The night air was decidedly chilly, even though it was early springtime. Usually, the balmy summer night would invite me from my home in Santa Fe, to do some writing at my favorite 24 hr. coffee and doughnut shop on St. Francis. But now, it was the crisp late-night air which sent out the invitation. Was it the fragrant lure of the coffee and doughnut, or the possibility of another tale to write? Perhaps all… equally so.
Once ensconced at my usual crisply-clean table, I rubbed some magic into my trusty purple pilot G-2, selected a fresh page from my yellow legal pad… then abruptly noticed that i was not the lone customer at this sleepy hour.
A burly middle-aged man sat quietly with a young woman perhaps in her early 2’s. Seemingly from different worlds, they nonetheless chatted softly as old friends completely comfortable with each other.
As I was casually observing this pleasant pair… the sound of grinding gears of a large transport truck attracted our attention. Soon after, a trucker entered, ordering coffee for himself and a big doughnut for his young son, waiting patiently for his dad, in the cab with his dog.
While his order was being filled as take-out, the young trucker approached the table of my quiet companions. Of course…I could not but help hearing their brief conversation. Yes, he had taken his son for the weekend from his ex; it had been a long haul. The boy was sleepy, but had enjoyed being with his father. Pushing on to his wife’s home in Albuquerque to drop off the boy and dog…it was obvious that he was divorced, cared a great deal for his boy, but was extremely tired on this increasingly cold night. Driving down from Denver on I-25, he hoped the hot coffee would keep him awake and alert.
Questioning the wisdom of pushing on south, under these circumstances…the two seated customers thought to persuade the trucker to stay in town, and rest.
Meanwhile, the young clerk was waiting for his short plump mom to finish her baking; they both worked this night shift, and also could easily hear the trucker’s situation. The boy asked the driver to bring in his son and dog, for hot chocolate. He introduced his mom, saying they would be leaving at two a.m. when the next shift arrived, pretty soon.
Agreeably, the father settled his son at the table, the dog stretching out beside the boy. As he sipped his own hot coffee, it was apparent to his two night visitors that his nodding head indicated extreme weariness; they were concerned that he would fall asleep at the wheel.
At this point, the young clerk and his mom spoke softly to each other, nodding in agreement. Once again approaching the table, the momma tapped the trucker’ shoulder gently:
“we live in the neighborhood close by, down that path behind the shop, just past the old cemetery. It is just a short walk, and the moon is full.”
Her son continued. “We offer a warm safe home for your boy and his dog while you park your truck here on the side and sleep safely in your cab. Please accept our invitation.”
The night visitors agreed: it’s a good idea. “We can vouch for this young man and his mom; we’e old friends.”
I wondered, as I listened eagerly for the trucker’s decision and reply.
“Would he agree, for the sake of safety? These are strangers to him; why would they offer to help him?”
To encourage him, the diminutive mom gave her home telephone number and took him out to show where they walk home to a small house close by. Will he allow it?
The girl visitor came over to my table and we talked briefly. Returning to her shared table, she made this additional suggestion: Why not have the writer (over there…I nodded and smiled) and father accompany the clerk and his mom with the boy and dog…up that path to his truck for much-needed sleep.
The next shift now arrived, with greetings all around…an elderly lady and her husband; all soon in agreement with the suggestion for the trucker’s much needed rest.
I left the trucker at his cab and wished him a good sleep. Returning to gather up my belongings, I noticed that only the young woman was there, preparing to also leave.
“Can I offer you a ride home, at this late hour?”
“No, but thanks anyway. I’ll be right behind my friend; we stay close by.”
She waited, to thank the writer for helping.
Hesitantly, I asked “Are you two good friends? You certainly seem to be.”
The young woman answered briefly. “Oh yes…now we are, especially since he apologized so profoundly for what he had done.”
Looking directly into her eyes, I asked, “What was that?”
She replied without hesitation and matter-of-factly, “He was a trucker. His brakes were poor but, desperate to deliver his haul to a warehouse nearby, he had sped up to go through the yellow caution light (now red) at the intersection. He tried to stop, but his brakes didn’t work. He hit another large vehicle passing through the intersection…and was killed outright.”
“How terrible! But…he was here…tonight.”
“Yes. We’ve been waiting…for the opportunity to prevent another trucking accident. Thanks again for your help. Everything is okay now. Good night!”
As she was leaving, I stuttered “But…but…how?”
She turned and smiled. “He also hit me, as I was crossing legally. This left us together, in the cemetery. After he apologized…we became friends…with a mission.”
“Perhaps we will meet again. Good night…and godspeed.”