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Swear Jar

Josiah hadn't expected the devil to smite Des Moines

“God Da---Bless America!”  Josiah Matheson spat venom when he struck the top of his head on the propped up hood of his under-oiled and over-heated Chevy Silverado pickup. He examined the oil dipstick of the pickup.

Bright teal.

The truck was good and cooked.

“Good job, daddy! You don't have to put a dollar in the swear box!” a high pitched voice chimed in from the passenger seat. 

Josiah had promised Sadie-May that they'd make it to her very-first karate competition on time, but now stranded 4.8 miles outside of Des Moines without a payphone for at least 2 miles....

They not only may not make it to the karate competition at all, but they may not even make it home before dark. 

Josiah didn't like the prospect of that one bit.

“Is the truck broke down good, daddy?” Sadie poked her head out the passenger seat, one of her mis-matched pigtails dangling.

“Sadie May, put all of you back in the truck this instant.” He pointed, but his voice lacked any heat or intensity. He had read in an article once you weren't supposed to sound angry, even when you were, when telling kids what to do.

“Okayyyyy....”She swung back inside the truck, “Is it broke for real, daddy?” She asked again, and his chest clenched tight, making his shoulders crowd in like he was making space on public transit.

He had kept this truck running for the better part of two decades, but with a broken intake manifold, he'd have to finally scrap it. It wasn't worth yanking out half the engine.

“Yep Sadie May, truck's cooked like thanksgiving turkey.” His mind spun into high RPMs, He'd have to talk to the bank tomorrow about a car note. He didn't know what kind of interest rate his credit would get him, but he reckoned that it'd be in double-digits.

That's not what got his nose itching over his mustache. 

“Awwwwww....” He heard from the truck, and he signed through his nose, willing the tingle away.

“I'm sorry sunshine,” Josiah fished the dipstick back down into the seized engine. “I know you were all excited about getting yer green belt and breakin' them boards.” He swallowed thick and sour, like drinking a full bodied stout.

He crunched the numbers on his bank account a little over a year ago, and figured out if he quit his smokes and stopped getting the good steak Sadie and himself liked on sundays, he could afford for Sadie May to take a Kung Fu class after she fell in love with after watching the disney movie, Mulan. 

He remembered she told him that what he had signed her up for wasn't actually Kung-Fu, but Karate, but she liked it even better because she got to break plastic boards and she met other kids her age, even other girls.

The park their trailer was hitched up to didn't have many kids her age that worth a lick, so she looked forward to the classes.

“It's all all peas and carrots daddy!” Sadie May called out from the car and Josiah rubbed the back of his arm across his face, wiping off sweat and grease. “Sensei Jeff said that if we missed the big match in the city, he'd still give it!” 

Josiah gritted his teeth. It wasn't ever supposed to be like this. They had a real house with a crawlspace foundation, a front yard with a bird feeder,  two cars that ran smooth, and enough money for steaks on Sunday and eating out at the diner twice a month. he couldn't remember the last time he bought new socks. 

“I'm sorry, Sadie, I'll sign you up for the next one, and we'll have a new truck that can make the whole trip.” He promised. He remembered he had done seen a truck in front of McDermot's place across from the dollar tree that he could probably afford and fix up.

“It's the truck that's the bad-guy daddy! He just woke up and thought 'not today!'” 

A distant rumble, like a freight train passing made it hard to hear her.

It had to be the 5:40 train from Springfield. He knew that he'd have to get her out and get to walkin to the Amaco station a couple miles back to call for a tow.

“Yep. I reckon that's exactly what this truck thought.” He muttered, but strangely the sound only got louder. He strode around to the passenger seat of the truck and right as he gripped the handle of the truck, the earth tremmored

“Shit!” He exclaimed, his boots loosing purchase on the gravel and Sadie let out a shriek. 

The quaking amplified and truck's suspension squealed even higher than his daughter's screams. Josiah wrenched the door open and it was then he turned toward town, did he see it was no freight train.

A smoking lance of fire peeled down from the heavens like something out of the old testiment. Josiah's eyes lit up and his heart slammed to his throat as did what his instincts commanded him to fling himself over his daughter to protect her from whatever the devil was about to bring to Des Moines.

Power in Numbers




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