Deus ex Machina

First an apology: Even though yesterday’s post was long-winded, it was never my intent to cut it short by not finishing the story. I actually wrote a shorthand version of the end right before hitting “publish,” but somehow that paragraph and another about my earrings disappeared in cyberspace!  So here’s the non-shorthand end of the story:

The trucks I hitched in had some mechanism that created a paper record of how long drivers were on the road and how long their breaks were. It was a round card from under the steering wheel drawn over with squiggles like a lie detector. A little while after I realized I couldn’t jump, my driver announced that he had to make one of those scheduled stops, that he needed to shut down for half an hour. We’d been on the road for a while by then, and I hadn’t seen another vehicle, hadn’t seen a gas station.  I worried that stopping for half an hour meant just pulling over to the side of the road and fighting him for 30 minutes.

But no, magically before us appeared the loneliest-looking truck stop I’ve ever seen.  We stopped, and he went inside. We were the only people there. I went in and found my driver at the bar (yes, it seems wrong to me, too, that there’d be a bar) and told him I really couldn’t waste 30 minutes’ travel time, that I needed to get back on the road, so could he please give me my bag, and I’d just go hitch another ride.  Taking advantage of his opportunity to use a “speaking glance,” the driver looked at me, looked at the road where I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a tumble weed go by, then back at me.  He shrugged, fished out his keys.  He handed over my bag and told me not to worry, that he’d pick me up at the end of his break.

I stood by the shoulder and waited — for him, for the spontaneous development of the ability to teleport, for whatever.  It was completely silent and empty.  I knew I would refuse to get back in his truck, but wondered how easily he’d accept my refusal, wondered if refusing would mean spending the night in the truck stop.   From where I stood, I could see through the big picture window into the bar to where the driver sat.  He glanced over at me a few times, waved and chuckled.  When his break was over, I watched him pay his tab and head outside.

Just as he reached his truck, I had a hand-of-God moment: a truck appeared, one that had seemingly been silent and invisible until that moment.  The driver stopped, asked if I needed a ride.  I admit that I didn’t consider even for a second whether he was a better option than the guy I wanted to get away from.  The saying, “better the devil you know,” comes to mind but in that case, hopping into a truck with an unknown devil seemed best.

I was rude enough to smile and wave at my old driver as I climbed into the new truck (with my bag beside me on the seat, thank you).  The new driver didn’t last long.  He was headed somewhere that wouldn’t get me to Madrid.  He dropped me near a toll plaza in the middle of a hail shower.  I was about to feel sorry for myself when a lovely Dutch trucker named Willem pulled over and scooped me up.  He took me to dinner at a restaurant at the highest point on the highway (its claim to fame), scolded me for hitching from France to Spain because it’s so hard to hitch through the mountains, gave me some of the strawberries he was carting, told me a beautiful and sad Holocaust story about strawberries, told me a number of really loving and charming stories about his wife and his new baby daughter, and helped me find a place to stay once we got to Madrid.  Some more workings of that DEM? I think that’s got to be a “yes.”  I’ve written before about the lucky arrival of divine intervention in my life.  It’s happened often enough, I should make a Top 10 list!


You can find all of today’s slices at Two Writing Teachers.


14 thoughts on “Deus ex Machina

  1. Well this took me back to my hitchiking across Europe days…I was lucky, too…thinking back on that I’m just floored at the risks I took! Hand of God indeed!


    1. I wrote here once that my grandmother liked to tell me that old saying, God takes care of fools and babies … and then she’d give me a little side eye and add, “And you’re not a child anymore.”


  2. Thank you for giving us the end of the story! I really love your travel tales, Stacie. This one left my heart racing a bit! I’m so glad that you were able to will another truck to materialize at that desolate truck stop.


      1. I understand that completely. I was walking with Erik tonight, through these old orchards I used to run in when I was in high school, and talking about how everything in my life seems to be cyclical. Writing is one of those things for me. I’ll go weeks with only the most nominal of scribbles and then suddenly it’s pages and pages a day.


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