Dedicated to Dale Tomlinson
France to Switzerland
The rain struck the Sprinter’s roof top like bullets. Relentless and furious. It was the loudest sound surrounding us, making it hard to speak over, until the front right tire exploded.
All nine of us men got out of the van, because if one is to be wet, we shall all be wet. Dale facilitated simple jobs and messy ones. My knees pressed deep into the mud and my hand sank in two inches deep, making it look like I had one hoof, as I crouched near Dale holding the flashlight for him to see. Some of the wing nuts cooperated while others became traitors. After some time, many ideas, and mercy from fate, we got the spare tire on and were tightening her up. The rain had abused us, the thunder jolted us, the lightening disturbed us. The mud puddles became small streams and the rain picked up even heavier, it made you drink it down if you spoke. That’s when Dale got the call. He excused himself and jumped in the van. By the time we had finished the job and the spare was sorted and we finished putting the tools away, Dale was finished with his call.
His girlfriend of five years had phoned him to let him know she was done with him and that she was packing his stuff and bringing it to one of his mate’s houses and for Dale not to come home.
Dale hollered to us over the thunder as the rain fell into his mouth and we all sank into the streaming mud. “Apparently she was waiting for me to leave, so she could have it easy moving me out. Met another bloke, she said.”
There was a problem with the spare, so we wouldn’t be able to get to the E-Tap by midnight; we would have to find a garage. Dale knew of a petrol station off the motorway that was open around the clock. Because the men weren’t mechanics, we all worked on the tire together; yet Dale submerged himself in the work the most to keep from thinking.
By the time we were back on the road we still had two and a half hours to go; Dale had been driving since 8:30AM that morning. His face color was grey. Expressionless. Tired eyes. Melancholy. As men look when they are working out confused looped thoughts.
When we got to the E-Tap there were some problems with checking into the mechanical entrance way. We stood outside hunched over our bag in the rain hoping the problem would sort before all our clothes were drenched. It didn’t. Once inside we all undressed in silence; there was no humor in anyone. We had three small rooms, each only the size for three men standing, not moving, at once. I remembered I had one last German 22 oz bottle of beer in the Sprinter and also something Dale had told me the night before. I headed back out into the rain to fetch it.
I knocked on room 17, Dale’s room.
“Right?” Dale said answering.
I pushed the beer into his hand and said, “Isn’t it your birthday today?”
“Cheers mate, yes it is,” he said and gripped the bottle.
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