In Need of Help
My Saturday involved leaving Conway, Arkansas, and driving I-40 to Little Rock. It was raining. And there was talk on the radio of thunderstorms coming our way. I drove at 65 mph so I wouldn’t get run over, but big trucks were passing me and throwing waves of water in my face. One wreck in the median—flashing lights, fire truck, police cars.
A light on my dash was no longer just blinking. It was RED and constantly on.
I arrived at the Cox Building for a meeting with Poets' Roundtable of Arkansas and said my thank you to God that I had arrived safely.
Traipsed through the rain to the River Market for lunch with other poets. I asked three or four of them about getting my tires checked. "Where do I go?" Several options were offered.
Before the meeting reconvened, I hunted in my bag for my parking ticket. Had I really lost it? No, but I had to dump my bag to find it.
Contest winners were announced: wonderful poets in middle schools, high schools, colleges. Parents proud, everyone happy. A business meeting, then winners of contests were announced, which I forgot to enter! I may need a secretary!
I am reminded of a haibun poem printed in Turning Home, a new anthology which celebrates fine poetry. I asked for permission to share it with you.
Old Poet #1 brought an excellent poem to a weekly critique meeting. Old Poet #2 suggested he send it to a journal by the deadline, which was three days away. Old Poet #1 asked Old Poet #3 to remind him to submit it on time. Old Poet #3 agreed to, asking Old Poet #2 to remind her so that she wouldn’t forget to remind Old Poet #1.
Despite their good intentions, Old Poets #2 and #3 forgot about the poem. Old Poet #1 didn’t remember to submit it, either, and didn’t remember that he had asked Old Poet #3 to remind him. So it was all good.
a trip to the garage—
he wonders why
— by John Han
I say my goodbyes mid-afternoon. The parking lot is covered with puddles. The rain continues. I head west and come to Broadway Street. I feel an urging to turn right, and it was one of the suggestions I’d heard over lunch.
When I was young, my family lived near Broadway in North Little Rock. I drove over the new bridge into North Little Rock and pulled into the Big Red Valero station. There, no help was offered by any of the three attendants. I drove on down Pike Avenue, praying as I saw familiar haunts from long ago.
I stopped at a tire place, but it was closed.
Next, I came upon the junction of I-40 east or west. (I didn’t dare get back on the interstate with the red light on my dash mutely screaming at me.)
Then to my left, just beyond the light, was a Shell Stopover gas station. I pulled in. I sat there and watched the rain, telling the Lord that I could not do this without Him. (The Lord and I have conversations like that now and then.)
I pulled up my hoodie and headed out into the rain. I opened the door of the station and faced two women at the cash registers. What came out of my mouth was this: "I am a woman in distress. I need help. My tire is low."
The woman on my right questioned, "Do you have four quarters?" I said, "Yes, but I left my pocketbook in the car. I can go get the money, but who’ll put air in my tires?"
The woman calmly answered, "I will."
I turned and headed back into the rain for my pocketbook. When I returned, I gave her four quarters and a tip, telling her, "This is for you."
She went into a room for a jacket. No jacket. She insisted she was fine. As we approached the door, a man came in and hugged her. I boldly said, "She needs your jacket." He smiled, and said, "Sure, she can have my coat."
The woman turned him down and went about her kindness of helping me.
After she had checked all of my tires and had put air in them, she was soaked. I rolled my window down and asked her name. She said, "Brandi."
I responded, "You are an angel, Brandi. An angel, that’s what you are. God used you today. Thank you."
Before I moved the car, I noticed I had no red lights on my dash. I looked up, and my angel was gone, but a bedraggled woman and a man on crutches with an amputated leg were headed for the Stopover gas station.
I wanted to cry. More people needing help.
We are everywhere. We must trust angels are everywhere, too.
Photo from the Facebook page of The Bookstore at Library Square in Little Rock, Arkansas. The renovated Cox Building, originally a warehouse for Thomas Cox and Sons Machinery Company, is where the Poets' Roundtable of Arkansas meeting was held over the weekend. According to the Central Arkansas Library System's website https://cals.org/, in that building, River Market Books & Gifts offers a wide selection of new and “gently read” books, collectible books, and literary gift items. Bookends Café has an assortment of coffees, pastries, and cookies available daily from 9am to 5pm. Lunch (11-4) includes freshly-made sandwiches, soups, and salads. They also have ice cream, milkshakes, and smoothies. Some of the CALS staff are talented artists and CALS hosts their work in the staff gallery. If you're ever passing through Little Rock, it's a great place to stop!