Bonnie stood with hands on her hips, surveying the new problem before her. She sighed, then reread the automotive manual. Men never seemed to be around when needed, she thought dismally. She looked at the front tire again. There was no doubt; it was flat--flat as the proverbial pancake. She got out the needed tools, followed the manual's directions precisely to the letter, and slowly managed to remove the faulty tire and put on the new. She broke two nails, smudged grease on her new pants and pullover, not to mention her hands and face, but she did it. She smiled in smug satisfaction. If she could change a tire on a pickup truck, she could manage anything! Even the desolate country about her didn't look as foreboding.
Task now accomplished, she looked around her, and took in the vast expanse of surrounding land. Giant peaks of mountain loomed in the distance, while nearer in all directions spread out miles and miles of desert. Sand stretched everywhere, brown and dismal. The ground beneath her feet was scorchingly hot, burning her sneaker clad feet, and the sky overhead was cloudless, an unbroken bright blue, punctuated only by the blazing yellow-gold sun. Bonnie felt the sun's rays burning at her delicate, light skin.
Brushing her damp forehead with her forearm in resignation, she began again to question her sanity. It was a question she asked herself several times a day since she had left the safety and security of a good teaching job in Little Rock to head here. She told Carl she wanted a little adventure, a little challenge in her life, and by God, she was getting it. At that thought, she smiled, content with herself. She had met her first challenge. She had changed her first tire.
As she replaced the last of the tools, a jeep sped by throwing up sand in her face, covering her with a thin film of dust. Her eyes flashed furiously as the vehicle stopped, and then backed up.
"Need any help?" a deep masculine voice asked.
The voice sounded so pleasant, unconcerned of her plight, and unaware of the added damage the vehicle's careless tossing of dirt in her direction did, she was speechless as well as surprised. He was the first person, and it was the first vehicle she'd seen since she left the outskirts of Gallup, New Mexico some three hours ago.
"Señorita," the voice now said, and asked in Spanish if she needed help.
"Not from you!" Bonnie sneezed from the dust and tried to wipe off some of the granules from her face with her hand. She placed her hands on her hips and glared. "You've done enough!"
She watched white teeth glisten in his smiling mouth. His face was shadowed, his eyes covered by dark glasses, but she was certain he was laughing at her appearance. She became all the more incensed.
"Are you lost? Perhaps I can help?"
"I am not lost, thank you. Everything is under control." Just like a man to come along and offer assistance when you no longer need it.
"Suit yourself." He lazily waved his hand. "Have a nice day." His jeep peeled out, sending another blast of sand in her direction.
"Damn!" Bonnie began wiping her perspiring, dust-streaked face with tissue. She had so hoped to make a nice first impression when she arrived, and now look at her! Dirty, disheveled, sunburned with her freckles becoming more predominant. "Damn, damn, damn!" She cursed in annoyance and felt a little better. She never used profanity, but somehow the word seemed appropriate in light of her situation.
She removed the small kerchief from around her hair, shook it out, and then removed the pins that kept her curly, red hair confined. It cascaded down about her shoulders. With her scarf, she wiped as much of the grease and grime from her face and hands as possible. As Bonnie started her Toyota, she decided there must be a motel or gas station in Pueblo La Barranca. As remote as her destination appeared, no place could be that remote. She smiled now, picturing herself all cleaned up, relaxed, and ready to make a good first impression.
As Bonnie drove she wondered what perversity in her makeup made her refuse any help from the man in the jeep. She could very well be lost. There was no traffic, no cars but that one, and the road was primitive to say the least. She was glad she had let the car salesman talk her into buying the four-wheel-drive pickup truck. Bonnie remembered his chuckle when she told him she'd be moving to New Mexico and wanted to purchase something that would haul her few household items and needed advice on what to buy.
"New Mexico, huh? Well, for New Mexico," he had drawled, "you need a pickup truck. That's just about all they drive out there. Even in the cities. Why, I bet they have more pickup trucks there than anyplace in the world. Where did ya say you'd be heading?"
"It's called Pueblo La Barranca. It's somewhere around Gallup."
"Yes, sir, I mean ma'am, I got just the thing for ya." He led her over to a fire-engine-red truck with a white camper shell. "Just the thing, take my word."
She did take his word. She would have preferred a more subdued hue, but it was perfect--stereo radio, air conditioning, and shell to protect her belongings. Bonnie found to her dismay that she had more belongings to lug with her than she thought. Soon the truck was crammed full.
Carl came to see her off. "You can still change your mind, Bonnie. I haven't replaced you yet. I really don't understand your doing something like this."