Away From Home

The man’s car had broken down. His three-person family had been walking toward the nearest gas station when weather got bad. He thanked her until he couldn’t. 

She was driving to Raleigh for Christmas. Her two kids were in the backseat. Larry, the black Lab, was riding shotgun.

She’d been on the road five hours.

Her children were quiet. Larry made powerful smells in the front seat. Foul smells which only hardened war criminals are strong enough to endure without suffering nasal trauma. 

And even though it was snowing in North Carolina, they rolled the windows down.

She was scared—though she wouldn’t admit it. Only four years earlier, her husband died by his own hands. It was ugly. Very ugly.

He’d been staying at his friend’s hunting camp. His friends found him.

Life was supposed to go on. Somehow. But it didn’t. She blamed herself. She cried with her bedroom door shut. She was hollow inside. Loneliness can be crippling.

People were kind to her, but they were too kind. A body can only stand so much sympathy.

So, she left her hometown for a fresh start. She sold her house. Her kids packed the car. And apparently, Larry had eaten a dead chipmunk for breakfast.

Five hours later, she wasn’t sure she’d done the right thing. Moving terrified her. It was unlike her.

And maybe that’s why she stopped for a hitchhiker—which was also not like her. Three hitchhikers to be exact. A man and two children.

She pulled to the shoulder and waved. The man and kids piled into her car. Red cheeks, breathing heavy.

He was a large man with a happy face. His kids were young.

“Sorry about the smell,” she said. “Larry has an upset tummy.”

Larry demonstrated.

The man’s car had broken down. His three-person family had been walking toward the nearest gas station when weather got bad. He thanked her until he couldn’t.

“Nobody stopped for us,” he said. “We’ve been walking for half an hour, trying to wave folks down.”

She parked beside his dead vehicle and waited for the wrecker. While they waited, they talked. They laughed.

It had been a long time since she’d done either.

He asked about her husband.

“He’s gone,” was all she said.

Then, he told her about his late wife. He talked about how she’d overdosed on pills and alcohol, and how he felt responsible. He talked about how lonely he’d felt in years that followed.

The hair on her neck stood.

His simple words made her feel less alone. And when he finished, she told her story from the beginning. He didn’t interrupt, not once.

After the wrecker arrived, they ate pizzas from a supermarket. Larry begged for scraps. She drove the family home, said goodnight, and that was that.

She was riding toward Raleigh again. Only this time, her face was ten shades brighter than before.

It had taken only five hours on the road. Five hours for an empty car to feel full. Five hours to end a laughing drought. To feel less alone—even if only for a moment.

Five hours for a stranger with a happy face to ask if he could call her sometime. Five hours to find love.

I’ve heard it said that life can change in a moment.

I’m damn grateful it can.

Happy twenty-third anniversary Linda and Gray.

17 comments

  1. Sherry Gorman - December 5, 2017 8:04 am

    You must be a night owl or early riser. I love the way you write! You know how to make the reader feel. Thank you.

    Reply
  2. Sandra Smith - December 5, 2017 10:40 am

    THAT should be a BOOK !
    AND, A MOVIE !

    Reply
  3. Annie from Elloree - December 5, 2017 10:57 am

    Again, LOVE!

    Reply
  4. Marlo Kirkpatrick - December 5, 2017 11:36 am

    Is this story about your mother and her second husband?

    Reply
  5. Lucretia - December 5, 2017 11:46 am

    Life changes for me each time you share your life-time of stories. Thank you for the beautiful tale, thank you for the beautiful star of life. Merry Christmas to all.

    Reply
  6. Xan Morrow - December 5, 2017 1:00 pm

    This wonderful love story made the hair on the back of my neck stand up too! Thank you for sharing. I can hardly wait to meet you and your wife at The Red Door Theatre on January 18, 2018 (and I’ll tell you a secret, I picked that date because it’s my late mother’s birthday and she loved the Red Door and she would have loved you too!).

    Reply
  7. Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - December 5, 2017 1:02 pm

    ❤️

    Reply
  8. Patricia Schmaltz - December 5, 2017 1:03 pm

    Ahhhh… even your happy stories make me tear up! Thank you Sean. Your posts are a bright spot in my day. I look forward to your thoughts every morning. SAFE and HEALTHY holidays to you and your family.

    Reply
  9. Lisa - December 5, 2017 1:39 pm

    Everyday there is a beautiful reminder in my inbox that there is still goodness and beauty in this world… and that God works through our stories and redeems them and uses them to bring hope. It’s called resurrection, for we all can be resurrection people if we can find the light in our own stories. Thank you for shining that light of hope into our lives. You have a spiritual gift for being present and paying attention.

    Reply
  10. Jack Darnell - December 5, 2017 1:57 pm

    As ever was! Good! Yep Happy Anniversary!

    Reply
  11. Connie - December 5, 2017 2:03 pm

    What a happy, lovely story! Thank you for the smile and the hope this morning. I’m going to a funeral today, for a young man who passed much too soon. Not, thankfully, at his own hands, but leaving a large hole in his family’s life none the less. I will carry your message of hope in my heart today.

    Reply
  12. Sherry - December 5, 2017 3:16 pm

    Happy Anniversary Linda and Gary. God had his hand in making you meet up
    and find each other. Beautiful story of how when one door closes, another always
    opens up. If you Believe!?

    Reply
  13. Shirley J Brown - December 5, 2017 4:23 pm

    Gives me hope after losing my husband too many years ago. Thank you Sean.

    Reply
  14. Steve Welch - December 5, 2017 5:26 pm

    Damn Sean, fourth time in 10 days you made me cry. I just need to quit wearing ties or nice shirts. Thanks again. Still do not know how you find these folk, but still glad that you do.

    Merry Christmas.

    Reply
  15. Susan Hammett Poole - December 6, 2017 12:42 am

    Glory, glory hallelujah for this happy ending due to the new beginning 23 years ago for that sweet couple! Hey Sean, has anyone told you lately what an awesome storyteller you are?!

    Reply
  16. Jeannie - December 6, 2017 1:34 am

    That is the best!! I love a great love story! ❤️ You have one as well. A lucky woman to be so loved to not only love her but to share that with us. She is a lucky woman❤️

    Reply
  17. Laura Stevens Boyd - December 7, 2017 5:45 am

    I love, love, your stories! Please tell me, Sean, are they always true stories? My “gut” tells me they are…..please confirm. Laura Boyd

    Reply

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