Ian Phillips


The moon hung low in the sky, a lurid disk enshrouded by the hurried clouds of a stale late-summer's night. Only the wrinkled withered tongues of the tawny corn stalks spoke, rustling in the stifling gasps of wind, murmuring fate's cantillation. I lay on the hood of my car, a flat tire below me, above me a choir of glistening dewdrops suspended in a velvet void and no jack in the trunk.

On lonely roads in the summer, the crackling incantation of gravel beneath a bicycle tire resurrects the spirits of trucks driven years before; the rider hears these spirits and believes a car is approaching. Pulling to the side and looking behind, the vacant road unsettles the cyclist as would an unfamiliar or unwanted sound in the dead of night, although it may be noon.


Wary of these residual memories, I turned my head when I heard a car speeding in the distance. The headlights, however, confirmed the earthly nature of this traveler. I could tell, even from the distance, that the driver was no veteran of country roads; that their position in life nullified the threat of potholes or deer. The car began braking only when my figure stood before them in their headlights. The driver overshot me, but reversed, swerving with irregular speed.


Jesus rolled down his window, "What's goin' on here?"


I told him that my tire was flat and I wondered if I could borrow his jack.


"I don't have one," he slurred.


I asked him if I could have a ride into town so I could use a phone. He looked at the cigarette I had in my hand.


"Smoke befouls the interior, man. Sorry, but I can't just pick up any old bum at the side of the road. You could steal something from me."


As he drove off, a beer can landed at my feet, thrown with all the abandon of one who had everything.
It was not long before I heard another vehicle approaching. The truck was old, I could hear from its knocking engine. When it slowed to a halt, I walked towards it, noticing that rust had eaten away parts of its frame and the bed was piled with boxes. With dusty overalls and graying hair, Satan asked, "C'n I help you, kid?" I explained my situation and asked for a ride into town. "Don't you got a jack, kid? I told him that I did not. "Let me see what I can do."


After we had changed the tire, we stood gazing into the abandoned country side. Satan bent down and picked up the beer can Jesus had thrown at my feet. Satan tossed it into the back of his truck and shook his head.


"Some people think just b'cause they got everything there ain't nuthin' they'se missin'. When someun's got everything, even the whole kingdom of God, they don't got nuthin' but a heart full 'uh pride. It takes a man 'ose got nuthin' to know the true wealth he's been given."


The moon had set long before Satan drove away. The breeze had died and the corn was silent. I lay on the hood of my car, rejoicing in the wealth of poverty and the company of loneliness.






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