I walked along the side of the road. With how flat the desert is, you would have thought that I could have seen the next town or something. I sure did pick the wrong place to have my car break down. I turned my head back toward the opposite horizon.
There was a glint of silver where the road met the sky. I turned the rest of the way around raise my hand to shield my eyes from the sun. Squinting, I saw it growing and approaching. And then quiet but growing louder, the steady sound of an engine greeted my ears.
As it comes closer I saw it was an old sunbaked truck, some vintage pick up or other. A ride's a ride, right? I thought to myself.
I threw my thumb out; hoping whoever was driving the pickup would take pity on a lone man on the road.
To my relief, the truck pulled onto the shoulder and stopped about twenty feet away from me.
Adjusting my bag on my shoulder, I backtracked to where the pickup stopped. The glint off the windscreen kept me from seeing whoever was driving just yet.
As I got close, the passenger side door swung open. Coming around the faded and baked paint job of the door, I saw the interior was pristine and glossy. The vinyl upholstery shone like new and the inner trim was perfectly polished chrome. But the driver was silver.
She was a unicorn, glistening like mercury beneath her humble gingham shirt and loose-fitting khakis. What I could see of her tail was long like a lion's, but the tuft at the end looked sculpted in metal. Her sky blue eyes met mine and I realize I've been staring.
She smiled and removed one hoof from the wheel to pat the empty passenger seat. "Well, hop in," She offered playfully.
I swung my bag off my back and set it between my legs as I slipped up onto the smooth vinyl. I leaned back in the seat with a sigh and through my shirt I could feel how cool the synthetic surface is. In fact, the moment I crossed the threshold into the pickup, I could have been forgiven for forgetting I was out in the desert.
The passenger door slammed while I was still looking at her. When I jumped she just chuckled, a sound not unlike bells, before telling me I should buckle up.
I asked her if she was headed into town as I pulled the strap across my chest.
"I'm always headed to town, and I'll take you there." She stroked the hoof along the steering wheel. "Just know there is a fare."
I told her I don't care what it cost; I just needed to get into town so someone could come tow my car. I reached into my bag and started digging around for my wallet.
She waved dismissively at my pack. "My fare is a story." She pulled on the stick shift and let off the brake, sending the pickup back into a smooth roll onto the road.
I asked her what kind of story she wanted
She broke her gaze from the road ahead to look me right in the eye. "A true story; one that happened to you."
I asked her if that was it.
She nodded, her eyes back on the road.
I thought for a moment, and then I began to talk. I recounted a memory from my childhood, talking about a game of pretend I would play with one of my friends. As I talked, though, I found myself having a harder time remembering what I was saying.
Her silver tongue glided along her lips and she prompted me to continue.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
When she lets me out of her pickup in front of a towing garage, I turn back around to face her through the open door. I ask her if there's really no way I could pay her back.
She idly licks one digit of her hoof like she's just finished a meal. "You've already given me enough. Catch you again for another tale."
I nod and step back before the door closes without her reaching to grab the handle. She waves through the window as she drives away.
I turn and walk into the garage.
The man behind the counter nods toward behind me. "Looks like Echo likes you."
I blush a bit despite myself and say she was awful kind taking me all the way into town.
The mechanic nods and asks me where my car got stuck.
I tell him to the best of my ability. "Though a lot of the drive from where she picked me up to here is a blur." I dig through my bag for my wallet as I explain. "Between how nice and cool is in the cab and that story she was telling me, the other details just slide away."
The man raises his brows. "She told you a story?"
I nod then stop, thinking. The story was about me but I don't remember it happening. And I'm sure she's the one who told it.
The mechanic chuckles and tells me she must have been hungry.