He is young. He is wearing a red shirt. A cap. He drives a Ford pickup that has seen better days. The roof is rusted, the wheel bearings are in bad shape.
The kid is on lunch break, parked in a grocery-store parking lot. He is eating bananas because fruit is cheap and he has a light wallet.
His windows are rolled down. He’s only got ten minutes before he’s expected back at a jobsite, to hang gutter on a three-story house.
It’s god-awful work. He’s not afraid of heights, but he certainly doesn’t love nine-hundred-foot ladders.
The kid finishes eating. He tosses a banana peel into his flatbed. He tries to start his truck. It makes a coughing noise. He tries again. The truck sputters. The kid cusses.
The old Ford has crossed the river.
These are the days before cellphones ruled the world, there’s no way to call the kid’s boss. His boss is already at work, probably glancing at his wristwatch.
The kid sits, wondering what happens after he gets fired. He could always join the circus and clean up after the elephants.
Across the parking lot: a man. He’s short. Gray hair. He asks if the kid is having engine trouble. The kid hardly understands him beneath his thick Mexican accent.
The man pops the hood. He leans inward. He tells the kid, “Try it now!”
The kid turns the key.
The gray-haired man winks. “I know what is thee problem,” he says. “We can buy part in town. Come. We take my car.”
“I can’t,” the kid says. “I’m supposed to be at work.”
The man understands this word.
They pile into the man’s Honda, which looks like it’s rusting apart. The man weaves through traffic, and drives into a nice neighborhood. He drops the kid at a three-story house.
The boss is upset.
The Mexican man offers to stay and help hang gutter. The job gets done in record time. Bossman is not upset anymore. Kid keeps job.
Work is finished. The Mexican man carries the kid to the auto-part store. He knows exactly which part to buy. It’s not expensive.
After a few hours, the kid’s truck is fixed. The engine roars to life.
They eat together. It’s Waffle House. After dark. They carry on a conversation using short, basic English. They laugh some.
“You got family?” the kid asks.
“Oh, jess. I have kids.”
“How old are they?”
He doesn’t know English numbers, so he holds up many fingers.
The kid pays for supper.
They part ways. They even hug. The kid thanks the man for helping him keep his job. The Mexican doesn’t want thank-yous. Only smiles.
They never see each other again.
Until one day, years later, at a gas station. The Mexican man has his own business. He drives a big work-van. He looks old.
“Do joo remember me?” the man says to the kid—who is a far cry from being a kid anymore.
“I could never forget you,” says the kid.
Then the kid wrote this to prove it.