Interstate 65—the middle of the night. Josh is driving, singing with the radio. He’s on his way from Birmingham to Orange Beach.
His ’87 Honda is packed with bags. He’s wearing a Hawaiian shirt and flops.
Life is good for Josh. The company just promoted him to regional manager. They gave him a big bonus, and a free two-week vacation in Orange Beach.
This is the best day of Josh’s thirty-year-old life.
He pulls off the interstate at Walmart to use a bathroom, buy groceries, and get beer.
In the dim parking lot, a tall man, smoking a cigarette approaches. The man says nothing.
“Can I help you?” Josh asks.
The man steps on his cigarette. He beats Josh until he’s cracked his jaw, fractured his ribs, and broken Josh’s knee.
The man drags Josh behind a dumpster, then speeds away with his, wallet, cellphone, and his Honda. Josh watches the tail lights head toward the interstate without him.
That night, Josh sleeps among empty cardboard boxes—he is too beat-up to move.
The next morning:
A Mercedes pulls to the dumpster. A clean-cut man in khakis steps out. He tosses several bags into the trash. He sees Josh.
The man furrows his brow.
“Help,” Josh says.
The man removes a few dollars and tucks them into Josh’s hand.
“Don’t spend this on crack,” the man says.
And he is gone.
A few hours later. A large SUV with tinted windows and a bumper sticker which reads: “Honk if you love Jesus.”
The man throws a crumpled McDonald’s bag into the dumpster.
The man pats his pockets and shrugs. “Sorry pal, no spare change. Have a blessed day.”
And he is gone.
The sun sets. It’s been twenty-four hours since Josh has tasted water. He manages to curl himself into a fetal position.
He is coughing up red. His face is purple. When he breathes, it feels like getting stabbed with a pitchfork.
A man on a bicycle.
A young black man. He’s wearing oversized pants, sideways cap. He has gold on his teeth, tattoos on his neck. There are bags of groceries hanging from his handlebars.
The man leaps off his bike.
He removes a phone from his pocket. He shouts “Mama, come quick!” into the cellphone.
He holds a water bottle to Josh’s lips. He wraps Josh’s bloody cuts with torn shreds of his own T-shirt.
A dilapidated minivan appears. A woman is driving. She and the man speed along the interstate and carry Josh to the emergency room.
Doctors find internal bleeding, bruised organs, broken bones. They tell Josh that if he would have arrived a few hours later, he might have died.
To the angry people who wrote me yesterday because of what I had written about the Almighty. To the young preacher who says I am a false prophet leading people to Hell; to the fiery woman who tells me I will never get to Heaven because of stories I write:
You’re in luck. The story you just read wasn’t mine.
May Heaven watch over you on the interstate of life.