They called it a Derecho. And the sucker came out of nowhere on a hellish hot day in August. No rain. No thunder. Just wind. Tree-bending gusts that roared like a train pulling into the station.
I’d just finished up my route and was dreaming of Canada when it hit, stealing my hat right off my head.
I hopped in the truck. Punched the gas. A flutter of junk mail took flight out the window when a maple tree slammed down on the hood of the truck and the airbag sent me packing. When I came to the tree had me pinned in from all directions. My head reeled. Mail was everywhere. I was able to retrieve my phone but the service was out. From what I could see of the crumpled truck I was lucky to be alive. I fought to wiggle free from the airbag.
A howl of wind. Tree limbs scraping the truck. Then, closer, something banging around in the back of the mailtruck.
I swirled around to see it was the big package with the Russian address. The one that needed a signature. Said THIS SIDE UP on the top and FRAGILE on the sides.
Now, it was dark in the van, under that tree. And this is the part no one believes, but on my grandmother’s grave I watched a blinding light peer out from the seal.
Lit up the whole truck.
I wiped my face. My mouth went to sand. There, in the midst of that mountain moving storm, that package slunk to the front of the truck where it burst open, spilling blonde hair and dripping with a heavy accent.
“Could you give me a hand?”
Two of the bluest eyes–eyes that glowed like the Northern Lights–found my own. I helped her out of the box. Moved my jaw to form words. Nothing emerged.
She untangled herself from the shipping paper. Packing peanuts clung to her wedding gown.
“You are my husband, no?”
I rubbed my goatee, blinking to focus. Being divorced and a bit soft in the middle, I don’t often hear proposals from gorgeous Russian women on a Tuesday evening. I felt my head nodding.
Her English was tangled in a heavy accent. Like that of a Bond girl. Not that it mattered, I was speechless. She pouted at her gown, then took notice of the tree.
“What has happened here?”
Me, without looking away, “Well, we’re stuck.”
“On the vay to our honeymoon?”
Oh man. Finally my luck was turning. One look at the future Mrs. Travis Cutler and I was happier than a three day weekend. I thought about seeing Shirley again, maybe at WalMart, chugging along, scooping up boxes of Hamburger Helper so that she could feed that gaggle of freckled-faced stepchildren she’d married into. Then I’d roll up with Edita on my arm–all six foot of her, say something like, “Why hello Shirley. I’d like you to meet Edita. Did you get your wedding invitation?”
Then Edita would flash that smile, the one that looked like it belonged on a stamp. I hand combed my hair into place. She leaned over to me.
“Vat shall we do?”
I had some ideas. But just as soon as I started in with it there was a crash. Someone bashed in the door window. Flashing lights.
Help had arrived.
“Take the girl. Take Edita first,” I implored. But they all just sat around laughing.
“Edita, my bride.” I motioned to my fiancé. But my dream girl was gone. Replaced by the crushing nylon bag and a stinging wet rash of humiliation.
The EMT’s were still doubled over and hawing it up. Something I found less than professional.
“Okay, pal. We’ll get your bride. Right this way.”
I wasn’t too bad off. Two broken ribs. Bruised forearm. Nothing a few days off didn’t fix. But by then the news of my “bride” had reached Post Office #4 on Williamson Road. And offices #1, #2 #3, along with #5-100 for that matter. They all knew I’d been smooching an airbag.
The guys asked how my “bride” was doing. How she was in the “sack”. Endless jokes about my package. A blow up doll found its way into my locker. But that was nothing compared to running into Shirley at WalMart.