I cruised south through the California desert without a care. I had the top down on my ragtop caddy, and my baseball cap provided the only shade for miles around, while the one hundred degree wind rushed around me, the dry air like a sauna. The grapevine was twenty miles ahead, and the tug-of-war between machine and hill would soon begin, but I knew the caddy would breeze by the line of cars alongside the road spewing clouds of steam; she had a proven record of speed, power, and endurance. With the radio blasting, nothing behind me but memories, and the world in front of me, my car was a rocket hurtling through space and time, and I was its captain.
I’m a love struck baby
Yeah I’m a love struck baby
You got me love struck baby
And I know just what to do

Sparks start flyin’ every time we meet
Let me tell you baby you knock me off my feet
Your kisses trip me up they’re so dog gone sweet
Ya know baby you can’t be beat

I’m a love struck baby
Yeah I’m a love struck baby
You got me love struck baby
And I know just what to do

The sun approached its zenith, and updrafts of ghostly opaque heat rose from the Highway, causing the distant mountains to have a dreamlike appearance, as if an apparition. Cars off in the distance would first sparkle, then be born as a single cell organism, and then grow and mutate in the heat until they were fully formed, and finally fly by me in a gust of wind, only to mutate back to a single cell organism, and then evaporate completely. Aware of only my presence on the roadway, me and my caddy sped along, full-size.
At first a slight tremor, and then the car sagged on the right side as I eased off on the gas and fought the steering wheel in an effort to control my trajectory. I held on with white knuckles as the vehicle shuddered and shook slower and slower. I looked for any turnout, but there was none, so I selected a point ahead where the road was wide, and touched the brakes ever so lightly. The car made growling noises as the front right tire lost its air pressure, and in its final death throes the tire fought against the pavement until motion finally ceased. I killed the engine, and then in the heat and silence of the California desert, I pondered my situation. I had on a pair of slacks and a white short sleeved dress shirt, clearly not the type of clothing one would need for changing a tire in the desert.
Do I really have to change this tire? Answer: yes. Okay, let’s check out the spare, I told myself resignedly. I walked back and opened the trunk to find a good spare, but looking further I found my lug wrench had been bent so badly it was unusable. So there I sat in the desert with a spare tire, but without a lug wrench, in the hundred degree heat. Oh well, I said. I’ll figure this out.
“You ain’t going nowhere looking like that,” I said to my Cadillac. “Let’s get you fixed up, and we’ll be back on the road in no time.” I wanted to talk nice to her, even though I knew we were pretty screwed at that point. She reminded me of several other women I’ve known in my life, wanting a strong man at their side, but not knowing what to do with him once they have him. I knew I needed to stay strong and upbeat in the face of this emergency, so I weighed my options, which didn’t take long. I knew I wouldn’t last more than an hour out there in the desert heat, so walking twenty miles to the nearest gas station was not an option. I grabbed the bent lug wrench and tried to remove a lug nut on the offending wheel. No dice. The bent lug wrench was entirely useless as it was, just like I thought. My only option was to try to straighten it. I asked myself, ’How in the hell do you straighten a bent lug wrench in the middle of the damn desert?’ No answer. I wiped the sweat off my brow and looked at my already stained clothing, and got depressed. Nobody loves me but my mama, and sometimes I think she’s lying.
Stay positive.
The answer came ghostly to me in the vaporous updrafts coming off Interstate five. The light pole shimmied and swayed in the afternoon heat, the refracted image wiggling and morphing as a dancer. Lug wrench in hand, and sweat pouring off me, I made for the light pole. Upon arriving, I saw exactly what I needed. The anchor bolts stood up past the nuts securing them, and miraculously, the socket of my lug wrench fit snugly over the top of the bolt. Using the light pole as a fulcrum, I leaned on the steel handle with all my strength, straightening the tool back to its original configuration. Thank God for small favors.
The tire change in the extreme heat of no man’s land made no small task. I jacked the car up and removed the flat tire in so much dirt and sweat that the combination formed a muddy stew on me and everything I touched. My clothes ruined, I soldiered on, fighting the heat and frustration until finally the last lug nut was secure. With my last strength I pounded the hubcap onto the wheel using forceful thrusts of the heel of my right hand, and then ratcheted the bumper jack until it fell loose from the car. With my heart pounding and the promise of water several miles away, I threw the flat tire and tools into the trunk and jumped into the driver seat, grimy clothes and all, and headed toward the nearest civilization.
I got to my apartment that evening and called my sweetheart, who said she would be coming right over. “Wait, don’t hang up,” I said.
“What is it?”
“You still love me don’t you?”
“You know I do,” she said, and laughed. “Did everything go okay on your trip?”
“It went well, honey. I thought of you the whole way.”

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