It is 1996.
The guy next to me is honking, motioning for me to pull over.
What? No. Do I look dumb? No, I am not pulling over.
Tenacious, this one.
I turn down my radio, lean over and unwind the passenger window. In a Hyundai, it’s all within reach.
“Your engine,” the man next to me yells, “is on fire!”
What did he just say? My default setting for confusion is to frown and seek clarification. My forehead wrinkles mightily. “What?” I yell.
“Your engine,” he yells, pointing frantically at the forward facing, hood-ish part of the vehicle, “is on fire! FIRE!”
And that’s when the flames shoot from under the hood.
It’s funny, how quickly people move aside for a car on fire.
I pull over under an overpass, the front of my vehicle now fully engulfed. I get out, sling my purse around my neck and head to the backseat where I rescue a pair of work shoes and a vacuum cleaner.
I am going back for the bucket and a bottle of bleach when a hand claps itself onto my shoulder.
“No more!” I turn around to discover a fireman. Just beyond him is a fire truck.
To this point in my lifetime, I’d not had a fire truck sneak up behind me.
I hold the vacuum cleaner out in front of me, as if to prove something. “But I clean houses!” I shout. I realize I am shouting. “But I clean houses,” I say sheepishly.
“You won’t clean anything covered with burns,” he notes.
And then I realized: I am single. My son is 12. My only car is on fire.
I have no way to work Monday.
And I'll never have all those fabulous bumper stickers again.
I burst into tears.
That night, I call my boss at his home, tell him the story.
“Pearl,” he says, “how much do you trust me?”
“Ridiculously large amounts,” I say. “I put ridiculously large amounts of trust in you.”
He smiles, a sound that transmits over the wires. “You need to find a ride,” he smiles. “For a week. Get a ride for a week.”
“A week,” I repeat.
“Get a ride for a week,” he says. “And trust me.”
Come back tomorrow for Part II!