In Search of Heaven's Door

Submitted into Contest #112 in response to: Write about a character driving in the rain.... view prompt



"Praise God from whom all blessings flow

Praise Him all creatures here below...”

The well-worn tune went round and round in her head as Joanna Fan peered through the wet windshield, the wipers slapping an irritating rhythm that didn't quite fit the music. Rippling sheets of water on the glass made the road nearly invisible as she crept along at barely ten miles per hour.

“Praise Him above ye Heavenly Hosts...

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.”

The day had started out warm and clear, but towards lunchtime, thick gray clouds began to pile up and the heavens opened with big fat drops. Joanna had brought a sandwich and a Thermos of tea that she had intended to eat at a rest area. Instead, she pulled into Cap’n Ahab’s Cafe and had a steaming bowl of clam chowder and hot coffee. Then she drove to a Shell station to get gas before returning to the rainy highway.

Several times in the last few days Joanna had been on the verge of picking up the phone and regretfully declining a job she’d accepted sight unseen. She had been so eager to escape home that she agreed to a one-year contract. Now she wondered if she’d made a huge mistake.

But here she was on the open highway, with thunder rumbling ominously in the distance. It grew louder, and soon she was engulfed in a furious storm. The frequent flashes of lightning followed by nerve-wracking cracks of thunder made her stomach churn with fright. The aged truck seemed as vulnerable as a hatchling turtle creeping across a beach under the eye of a hungry seagull.

It didn't help that she was having trouble finding her way. Her map showed that there was a short road branching off the main highway. It should have brought her to the town with the funny name - Heaven’s Door - but this winding route seemed to go nowhere. She'd seen nothing but rolling green Vermont hills and farms for miles now. Occasionally she met a few oncoming headlights of southbound cars. She wanted to cry and she needed to pee. Instead, she gripped the wheel and told herself sternly to stop being a baby. Everything would turn out all right.

A thunderclap directly overhead caused her to lose her resolve. Shivering, she pulled off the road onto the gravel and switched off the engine. To pee or not to pee. With each passing moment, the decision was being made for her. So what if she got caught in the act by a passing car. Leaping out into the storm, she dashed around to the passenger side of the truck and hunkered down next to the wheel. Icy rain pelted her full in the face, but she didn't care.

She climbed back in the truck completely drenched, and reflected that this was not an auspicious beginning to what was supposed to be her new career and independence. If this were the beginning of a dream come true, what would the reality be like?

Her soaked clothes stuck to her skin like molasses, so she cranked up the heat full blast. Meanwhile, the thunder rumbled on ahead of her, but the rain still sluiced the windows. She decided to rest and let her clothes dry. Maybe the downpour would stop soon.

Weary and foggy-headed in the heat, she fell into a restless sleep.

 She wished she could have a nice car like her sister Mimi’s Lexus, but that was an old story. Mimi always got the best. Everything she wanted had just fallen into her lap, so it wasn’t surprising when she snared a rich banker’s son just out of high school.

If Ma had known the real reason Mimi got married so young, she would have been a lot less thrilled. But that was between the two sisters.

When Joanna finally awoke, she started the engine and got back on the highway. The truck gave a few odd bumps and listed to the right. Oh no! It felt like a flat tire. Back into the rain. She squatted down by the same wheel she had hidden behind before, and saw a sharp piece of metal wedged in the treads. It looked like a cover of a soup can. She must have run over it when she stopped earlier.

What more could go wrong?

Dad had taught her how to change a tire on her mother’s car, but not on this truck and not in a storm. Blinded by the rain, she found the spare tire under the pickup bed, along with a wrench and a jack stand.

She started to loosen the bolts on the tire, but they were on so tight she couldn’t budge them. She should have gotten a roadside service like AAA. But it never occurred she might need one.

Finally she gave up. Swallowing her pride, Joanna picked up the wrench and stood by the road, waving it at the passing cars. There weren’t many, and they spattered her with rain and mud as they swept past.

Joanna was beginning to think she would have to sleep all night out here before calling the nearest tow truck service.

A rumbling behind her made her turn around. At last, another car headed her way! She waved her arms and shouted at the top of her lungs, “Help!”

It wasn’t a car but a black motorcycle that roared past. Much to her amazement and relief, it suddenly wheeled around and pulled up behind her, spitting sparks like an asphalt dragon.

The big rider got off and strode towards her. Like his motorcycle, he was covered in black, and for a moment Joanna forgot about her truck. His leather jacket and boots were shiny from the rain, and the black visor on his helmet hid his face like Darth Vader. He had an air of menace about him, and she prayed that he was intending to help, not harm her. 

“Thanks for stopping,” she said with a nervous smile.

 “Flat tire?” He raised his visor.


“And you need it changed,” he said, stating the obvious.

“If you don’t mind.”

He pulled off his helmet, and a black ponytail fell down his back. Without a word, he handed her the helmet. She carefully placed it inside the truck on the seat.

Meanwhile, the man had set up the jack stand. He took the wrench and wrestled with the bolts. They barely yielded to his curses, but finally loosened. Joanna was relieved. There was no way she have done the job!

He went through the whole tedious business of changing the tire before getting up off the ground.

 “Gimme my helmet.” He brushed dirt and gravel off his jacket, glaring at her. Hastily she retrieved the helmet and he practically grabbed it from her.

“How old is this thing, anyway?”

She answered, “A ’74.”

“You’re shittin’ me. How’d last this long?”

“A lot of TLC, I guess.”

The biker said, “Awright, you can go.” He snapped his visor down and strode away, his boots crunching on the gravel.

She called, “Wait!”

He stopped, and she could almost feel waves of impatience from the black helmet.

“Can you tell me the way to Heaven’s Door?”

“Up the road five miles and left onto 22 towards the lake.” Before she could thank him, he straddled his bike and roared away down the mountain. She wondered if she would ever see him again. Not likely. That only happened in movies.

Meanwhile, she had a town to find before dark.   

September 18, 2021 12:40

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