Picture - #13
DISCLAIMER: Story’s mine; characters are mine.
“Noooooooooooo!!!!!” Mary screamed as half of her car slid off the road, just barely caught by the mudslide that she didn’t see coming through the thick fog. It had rained for days along the Oregon coast, the ground becoming soft and slick, and mudslides were the result. She opened the door and carefully stuck a foot out, probing to see whether she was going to step on solid ground or fall off a cliff. It felt steady enough, but she still felt better when she was on the road itself. She took a few deep breaths and calmed her nerves before she called for help.
“Sorry, ma’am,” the operator on the other end of the line said. “It’s Christmas Eve and no tow trucks are available, even assuming they could get through the mudslide. You might have to wait one, maybe two days, it being Christmas.”
“Where am I supposed to go?” Mary said shrilly, almost on the edge of panic.
“You might just wanna sit tight.” The operator said unhelpfully before hanging up on Mary.
Screw this, Mary thought. There was no way she was getting back into her car with it possibly in a precarious position. Mary got her suitcase out of the trunk and started walking back the way she’d come, hoping there was a vacancy at a motel she’d seen maybe three miles back.
* * *
The fog chilled Mary in more than one way; the cold seeped through her jacket and the fog eerily swallowed sound. It swirled around her as she passed through it, but closed up again behind her. Almost wishing she had just sat tight, she followed the road slowly, hoping to hear if any mudslide started. Then suddenly, there was a humongous break in the fog and she could see that 200 yards away, there was a lighthouse and some outlying buildings. Spiky rays of light that seemed surreal burst forth and Mary followed a gravel path towards the door, half afraid, yet hoping that whoever was there would help a stranger. “Helloooooooo!!!!!!!!” she called, making sure not to startle anyone.
Lights were on in every building and shone through a window halfway up the lighthouse, but it was suddenly blocked by a form coming down the stairs. In a few minutes, an older man, who was dressed more like a sea captain than a lighthouse keeper came out and greeted her. He wore a navy blue pair of trousers with a yellow stripe going up the outside of each leg, a navy blue jacket with gold buttons, a tan turtleneck sweater underneath, and a navy blue captain’s hat on his head. His thin, snowy beard covered some of his lower face, but Mary could still see his expressions. Now that Mary was actually there, though, she didn’t know what she expected him to do for her, much less what to say to him, but he took the burden off her.
“’Tis not a very good night to be out.”
“No, sir, but you see, my car got caught in a mudslide. Oh, it wasn’t bad --,” she said quickly when she saw the concern on his face. “My car slid half off the road and there aren’t any tow trucks out tonight, and probably not tomorrow,” she added softly and a little sadly, suddenly feeling lost and hopeless.
“Aye. ‘Tis Christmas,” the old man added thoughtfully. Then, he came to a decision. “You’re welcome to the guest quarters. They’re just over there.” He pointed to the outlying building nearest to the lighthouse.
“Are you sure?” Mary hesitatingly asked.
“Yes. Come.” He picked up Mary’s bag and led her to the guest house. “Ye’ll find something to eat in the cupboards, I’ll wager.”
He opened the guest house which was a bit musty. However, Mary paused and turned to him shyly. “I’m really thankful, sir,” she told him forthrightly and sincerely.
“Never mind, lass. If you need anything just call me. Oh, and Christmas dinner is at 4:00 tomorrow.”
“Oh, no! I don’t want to intrude!”
“I’ll be glad of the company. It’s just me and Rupert, the dog, this year.”
* * *
The old man made a wonderful ham dinner, they talked a little, sang a few carols, and Mary got two of the best nights of sleep that she’d had in years. The day after Christmas, the mudslide was cleared and the operator called Mary’s cell phone and told her that the tow truck would be on its way soon. Before Mary left for her car, she found the keeper -- whose name she never learned -- and said, “I really appreciate your hospitality, sir.”
“Think nothing of it, lass!”
They exchanged goodbyes.
* * *
“Well, ma’am, it’ll be $300 including parts, labor, and tax,” Ernie, the tow truck driver/mechanic said.
Mary quietly sighed. “Okay. How long do you think it’ll take?”
“I can probably get ‘er done in two hours.”
“Okay. If you need anything, I’ll be at the restaurant.”
Mary walked across the street, bought a newspaper out front, and entered the dark wood paneled building. Even though it wasn’t light and airy, she liked the cozy, subdued atmosphere. She paused in the anteroom to wipe her feet, and while she was waiting for someone to seat her, she noticed some historical photographs on the wall. One was the keeper and Rupert in front of the lighthouse.
“Who is this man?” Mary asked the waitress when she came.
“That’s Captain McClennan. He was the lightkeeper until his death in the 1970s. They tried to keep the lighthouse going after that, but it closed near 12 years ago, I think.”
“I need a moment.”
Mary shuddered and surreptitiously felt her head for any bumps she might’ve suffered in the car accident, but she found none. She looked at the photograph again and addressed the man in it.
“Thank you, Captain McClennan. Merry Christmas!”
Story by: THE BARD OF NEW MEXICO
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