The girls dropped me off at the truck stop; Sara even was bold enough to slip me a note with her number on it, wearing a grin too hungry for her age. I thanked them all for giving me the ride, even though I was quietly torn as I thought to myself that I hoped my own daughter would never pick up a strange man on the side of the road, even if she was with two of her best friends. The three girls that gave me a ride were way too trusting or way too naive.
A bell rang as soon as I opened the glass to the truck stop, yet I assumed the door opened often because no one bothered to look at me as I entered. I looked at my mobile, still no bars.
I walked up to the counter and waited for the boy behind it with the oily, slicked back hair acknowledge me. After a few moments, I cleared my throat more to catch his attention and asked, "Excuse me sir, do you happen to have a payphone around?"
The kid looked at me with a stupid stare. Either I was stupid for asking or he perhaps was not playing with a full deck. "Um, we have a phone that we pay a bill on every month. Is that what you mean?"
"Well, perhaps," I replied without being harsh, "my cell is not getting any signal, my car broke down a few miles back, and I need to make a few calls. Do you mind if I use it?"
"I could care less, but Frank would probably not allow it. He doesn't let me use it unless it is to call the cops or something. I am sure he will not let a stranger use it. Frank's bit of a cheapskate."
A big burly man, with an ugly scar across his face and and even uglier scowl, cupped the kid in the ear. "Watch yourself, boy!" He turned to look at me, "So you need to use my phone? What is in it for me? Like the moron said, nothing is for free."
I didn't recall the boy saying any such thing, but shrugged in my response, "I suppose what are you needing to have done?"
Frank looked me over as if measuring my worth. "You do not look like you are worth much of anything useful."
"You might be surprised."
"My cook called in sick, can you cook? I hate cooking and right about now, I would love a bit of a break."
"I have made a feast or two before. You let me use your phone and I'll cook for you until my ride shows up, deal?"
He eyed me suspiciously. "How long might that be."
"At least an hour."
"Deal!" Frank spit in his hand, and held it out to me. I mimicked the barbaric action and we shook on it. Frank placed his ancient touchtone phone on the counter for me and I called a number by memory.
The other end picked up after two rings, I started to talk, "Zulu-November-Golf-Delta-Alpha-Alpha-Romeo-Kilo-Juliet-Three-Echo-Zero." I hunk up the phone. "So, you going to show me your kitchen?"
"What the hell was that, bullshit? I thought you needed someone to pick you up."
"I do. They'll be here shortly. You are wasting time. You want me to cook for you a bit or not?"
"Dammit Frank, when the hell did you learn how to make burgers like this?"
"Didn't, it is the new guy."
"Well, better not scare the new guy off like every other guy you get to cook for ya."
"He is only here for a short time, payment for using my phone."
"Dammit man! Break his knees or something. This is the best grub you've served here in about three decades."
"Fuck you Bob! The food here is not that bad."
"Perhaps not, Frank. But, this IS that good!"
Frank called back to me, "Hey mister, can you make me a deluxe as well? Seems everyone thinks it is the best thing they've ev'r had."
"Sure thing, Bossman!" I always wanted a reason to say that, seemed as good a setting as any to do so.
Just as I finished Frank's burger, I heard the bell go off letting everyone know someone just walked in. This time though, everyone slowly did turn to see. I smiled to myself and removed the grease-stained apron, knowing my ride was here.
Roxanne stood out like a flower on a cactus. She belonged anywhere in the world save here. Half of the men in the place were still in the process of scraping their jaws from the floor. Half of the women in the place turned a few shades of green. The rest of the people in this place were too stoned to noticed their hand in front of their face to realize that perhaps the most beautiful woman they will ever see just walked into this dump. I wasn't sure if it was irony or fate that Roxanne by the Police started playing on the vintage jukebox. None of the patrons here looked like the Police type.
"Here you go, Bossman. Enjoy and thanks for the use of your phone." I hand Frank a plate with the last burger I would ever make here. Made my way to Roxanne. Look at my watch, it took her 47 minutes to get here.
"What took you so long?"
She smiled sweetly, "The traffic to the middle of nowhere was a lot worse than one would have guessed."
"So Roxy, look around. Any fella look trustworthy here?" Roxanne had the uncanny ability to judge characters extremely well. She scanned the place quickly, pointing out a quiet boy, too busy scribbling in a notebook to notice us looking at him. I walked over to the boy, got his attention and slipped him Sara's number.
"What is this?" the boy said dumbly.
"It is a phone number to a particular girl. Perhaps fate means for you to fall in love with her. Perhaps fate means for you to just make her laugh. Call her tonight. That call will change your life. Don't call her, your life will never change."
With that, I walked back to Roxanne, took her hand and led her out of this dump in the middle of nowhere, that fate dumped me at.
We climbed into Roxanne's 911, she floored the gas and we slammed out of there teasing the speed of sound.
"So, do I have to take you to your rendezvous point, Alex?" she asked with a smile that could cut glass.
"No, I think the blind three will be satisfied with their touch influencing that truck stop instead. No need to go to the other destination, unless you are that bored."
At that, a set of blue and red lights started to flash behind us. I started to laugh. Roxy's smiled deepened.
"Let's see what happens with this slight diversion first, Alex. Maybe I'll even let the cops catch us. Just imagine the extra credit we can get spreading a bit of fate in jail?"
I look at Roxy and have to laugh. She was by far the most beautiful woman I knew, but she loved a side adventure almost to the point of insanity.
"Do either of us really need extra credit? We are the three, blind bitches favorites."
"Precisely. Because we are just too good at what we do. By the way, that boy just made the phone call."
"As sure as I am that it is going to start to rain in about thirty seconds after we get pulled over."
Roxy pulled to the stop and rolled down the window. The cop, to his chagrin, looked like he was punched just looking at her.
"Um, do you have any idea how fast you were going, um, miss?"
Roxy smiled, and broke the man's poor heart just from the sight of it, "No officer, I was a bit preoccupied catching up with my friend, just how fast was I going?"
I started to laugh as the rain suddenly came down in sheets, soaking the cop, and soaking Roxy a bit as well. Her dress clung to her even more desperately than before. Damn, if she didn't look even sexier wet.
I didn't laugh only at that though, I laughed wondering if Sara and the shy, poetic boy she just met had any idea just how severely their lives were about to change. They never do.