Two seventeen-year old friends, Mike and Don, walked a gravel road in summertime, a pace apart. Mike carried a backpack. Don carried two suitcases full of the items needed for a life away from Hometown.
A fifty-dollar jalopy stood at the ready, and the boys loaded the luggage into the trunk. Don turned to his friend. “You sure you don’t want to come? Mike, this is our chance!”
Mike shook his head. “Nah. I don’t think so.” As Mike had explained during this walk and on prior days, he was looking into training to be a cook. “I’m not much for traveling right now,” he said.
“Are you sure? You can always come back. You’ll not be forfeiting any opportunity here.”
Mike shook his head. There was plenty of time to decide his life’s course and his job at the local greasy spoon was good enough for now.
He knew the Hometown roads. He was comfortable with his girlfriend. He had a place to live. And he always reserved the right to head out on the gravel road.
Although he’d never take it.
Don—the kid on a mission—was learning how to partner. One hundred miles out he told a middle-aged service station man: “If you fix my car, I’ll fix your sign.”
The service station man replied: “Nah. You’re not gonna to climb up there. What if you fall and break yer neck?”
Don said: “I’ve climbed plenty of trees and church spires back home. And when I scanned the horizon, I wondered, in those towns—so far away I couldn’t even see—would I meet a man who’d say yes?”
“Sorry kid, cash is king. The jalopy’s gonna cost you. I don’t even know where the ladder is. It’s broke. It’s curled. I’m not going to go draggin’ it out now. I don’t need any more work.”
“Mister I don’t need a ladder. I just need to lend my skills for yours. Guaranteed a fixed sign will get you more business.”
The service station man spat in front of him. “You climbed a church spire?”
“What in the hell were ya’ll thinkin’?” He spat again.
Don said, “I was thinkin’, I can’t climb high enough to see as far as I want to go.”
The service station man looked up to his sign. It was crooked alright, well out of his reach to fix, and it needed paint. “You gonna break them forty-year-old bolts? Rusty and I don’t know what all?”
“Tell you what,” Don said. “I promise not to use the tools you’ll be needin’ on the car.”