Short Story: A Rusted Working Pickup Truck & a Smile by LJ Frank

Credit. Dan McCaw. Expressionist. Female standing. 1942

To say that the moment is fleeting reminds me of driving down a road off the interstate highway many years back at a speed somewhere within five to ten miles per hour of the legal limit when I caught sight of a herd of Holstein cows walking in a straight line across the pavement a hundred yards ahead and so I downshifted and then pressed my foot down on the brakes. I turned off the radio and air conditioning and opened the windows. My nose was greeted with the pungent fragrance of fresh manure. My eyes watered.

Slowing down to a stop and watching the cattle pass I noticed on the side of the road next to a cornfield a rusted fender dangling from an early 1950’s working pickup truck. It seemed awfully alone. Not that I care for pickup trucks, I don’t. Have no use for them. Especially those that don’t haul hay or other produce or related stuff. Today’s pickup trucks have a phallic or macho quality and or driven by someone running for a political office. Sexual aggression or sexual posturing defines the modern pickup truck in my mind. I could be wrong. 

Regardless, this pickup truck was different. Like a film noir it seemed to be filled with a lot of stories as the warm wind caused the fender to move and creak under the heat of the summer. The tales it had to share are now private and lost in its past. I sighed, my thoughts drifted.

And for whatever reason, perhaps, it was because a neighbor woman of mine drove an inherited, rusted 1953 Ford working pickup truck, I recalled a memory of her hanging her colorful slips and panties from a makeshift clothesline outside between her garage and a tall pole during a warm summer morning. I never knew what the purpose of the pole was until then or why she hung her clothes outside when she had an electric clothes dryer. I saw her get the dryer delivered just two or three months previous. Perhaps it wasn’t working or maybe she wanted to just be outside with the intimacy and caress of a warm breeze. I don’t know. I’m somewhat naive at times though my imagination can run wild.

I recall looking over at her as she stretched to hang her clothes and the clear outline of her buttocks came into view. She must have felt my stare and turned to look at me in her flimsy dress and bare feet. And she smiled, her eyes looking into mine. It was a wide smile that spread across her lips that seemed to ask a question. It was one of those smiles that came from the heart not the brain. A smile that caused me to think that my life has its rewards even if fleeting. I returned the smile in anticipation of the little details that make a day worthwhile. I then headed to my job.

The cattle that meandered across the road were now in the pasture across the way. I put my car into gear and drove toward my destination with the windows rolled down and the radio and air conditioning turned off.