I was anxious about Allen after our long day. I myself had been sunburned and so stunned with tiredness I’d made the family dinner in a fog and gone to bed early. So when I got a call from him last evening it was a relief.
“How are you feeling? I was worried about you!”
Allen laughed. “Did ya think you worked me to death?”
“Yes! Yesterday was a long day. You worked twelve hours!”
“Oh, that ain’t nothin’. Used to work right around the clock, twenty-four, twenty-five hours.”
“I practically wanted to pick you up and carry you home.”
He laughed again. “Well, I’m down here now. What ya doin’?”
“I’m cooking lamb chops for supper. Down where?”
“Down at your barn.” He paused, and I could hear him smiling. “Got you a present.”
“Yeah, me and Bert brung you somethin’. But —” he added, elaborately casual, “if you’re too busy cookin’, you don’t need to come down.”
“Allen! Oh my goodness! I’ll take off my apron and be there in five minutes!”
When I drove into the barnyard, there stood Allen and a young man — and my old blue Chevy truck.
I’d last seen that truck a month ago when Allen and his son Damon had towed it away just before sunset. The engine wouldn’t even turn over, the tailgate had dropped off, the decayed muffler roared like a stock car (back when the truck would start), and the box was so rusted the bed walls swayed drunkenly. It was useless junk. They had towed it on a chain, with Allen sitting in it to steer. Damon sells scrap and I had hoped he might get himself $200 for the metal.
Now Allen had the gleeful look of bottled-up excitement that I remembered on Jonny’s face at eight years old when he had sneaked out of the house to surprise me with flowers for Mother’s Day.
I hopped out of my car and gave him a big hug. “My old truck!”
Allen grinned. “Figured you could use it down here on the farm, pull your manure spreader, carry your water tank, haul them trees and rocks — keep that new truck nice.”
I gave him another rib-crushing hug. “You are so great! I can’t believe you got it started!”
“Yup! They said it was the heat sensor, changed that, didn’t work; they said it was the fuel filter, didn’t work; then the carburetor. I kept sayin’ and sayin’ it was the fuel pump — finally found one in an old truck over to Wilmington. Bert put that in and we got ‘er started! Bert even fixed your exhaust, but that’s just a Band-Aid.”
I shook hands with Bert, Allen’s lanky, tattooed grandson-in-law.
Allen walked me around the truck, beaming, to show me all the improvements they had made. There were new iron supports welded on the bed to hold the sidewalls firm, and a chain welded across the tailgate that I can open and close. He had spray-painted over all the rust on the body and even hosed out the inside of the cab and washed the seats. He had me turn the key. The old engine coughed and started right up.
“You can practically put ‘er back on the road!”
Such thoughtfulness. Allen and I joke that sometimes he’s like a father to me, and sometimes I’m like a mother to him. But what he really is, is a very kind, very dear friend.