With Gratitude, to Bill
Cover design by Beabe Thompson,
All Rights Reserved, 2014 Photostock by Bigstock
My mother and I stood on the side of a blacktop road in the middle of nowhere in a light drizzle. We were wet, in shock, and I had no idea where my glasses were, other than in the brush or woods behind us. Cars passed us on their way to Monroe, hardly slowing down as my mother waved for help. Slightly muddy, wet from rain, looking wild-eyed and shaking, perhaps we looked too much like a freakshow.
Behind us, far down in an embankment between two massive pine trees, my mother’s old station wagon looked almost as if she’d backed in and parked. No one had seen us hydroplane off the road, the car flipping twice and my door flying open, then ending upright poking halfway out of the forest. We had climbed the soft grassy hill up to the road after realizing we were safe and were waiting for someone to come help us.
A car finally slowed and stopped, a man got out of his car and approached us, calling my mother by her name. We were into another Louisiana parish than our own, but this man, this modern Good Samaritan, knew us through his father. His dad, a school principal, had been my mother’s boss at an elementary school in Jackson Parish, had taught one of my sisters to swim, and had been a mainstay in our community for many years.
When Bill Bailey stepped out of that car that afternoon, I knew the true meaning of rescue and gratitude.
Later my mother and I went with a tow truck to pull the car out of the trees. The driver searched in the brush until he found my glasses and handed them to me, and shook his head. By all laws of physics and probability we should have been dead. When my door came open and I kept seeing nothing but air between me and death, I really thought it was my time. I can remember scrunching my legs up to protect them from whatever might come crashing in, and turning to my mother, arms outstretched and reaching for her. I thought as I called out her name it was goodbye.
When the car righted itself between those trees, a deep feeling of shock came over us, and the absurdness of being on a road one minute, and in a deep ditch between trees made me want to laugh. I could smell the richness of the soil churned up by the car as it had flung itself off the road, the scent of crushed wood, stressed metal, and the feeling of being in a wet forest. It seemed stupid that the car looked driveable.
Looking in front of us, grass and mud revealed the track of the car as it rolled and flipped. Somewhere between rolling sideways it had taken a spin and made a 90 degree turn towards the road.
I try to explain to people when telling this story that passersby on that road couldn’t have seen down that embankment to where our car ended. Maybe that’s why no one had tried to rescue us before Mr. Bailey and his family had stopped. Nowadays people would be suspicious of seeing two women people ring to flag cars down on a lonely road, but this was back in the 1970’s before we began so suspicious and jaded.
Who knows how long we might have stood there if Bill hadn’t come along.
Sometimes the angels fly low and rescue us, and sometimes they send in human reinforcements too. Thank you, Bill, for being one of those reinforcements that day so many years ago. You’ll always have my gratitude for rescuing us, and thankfulness for living in a day when Good Samaritans truly still exist.
This was originally published on my Wattpad account, BeabeThompson
All right’s reserved, 2014