You are driving down the road to go to a party. It is early evening and the sun is just setting. All of your friends will be at the evening’s event which promises to be filled with good food, good company and a night of fun. Earlier in the day there was a thunder storm and a few puddles still remain on the road. You are thinking of the anticipated fun when an oncoming vehicle swerves into your lane forcing you onto the shoulder. Tooting your horn in frustration you come to a stop, roll down your window and shout obscenities at the other driver who continues on as if nothing had happened.
You are still a bit shaken by the near accident and take several deep breaths. After a few moments of contemplating what could have been your death, you begin to relax. With steadier nerves, you put the vehicle in drive to continue on your journey top meet your friends and to enjoy the evening. You apply a little pressure to the gas pedal, but the car does not move. You apply a little more gas and suddenly hear the sound of a tire spinning. Assuming you are in a little mud, you apply a bit more gas, but the tire only spins louder.
You put the car back into Park and get out to see what is going on. All of your thoughts of a wonderful, fun filled night begin to evaporate when you notice that for the past few moments your tires have been making a big, muddy rut. You shout a few curses and look up the road towards your hoped-for destination. The sun is setting further and soon you will be in darkness. Since you had decided to take an unfamiliar but more scenic route to the party, you discover that there is no traffic on the road. You are alone. You are not sure where you are, as this is a foreign route. Even though you know that you do not have one, you turn the car off, take the keys and head to the trunk in the hopes of finding a shovel or some tool that will help extricate you from the mud. Opening the trunk, you find just what you had expected: nothing, the trunk is empty except for a spare tire and a jack. Memories of TV ads about having emergency gear in your car at all times flit through your mind. The idea just makes you angry and you slam the trunk.
You look down the road again and the idea of your friends arriving at the party and having a good time without you increases your anger. You look back in the direction in which you came but there is nothing there but an empty road. You hop back into the car, put the key in the ignition and slam the shift into Drive. You then put increased pressure on the gas pedal and, once again, listen to the spinning tire. You give it more gas and the engine revs up, but you go nowhere. The only sensation of movement is that of sinking deeper into the mud.
Your fist hits the steering wheel and the pain instills more anger. Curses are flying freely into the silent surroundings. You begin to ask yourself why you did not keep a shovel, a bag of sand or rock salt in your trunk. You also just remembered that you have no flashlight, either, and look around at the increasing darkness. You put the car into neutral, jump out and move to the rear end. Mud is all over the tire well. You then look at your clean clothes in the last of the fading light and once again a curse is yelled into the nothingness. Putting your shoulder against the back of the car, you give it a shove. It doesn’t budge. You push harder and try to rock the car back and forth. It moves a little, but not enough to do any good. You step back and notice the mud on your pants.
Knowing better, you get back into the car and put the gas pedal to the floor. Forgetting you are in neutral, the engine revs quickly but there is no spinning tire. Understanding your error, you put it into Drive and the familiar whine of the tire actually gives you a brief sense of comfort. At least the tire still turns. If you could only get your hands on that stupid driver that forced you onto the shoulder. You hope he gets into an accident, alone, of course, so no one gets hurt but him. You begin to think about heading up the road but you do not know where you are. It is really getting dark and thoughts of the dangers of being alone on an empty road are not appealing. Too many movies about maniacs. Of course, you remember the sayings about staying with your vehicle in an emergency and the stories of those who didn’t and got lost and died.
Now you blame yourself for not taking the regular road to your friend’s house. Someone had told you that this back way was really pretty, which it was, up to now. You begin to wonder if your friends even know that you are not there. Maybe someone will come to find you. Then you remember saying you were not sure that you were going to go. It was a rough week and you might just stay home and get some rest. Are they really your friends? Do they even care? You should have stayed home. Damned mud!
You make a decision. Mud and ruts will not defeat you. You are smarter than a rut and you can get yourself out of the ditch. You stumble in the dark and try to collect some rocks. What you find you begin to pack under the tires. Your clothes are getting filthy, but who cares? You jump back into the car; more gas, but you get nowhere. More determined than ever, you jump back out to search for more rocks and branches. A damned rut will not keep you down. As you return with your next armful, a car approaches from the same direction that you followed. The driver comes to a stop and rolls down his window. He asks if you need help. You answer, rather abruptly, that you do not need any help and that you will get out of the rut by yourself. The driver asks if you are sure and you just tell him to get lost.
The driver rolls up his window and slowly drives away as if thinking you will change your mind. You don’t need his or anyone’s help. You can do this on your own. Once again you stuff your stones and branches under the tire. Once again you hit the gas and once again you hear the tire spitting out the stone and branches like some drunk belching out too many drinks. For several more hours you try again and again to get yourself out of the rut. Each attempt is met with failure.
You are now overcome with exhaustion. Your car is overheating, your clothes are tattered and your arms can carry nothing more. You crawl into the back seat to rest. Before entering the escape of sleep, you think of should haves, you curse the drunk driver, you damn your friends, you relive all of your bad memories, and then you pass out.
You are jolted awake by the toot of a horn. It is dawn and you squint from the growing brightness of the morning. As you stop? to sit you feel the aches in every muscle of your body. As you look out the window you see a car, like the one that stopped last night, idling beside yours. The driver opens his window and invites you to his car for a lift. You slowly open your door and leave your vehicle. As you do, you look back at you car and the stuck tire. You notice it is flat. You now realize that perhaps by changing the tire, you may have quickly gotten out of the rut. The problem was not really the mud after all. You go to the passenger side of the driver’s car and hesitate. Your clothes are filthy. He motions to get in anyway and says that the dirt will be easy to clean. Feeling the fool, you take your seat and the driver begins to take you to the nearest gas station.
As you drive along the driver asks if you are okay and you tell him that you are sore, but okay. He asks where you were headed last night and you tell him. He laughs and informs you that he was at the party that you were going to attend. He tells you that the house was only about a half mile around the corner from where you had gotten stuck.
Mr. Harris was born in Massachusetts. He attended The American University in Washington, D. C. and received his degree in Political Science. His graduate work was done at the University of Northern Colorado and Howard University. While in D. C. , he spent several years working for local and regional government agencies. Upon moving to Maine he worked with three governors and served as the Assistant Director of the Maine State Planning Office. He worked on a White House Task Force for the development of a National Rural Policy and later served as Rural Policy Coordinator at the Federal Regional Council of New England. He has worked on gubernatorial and senatorial political campaigns and currently works in Special Education.
Mr. Harris is co-author of the novel WAKING GOD and is a nationally syndicated and featured writer for The American Chronicle. He is working on Book II of the Waking God trilogy and writing features for literary E-zines. His second novel, A MAINE CHRISTMAS CAROL has been released by Cambridge Books. Contributing writer for UPI's Religion&Spirituality web site.