Loxley, Alabama—it’s dark. I’ve been driving all night, listening to Nat King Cole sing about chestnuts. I pull over to use the little columnist’s room.
It’s cold. It snowed in Mobile last night—I could hardly believe it.
I’m jogging inside the gas station and I see her. She’s sitting on the curb, outside the truck stop. She’s fourteen, fifteen maybe. Woven hair, no coat.
I ask if everything’s okay. Her eyes get big. I know fear when I see it.
“I’m good,” she says.
Not buying it.
I hurry inside to Tinkle Tinkle Little Star. Then, I buy a hot cocoa and a coffee to the tune of four bucks. On my way out the door, she’s still there.
“You want this hot cocoa?” I ask.
She’s terrified of me. I can tell. And I don’t blame her, this world is full of dangerous people carrying cocoa.
She takes the cup, but she’s not drinking it. She tells me what happened:
She shopped all day in Pensacola, with friends. Her seventeen-year-old pal left her here. She was only supposed to be here five minutes, waiting for her mother to arrive.
It’s been two hours. Her phone battery is dead.
I offer her mine.
“Won’t do no good,” she explains. “Don’t know any phone numbers by memory.”
I ask if she needs a ride. Bad move. More terror in her eyes. So I sit on the curb—several feet away. She’s not touching her hot chocolate.
I keep talking.
Talking is a trait inherited from my mother. She can talk the paint off a fire hydrant.
“Did you see the snow last night?” I begin.
“Yeah,” she says. “It was really cool.”
My mother has always been the only soul who can make me feel less afraid by talking.
Once as a boy, in a North Carolina emergency room, with a five-inch gash in my leg, I was so scared I almost vomited. My face went white when the doc started sewing my leg. The first thing my mother said was:
“Did I ever tell you about the time…”
And for the next twenty minutes, she stroked my hair, telling stories while that doc turned me into a human dartboard.
Funny. At this age, I don’t remember the pain, just her stories.
So, I tell the girl every story I know. Her cocoa is untouched. I almost give up, but I don’t. And after ten minutes, I win her over.
I tell the I-Wet-My-Pants-in-the-Third-Grade story; she giggles. And the one about my coonhound stealing a pork loin off my neighbor’s grill; she snorts and takes a sip of chocolate.
By the time I’m on my final story, a minivan rolls into the parking lot. A woman jumps out and hugs the girl. She is crying. She’s a frantic mess.
“I broke down!” the woman says. “I couldn’t reach you! Kept going to voicemail! Jesus, thank you, Jesus.”
She kisses the girl a hundred times.
And that’s that.
“Bye,” says the young girl, in a soft voice. She crawls into the van and they drive away before I can say anything.
I sit on the curb for a few minutes, listening to the interstate. I stand. She left her paper cup on the pavement. I pick it up to throw it away.
Her cup is empty.
Lord God above. Thank you for my mama.
Jack Darnell - December 10, 2017 7:03 am
I read three stories about snow tonight. One other in Alabama and one in NC, Shucks yours was the best. Probably because it is 2am and I am hitting the sack. But it was good!
MaryJane Breaux - December 10, 2017 8:08 am
God Bless your tender heart and your keen observations.
red1mi - December 11, 2017 11:47 am
Yes! What Mary Jane said exactly.
Pamela McEachern - December 10, 2017 8:49 am
God Bless you Sean, we need more people like you in so many ways. Your insight to help this young girl is solid gold.
Peace and Love from Birmingham
Susan Hammett Poole - December 10, 2017 9:50 am
Sean, I do declare, your ♡ is big as the Grand Canyon. And your keen insight and gift of gab are true gifts to everyone with whom you come in contact… huge thanks to your Mama.
Perri Geaux Tigers Williamson - December 10, 2017 11:20 am
…and pork loin-stealing coon hounds! Have you ever written about that? If not, we need to hear how all the thieving in this world is making it go to pot. ??? STORY! STORY! STORY! STORY!
Jim Baker - December 10, 2017 11:34 am
You are the Gospel according to Sean. Never stop spreading the good news in the gifted way you do.
A friend asked me if you were my preacher. My response, ” one of them.” Keep those mimi sermons coming.
Josie - December 10, 2017 12:40 pm
Beautiful…thank you for loving your neighbor. Matthew 25:35
Sonia Tann - December 10, 2017 12:51 pm
Sean, thank you,1) for recognizing the fear in her eye, 2 )taking the time to help push it away. You are so right about your momma and her gift, she could talk!
Connie - December 10, 2017 1:27 pm
Bless your heart. It’s a shame we had to teach our children to be afraid. The world is a terrible place. God bless you for your big heart.
Caron Sellers - December 10, 2017 1:34 pm
So sweet, now I’m crying.
Penn - December 10, 2017 1:34 pm
I’m hooked. Cannot start the day now without you Sean. Interesting timing on this one. A Sunday before a Tuesday. ?
Wendy - December 10, 2017 2:01 pm
Sean, I hope that if I’m ever stranded and my phone is dead, you will show up to allay my fears. Merry Christmas from cold & snowy east central Alabama!
Cynthia Saunders - December 10, 2017 2:01 pm
I am so glad your Momma raised you right! People need our time and a kind word. Good for you!
Marty from Alabama - December 10, 2017 2:03 pm
Mommas are a pretty special kind of human. I had one.
Frances - December 10, 2017 3:28 pm
One of your best.
Jack Quanstrum - December 10, 2017 4:33 pm
Beautiful story! Wonderful read. Great writing style. There is alot going on in everybodies life. But life is good! So are you Sean!
Dotti - December 10, 2017 6:44 pm
Your mama raised a good man.
Linda Chipman - December 10, 2017 6:49 pm
That last sentence brought tears to my eyes. I had a good Mama too.
Roy - December 10, 2017 9:17 pm
Such beautiful stories, life is shared in story. Love really can be shared , is most best best shared in-the noticing, acknowledging and sharing of presence and what must obviously be clear inyour body language , a genuine- you matter to me- posture. Thanks for sharing these stories. Thanks for using this spiritual Gift in your daily walk and sharing, so us others can learn that the way of love starts in the now, in the present. Be open, be willing to slow down and listen. Share what you can as you are able. I love the stories and how they emulate to me a well known lowly carpenters sons way of living. Awesome. Blessings to you Sean.
Judy - December 10, 2017 10:42 pm
Thank you for staying with that little girl. Your Mama did good….and so did you.
Maybe, just maybe, your story will encourage others to slow down and help someone along their way, just as you did.
Jenny Young - December 11, 2017 3:02 am
So glad you were the one who stopped to help her!
Linda Lou - December 11, 2017 3:44 am
What a heart-warming experience with a happy ending, thanks to all Mamas!
Pamela Cohron - December 11, 2017 6:20 am
Thank God for people like you Sean! I understand talking the paint off of a fire hydrant.I do it real well myself!
james gerock - December 11, 2017 5:35 pm
you touched me and made my day brighter
Janet Mary Lee - December 12, 2017 3:46 am
You always leave me speechless for a moment and ready to think…. Yep, your Mama raised you right!
Karen Templet Irby - December 12, 2017 4:18 pm
Once again, Sean, you’ve brought me to tears. What a special messenger of God’s love you are! Thank you for sharing this! It gives me hope…