Home for Christmas, 1975
By Ron Kolm
It’s starting to snow. Nothing is sticking to the highway, but tiny wind-driven drifts scatter back and forth in front of the pickup truck as I drive to work. A winter storm has been predicted all day, but it hadn’t started yet when I pulled out of the driveway. I probably should have called in sick. I hate the damn job — night-shift on an assembly-line — which seems to be killing me in some way or another, but I need the money so I keep showing up and punching in, waiting for something to happen, an accident, anything — looking for a sign that I should quit and move on but not finding any.
The snow gives me just the excuse I need to go back home; it will probably be a blizzard for sure, and I don’t want to get snowed in at the plant – the idea of living on candy bars and cokes from the vending machines until we get rescued isn’t a turn-on – and Christmas is only two days away — I don’t want to miss it; I’m having enough problems with my marriage as it is, and that would only make matters worse, so I turn left off the bypass onto a side road where I can do a U-turn and return to the rundown farmhouse my wife and I live in.
The secondary road I’m now on is very steep, dropping away from the bypass at an extreme angle, and it’s much higher in the middle than on the shoulders. After I turn around and start driving back up towards the highway, my truck shifts to the right, sliding on the new snow, until it slams into the curb. Nothing I do can budge it. I try the old trick of shifting into third gear and then slowly giving it some gas, but that doesn’t work – I guess the grade is just too much for my old pickup truck with its under-powered six cylinder engine.
I turn off the car radio and switch off the ignition, and sit there, considering my options. The only one I can come up with would be to leave my truck and walk up to the bypass and try to flag down a passing driver and hitch a ride home, but there was almost no traffic on the highway when I turned off it. A kind of pall descends over me, a sort of numbness. I live more than a couple of miles away, too far to walk in the thickening snow, so I sit there in a complete stasis, watching the falling snow coat the windshield. And then I hear a shout.
I look out the window, then roll it down, white flakes landing on my left knee. Idling beside me is a very peculiar vehicle – a pure white World War II vintage jeep with the words ‘Borough of Mt. Penn’ stenciled in black on its side. The guy sitting in the passenger seat asks me if I need help and when I say, “yeah,” he takes a couple of handfuls of rock salt from a bag that seems to be on his lap and tosses them out of his open window in such a way that they land under the wheels of my truck. I know how strange this sounds, but I swear that this is what I saw. I turn the key and my pickup comes back to life. I steer the front wheels slightly to the left, gently pumping the gas pedal, and it moves forward, almost as if by magic. The guys in the jeep shout “Merry Christmas” and wave at me as they speed off, and I drive up to the top of the hill and turn right, heading home, as the snow continues to fall.