It was a cold winter’s night, Billy Joe; a truck driver was throttling his old Mack to no where. He struggled to engage his hand gear to a higher speed. The gear box made some cranky voice as he struggled to engage it. He muttered a mild curse as he finally succeeded in engaging it .The Mack was probably as old as he was. The old truck had to be propelled with much energy from the right leg in order to keep it going. You could visibly see Billy Joe stiffening as he drove by. He really had to concentrate in order to keep it going- old age had set in so he couldn’t take things for granted.
The truck had a bundle of problems aside the gear system. Of late it had engine problems. Basically the carburetor was faulty and Joe now a private freight personnel, had to save money to repair it. The carburetor accumulates dirt every seventy miles. This would impede the free flow of fuel circulating in the engine; hence the truck will be brought to a halt. He’ll have to step down every seventy miles to open the hood. He’ll fetch the fuel filter connected to the carburetor; he’ll then use the fuel from the fuel pump to rinse the filter- washing out the dirt. He’ll spray some fuel in the carburetor; use his mouth to extract pressure from the fuel pump. Once gasoline flows, he’ll then fix back the filter. It was always a messy job. He’ll always scent gasoline after every of such operations. However getting the engine back to life was what mattered to him.
However, the chimney smoke was black and the truck jerked as it throttled on. The plugs weren’t new. He had planned on buying new plugs once he got to a nearby town the next morning. Its meter mileage reduced by 20 miles making acceleration a bit frustrating.
After working for a freight company for close to thirty years he was given the truck, which was almost worthless all the same. Today Joe had no deliveries and he needed a new carburetor badly. He had covered 40 mile already searching for shelter along the lonely high way. He prayed he wouldn’t get up to seventy miles before finding one. Besides it was snowing already and he was ill equipped cloth wise to handle it.
He had no home aside the Mack. The only relative he had was a daughter who left home as a teenager after a row over freshman College tuition fees. He had never set his eyes on her since then. Now that he is retired, he decided to search for her- at least she’ll provide a shelter for his head if nothing else.
Normally Joe never exceeded 50 miles an hour-though he went above that when he was younger. Now he owned the truck and that was his only asset. But tonight the intensity of the snow made him hit 80.
Panicking and with much fright, he pressed the accelerator as hard as he could to at least make a hundred miles an hour- hoping to find a home where he could park his truck and if possible spend the night.
Just as the snow got heavier, his head lamb struck the silhouette of a building. Relief overwhelmed him. He had never been rejected before. He has always been lucky. Sometimes his hosts send him off with money at other times food stuffs.
“The Lord Bless my soul” He muttered, heaving a sigh of relief.
Soon the house became glaring. It was a white farm house, a duplex.
“This must be a rich farmer”. His rich baritone voice soliloquized.
He quietly brought the Mack to a halt. He hurried down to the door way and knocked saying: “is anyone home?”
A young lady peeped through the lattice, Billy Joe freezing smiled “hi… I.
“We don’t entertain to strangers at night” The lady interrupted rudely. “Keep going or I’ll call the police”.
“Maam It’s snowing and I am an old man, My truck is old and has no thermo in there, I’d die by morning……………..”
“What’s your use by the way? You better die out there than go around pestering lives. Besides I don’t trust you cozy beggars” She closed the window.
Billy for the first time was frustrated. He turned to leave. But the snow had gone up to a foot ankle length. He was freezing. Swaggering he made his way back to the truck. The only cardigan he had was an old worn out cardinal cardigan. He wasn’t much of a base ball fan but that was all he could afford.
He earned his delivery jobs by pity. Folks couldn’t see him beg for a job instead of money and not respect him. They had to make deliveries even if it meant sending vegetables to a next door neighbor. That didn’t fetch much as well. He had to keep driving. With his glass wound up he had little warmth but the carburetor wouldn’t hold on for long.
After about another mile, he found another house. It was concrete house painted blue. This time the snow had risen up to knee length and he couldn’t drive further. He had no option but to park in the middle of nowhere.
The wind was so severe, he couldn’t move out. The owners of the blue house seemed to be fast asleep or not available. Everywhere was quiet.
Suddenly, he heard a knock on his Mack; He bent over to see who that was. The man seemed to be screaming something, but his words were drowned in the wind. Though cold and chilly, Billy wound down to listen. The man was a middle aged man; he had his winter coat on. His wife was outside. They were trapped in the snow as they made their way home from a church on foot, a quarter of a mile away. Once Billy could grasp the words he alighted though with souring pains in his lungs. He braved it and helped the man lift his wife into the truck. The lady had fainted. Once safe in the truck,
Billy said “Don’t worry she’ll be alright. My truck’ll be warm for her. Good enough she has her winter coat”.
“Thank you very much Sir” The man Says “you’re a life saver.”
“Oh don’t mention.” Billy beamed with a smile.
“My name is Randy and this is my wife Alicia. Are you a local here?”
“No I’m just passing by. I got hooked by the storm. I’ve been looking for my daughter…………………………”
Alicia seemed to be mumbling something. Randy’s attention returned to her, trying to grasp what Alicia said.
Billy rested is his head on the steering. Finally Randy could decipher what Alice was saying all along……. “Give him your winter coat”
“Oh that’s true I never thought of that.” Randy says realizing suddenly; Billy was without one.
He removed his coat. “By the way sir, what is your name and why are you alone?’’
He got no answer. He handed his coat to Billy, but there was no response. He shook him slightly but there was no response.
“Mr. ……..Mr.………Mr.……….” Randy was Awe stricken
“He’s dead” Alicia’s Voice seemed to come up due to shock.
The duo was stacked with a dead man in the cabin of a Mack truck. The shock, the awe……..the pain – the duo couldn’t comprehend. He died in the process of saving their lives. Randy checked his cabin and found his national ID, Mr. William Joseph from Kentucky. That was all.
He had no family aside a next of kin, Miss Mary Joseph. Their mind went back to their friend at home. She had been on a one day visit to Lesotho. She refused going to church that day – sighting fatigue as the reason.
The storm lasted all night. In the morning, Randy tried firing the truck to life but met with stiff resistance from the truck. He checked the engine, worked on the carburetor and with Billy’s tools he cleaned the plugs. He got behind the wheels and roared to life. He drove back to the white house. There he dropped Alicia. They narrated the story to their guest Mary- a lawyer from Kentucky. She came out to see the corpse; she recognized the truck at once as the one that came the previous night.
“This truck came here the other night” She said without any emotion attached to it.
Randy and Alicia exchanged a brief glance of surprise.
“What is the stare for, where is the corpse?” She asked all at once.
“He is from Kentucky by the name William Joseph,” Randy explained “Hope you are not related? He saved Alicia and I from the snow .When Alicia fainted, He was right there at the right place and at the right time.” Randy explained solemnly.
Mary froze. To her it was a joke of some sort. Ever since she left her father as a teen, joined a catholic juniorate, she had never seen him again. Her curiosity arose she rushed to the corps, Lo and behold, old Billy Joe laid peacefully on the couch of the Mack. Mary froze; she had shot out her father. The words- “What’s your use by the way? You better die out there than go around pestering lives. Besides I don’t trust you cozy beggars”- echoed in her thought. She thought he was a beggar who used the guise of escaping snow to receive free food.
Mary fainted. She saw her self as the worst devil. She felt like dying as well. Will she ever forgive herself? I never got to hear the other side of the gist. I heard she took him back to Kentucky to bury him.