The last thing she expected to see on the road this time of night was a breakdown. Most people who drove this road knew it well, and made double sure their cars could handle it. The stories of breaking down on this road, and being stuck for hours (or even days, in some of the more embellished versions), were staple little kid scares in this part of the state.
They probably needed her help.
She slowed as she approached, and called out the window.
“Hey, do you need some help? I’m headed into town, I can make a call for you as soon as I’m in range.”
“OH, thank god you’re here! I’ve almost got it, here help me!”
It’s a woman. Oh honey, thank goodness I found you!”
She nearly stopped in the middle of the road, and ran over to hug the big, strong woman with the jolly smile with one hand under her hood. Maybe she needs my tiny fingers, she thought. I used to help my husband with these kinds of things.
“What’s giving you trouble there? Something I can hold for you?”
“YEah, if you could just push up on this while I grab the wire…”
“Sure, where at?” She traced the woman’s arm down to her fingers, but they were just resting on the engine block. Confusion washed over her for a second until she realized she was looking for a wire, and not finding it.
The big woman grabbed the back of her head fast and hard. She bent her over and tried to slam her forehead into the guts of the car.
“Now you listen to me you goddamn fuckin’ bitch you do exactly as I say or I’m gonna kick your fuckin’ ass do you understand me bitch?”
The big woman groped her up and down, reaching in her pockets and under her jacket. A wave of nausea and panic tried to pull her under, as she accepted the truth of what was happening. She was the next horror story on @@road, nothing she could do about it, nothing she could have done about it. It was just what happenens to you, what she deserved, because she was one of the poor worthless idiots who had to live out in the middle of nowhere and drive that road.
The big woman found $40 in her front pocket and turned it over and over, looking at it and laughing. As she gently, timidly righted herself, she noticed for the first time the woman’s loud, ill fitting thrift store clothing; her threatening posture; the rust and missing license plate on her car; the tire iron laying on the ground near the front of the car. She missed them because she wanted so badly to help. She wanted to believe someone needed her, that she could make a difference.
“Leave,” a calm, resonant voice inside her head told her. “Go while you can, while she’s not looking.”
Consciously willing her body to thaw, she let her weight shift in the direction of her own car. God, how it stung to just run away in fear and shame. But it was the right choice. Now, before she remembers I might have a purse.
“Lemme tell you something, you fuckin’ bitch. If you tell anybody about this I”m gonna come find you, and I’m gonna shove my knife all the way up your goddamn pussy. I’m gonna smack you against the wall so hard you’ore gonna bleed. Understand me, bitch?”
Silently, she started toward her car.
“Do you understand me, you fuckin’ bitch??”
What if the woman had her license plate number?
“Yes,” she quietly squeaked.
The big woman, turned to the side, and still admiring the bills, was smirking.
She felt, for a moment, that she had slipped into some ghostly realm that exists alongside this one, where everything is black and nothing is real. Time seemed to stop. The sound of the wind howling was distant, echoing. Her vision shrank to a tiny dot in the distance, and the smirking skank of a woman in the dot.
When she came back she watched the head of the tire iron cut across her vision, as if in slow motion, and clip the back of the big woman’s head. A streak of blood spurted into the outdated brassy curls.
Her heart jumped into her throat as the woman whipped around. She was about to get grabbed again.
The big, stupid bruiser landed an almost solid punch as the tire iron smacked into her temple. She cried.
“Please, please don’t hurt me! I’m sorry! Please help me I’m so sorry!”
I just learned what I get for helping.
Another hard blow to the shoulder, and the big ox went down. It wasn’t enough. She wanted to make sure that she wouldn’t have any more trouble. A couple down the legs, as hard as she could hit. She hoped it would be hard enough. She felt weak. If only she could break the bitch entirely in half with one blow.
Her two $20 bills were laying on the ground, smeared in dust. The woman had nothing else, except a fake drivers license and a greasy dollar store lipstick.
How beautiful the unobstructed roadway was this evening.
IF this was the only way open to her to make a difference, so be it.