Books and Covers and Topsoil and Flat Tires

Fifteen bags of topsoil, 9 cubic feet, each just fit into Monte Carlo’s trunk.  They filled the trunk and I had to make sure they were stacked just so to get the trunk to close completely.  I was on my last trip.  I had done the math earlier in the week and deduced I needed 75 bags of topsoil.

Photo by Christer Ehrling on Unsplash

One trip at a time.  I went to the Lowe’s with an empty trunk, went to Lawn & Garden, stood in line, bought 15 bags, went back to my car, drove to the loading zone, and watched two, weary guys load my trunk.  I didn’t tip them.  In retrospect, I probably should have.

I would then drive home, back the car up to the garden fence, and unload the 15 bags, my bag aching more with each bag.  Each bag weighs 40 lbs.

I was on my last trip.  I stopped at Sonic to celebrate with an ice cream sundae.  I used most of the little bit of cash I had to tip the waitress on roller skates.

I pulled out onto Route 60 which instantly narrowed to two lanes as it approached my town of Ona.  There was nothing on the sides of the road but forest and ravines.  No place to pull over.

I heard and felt the familiar flop flop flop of a tire gone flat. 

I groaned.  And nearly cried.

I had tried and tried and tried, but changing a tire was beyond my skill set.  I was afraid of it for one – that the car would fall off the jack and two – I could never figure the jack out or where to put it. 

I pulled over as far as I could and got out of the car after waiting for traffic to go by. 

Sure enough.  Rear driver-side tire flat. 

I just stood there.  This was before I had a cell phone as I was the last person on the planet to get one.

I got back in the car for fear of getting hit.  It was a gorgeous, sunny, and hot day.  Very hot.  Nobody seemed inclined to stop.  I considered walking back to the Sonic to find a phone. 

About then, an ancient Chevrolet Caprice, green, pulled over.  Out got this very skinny dude in skinny jeans long before anyone else was wearing them, old-style black combat boots, and a t-shirt emblazed with what I presume was a band I’d never heard of.  His head was shaved and every square inch of him was tattooed or pierced.  I admit to being on guard. 

“Flat tire?” He said.

“Yes,” I said.

“Well, let’s get to it.”

“There’s a problem, “ I said.

He looked at me quizzically.

My jack and spare are in the trunk underneath 15 40-lb bags of topsoil and I’m not much help as I have a bad back, I’m not very fast moving them.”

“Well, ma’am, I best get started.  If you’ll just pop the trunk.”

So, I did and he did.  I tried to help, but he was moving fast and I wasn’t.  I just got out of his way.

One bag at a time, he slung out of the trunk onto the grass next to the car. 

Traffic was backing up as the lookie-loos slowed even more than necessary to see what was happening.  I was partially on the road, but it was easy enough to get around me.  Oncoming traffic wasn’t that heavy.


He finally had all the bags out of the car.

It was about 93F.  He was sweating, badly.  He pulled off his shirt to wipe his face and chest.  More piercings, more tatoos. 

We got to the accouterments to fix the tire and pulled them out.  He set to.  When he was done with the tire, he showed me how bad the donut was and that I needed to buy a new one before the next flat tire.  Don’t drive on this any more than you have to, Ma’am.  It won’t be safe for very long.

Yes, thank you.

He then packed up my flat tire, my jack, and the 15 40 lb bags of topsoil. 

When he was done, embarrassed, I held out a $5 bill to him and explained it was all the cash I had.  If he would follow me to the ATM, I would reward him properly. 

“No, ma’am,” he said, “I was happy to help.” 

“Well, take the $5 anyway.  It’s not much, but you can buy a beer or something.”

“No ma’am, thank you, but I don’t drink.”

Please take something?

“I will take your gratitude, ma’am.  Enjoy the rest of your day.”

He carried his soaked shirt to his car and drove off before I could even splutter more thanks.

That was the day I truly learned that you don’t judge a book by its cover.

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