed by another message that read, “Powering down,” before the screen went blank. Crystal tossed the phone onto the car seat before slamming the door.
“My phone’s dead,” she said as she walked around to the front of the car where Elias leaned against the hood. “I must have zoned out on solitaire. Didn’t realize I had played that much. How about your phone?”
Elias pulled his phone out of his pocket, pushed a button on the side, and placed it back in his pocket. “Mine’s dead too.”
“How’s yours dead? You’ve been driving.”
“I must have been using it a lot before we left.”
“To do what?”
“I don’t know, does it matter?”
“Yeah, I think it does. Maybe if you’d been looking for a real job, a new car, or some kind of direction for your life I might understand. But knowing you, you were probably...”
“Waiting for you to get goddamn ready,” he interrupted, standing up from the hood of the car. “You’re always talking so high and mighty like the sun shines out of your ass, but you can never be on time for shit.”
“Maybe if you had told me before this morning that we were going to see your parents I could have been ready sooner, but you can’t even take responsibility for that. Even if I was ready we wouldn’t have made it on time because your goddamn car would have broke down anyway.”
Elias turned away from Crystal and looked back down the highway. “I told you, I’ll get a new car when I have the money.”
Crystal stormed over and stood in front of Elias. “You can’t wait that long now, can you? Who’s going to bail you out this time, hmm? I guess it’ll have to be me since your parents don’t give a flying crap about you.”
“That’s what this is really about, isn’t it?” Elias asked. “Just say it, you don’t like my parents.”
“Yes!” Crystal screamed. “I hate your fucking parents.”
“Y’all be needin’ a little help out here?” a man’s voice called out from behind the Honda.
Elias jerked his head toward the sound of the deep southern drawl and Crystal jumped. Standing in front of a red ’84 Ford F-150 was a tall old black man. A whisp of gray hair framed his bald dome of a head. His kind face was set with a natural warm smile. He wore faded overalls over a light blue long-sleeved shirt, the sleeves rolled up to his elbows.
“I seen ya chattin’ in front of this here car,” he said, nodding at the Honda as he walked up to them, “and from the smoke comin’ out the front, I s’posed y’all could use a little help.”
Elias and Crystal were both silent, staring at the man in disbelief. Shaking his head as if coming out of a daze, Elias said, “Ah, yeah, my car...I, uh, think she threw a rod.”
“Busted a hole straight through the oil pan, didn’t it?” the man asked.
“Damnedest thing,” the man said. “Well, I’d be more’n happy to give y’all a lift into town. I think I might know a shop can fix ya on up.”
“That would be great, Mr...?” Elias said extending his hand for a handshake.
“McGrady,” the man said, taking Elias’ hand, “but you can call me Daryl.”
“Thanks a lot Daryl,” Elias said. “I’m Elias Adkins, but you can call me Eli. This is Crystal.” He gestured to Crystal.
Crystal stepped up to Daryl with her hand extended. “Thank you,” she said.
“Much obliged,” Daryl said, taking her hand. “Y’all can hop right on up into the passenger side there. There ought to be enough room for all of us in that cab.”
Elias led Crystal to the passenger side of the truck. He got in first, taking the center spot on the truck’s bench seat. Crystal got in after him and shut the door.
Daryl slid into the driver side after they were in. He closed his door and started the truck.
“I’d ask if you was comfortable,” Daryl said, “but I know this truck ain’t no luxury cruise.”
“It’ll do just fine,” Crystal said.
As Daryl put the truck into gear and steered it onto the highway, Crystal looked at Elias. He returned her gaze.
“Eli,” she said softly, “I’m...”
“It’s okay,” Elias interrupted. Then he smiled. Crystal looked at him quizzically. “I don’t care for them much either.”
Crystal smiled at him then placed her head on his shoulder. “I love you, Eli,” she said.
“I love you too,” Elias replied.