Jolie heard the vehicle come to a stop on the gravel-graded shoulder. A few seconds later it pulled up in front of her and stopped again with a flash of its tailights.
The license plate read: Gdlvr1. It didn't hurt to advertise a skill, but Jolie doubted the acronym was true.
A boy dressed in jeans, a t-shirt, and a black leather jacket, climbed out of the truck. He wore a wide grin on his face that radiated life was good. "I saw your sign. Where you headed?"
A few people had seen her sign. A woman rolling down the highway in a motorized wheelchair was bound to cause a stir. The only problem was the drivers' that had passed Jolie had bothered to swerve.
God didn't make it easy for cripples. Childproof caps on medicine bottles. Latches on cupboards. A quicker, messier, option that required the ability to raise a barrel to a temple, and enough resolve to squeeze a trigger and not give a shit which unlucky fuck found her brains splattered on a wall.
In a way her solution was considerate, although Pastor Montes probably wouldn't agree. According to him the accident was her chance to demonstrate inner strength. "Persevere."
"Pasquanna Lake. Know it?"
"Yep. Went a lot when I was little." His easygoing walk matched his grin."It's opposite my direction, but it's only a couple miles. I'll take you to the lookout."
Perfect. "That'll work," Jolie said.
His gaze drifted to Jolie's wheelchair.
"I...I've never picked up a-"
"I was going to say "girl"."
"Congrats on a double first. I'm a cripple, who's also a 'girl'."
"I can't raise my arms above my head. When you lift pull me in tight, and watch out for my bags."
"What kinda bags?"
"Not grocery. One for number one. One-"
"For number two. Got it." He bent to pick her up and then paused, seemingly usure how to go about lifting her out of her wheelchair.
"Kid, I'm already broken. You can't hurt what can't be fixed. Toss me in your truck. Throw this contraption in the back."
Jolie gave him a C for his amatuer gimp lifting skills, a D for his wobble across the gravel, and an F for the crud Journey song on the radio--but only because she'd stopped believing in miracles long after being sentenced to life in a gimp-chair without parole.
The boy settled into the driver's seat and wedged the shifter into gear. "Kinda late to be going to Pasquanna."
"It's peaceful at night," Jolie said.
"If you say so, but it isn't right leavin' you alone, in the dark. Say, you have somebody that'll bring you home?"
Jolie leaned her head back. "Two somebodys."
"They meetin' you there, or pickin' you up?"
"Maybe...Both. I'd like to think. Don't really know."
"Its just...You don't have a coat, and it rained last night and-"
"Kid, do me a favor and change the station."
The boy reached over, fiddled with the radio knob, and the four-on-the floor disco beat of the Bee Gees thumped out of the speakers. "Its kinda catchy," he said as he bobbed his head. "She sure can hit some high notes."
Jolie couldn't help but laugh.
"What's so funny?"
"My son said the same thing. Once."
Tyler had never admitted he'd liked her "moldy oldies", but sometimes at a stoplight, with the car windows rolled up, all the way up, she'd caught him tapping his foot out of the corner of her eye.
"It's a guy," Jolie said.
"Seriously! For real! Nah-uh."
"Cross my heart and hope to..."
The boy's grin grew wider. "Keep on carrying on," he finished.
He rolled through a yield sign at a t-junction, and the music faded into static as the truck ziggzagged up a stretch of winding road.
Pasquanna's overlook was a semi-circular turnout on a flat section of ridge. Trampled grass and a trio of wooden benches ringed the cliff's edge. Not the safest setup for a toddler, but for a cripple knockin' on heaven's door it didn't get any easier. Jolie would've jumped for joy, if her legs would have let her.
His second gimp-girl lifting attempt was as confident as his smile. "Pretty view, but it's kinda chilly. You sure you wanna stay?" he asked.
Somewhere out in the world a mother shot beaming bolts of pride from her fingertips over the job she'd done raising this boy. He was exactly the way she imagined Tyler would have been, if he had lived. Jolie nodded her head against his shoulder. "I'm sure, Kid."
He placed her in her wheelchair and shrugged himself out of his jacket.
"Kid, I can't-"
"You might need it," he said, and laid it with the Aerosmith angel wings emblem face up across her knees. "In case you change your mind, Jolie."
Jolie's head snapped up. She mashed the wheelchair's joystick with her clawed hand to turn the contraption around. The chair lurched forward and then jerked to the left in short, spastic bursts. Move, damn it. Move!
"Hey, Kid! Kid! How did you-"
The jacket slipped off her knees and got caught on a wheel. It was dragged forward, sucked down into a patch of mud. The gears hummed and soggy soil sprayed out from behind the wheels in wet chunks. Son-of-a-bitch!
God didn't make it easy for cripples. It sucked, but that's how it was.