Growing up, Zoe M. McCarthy traveled all over the world as a Coast Guard brat living in such places as Haiti, Cuba, and Thailand. Retired from her life as an actuary, she now lives near Richmond, Virginia and is a children’s leader for Bible Study Fellowship International. She currently writes romantic suspense novels but has published two books of contemporary Christian short stories: Pearls in the Muddle and Crumbled, Tumbled, Humbled—Saved. Her readers use her stories for Bible studies and devotionals. She has given dramatic readings of the stories to Christian organizations, to community centers and libraries, and to young male prisoners. Her books of short stories can be found at http://localtalentbooksmusic.com.
Willie down-shifted and brought the battered truck to a shuddering stop in front of the high school. Veronica collected her books and walked to the truck.
“Hey, Uncle Willie, what’re you doing here?”
“Your mama’s car won’t start.”
Veronica climbed in, then Willie pulled into traffic.
“How was your day at school?” he asked.
“Well, I’m not talking to Freddie.”
“Is that bad or good news for Freddie?”
“Oh, Uncle Willie. You men always side together. Freddie broke a date so he can play basketball with his pea-brained buddies. That was rude, and he deserves consequences. So I’m giving him some. What’s with people today, anyway?”
“Lots of folks are centered on themselves.”
Willie repeatedly glanced in his rearview mirror. Veronica turned to see what he was monitoring.
“There,” she said, “that proves my point. That lady is on your tail. She’s doing it to you, and she’ll do it to the next person when she gets around you. The worst part is she won’t bear any consequences for her rudeness.”
Willie eased onto the freeway ramp. The Ford remained within feet of Willie’s back bumper. He slowed for the tollbooth. When he chucked the change into the basket, the woman gunned her car.
“Can you believe that?!” Veronica said. “She made it through on your toll!”
“That wasn’t an honest thing to do.”
Once they entered the freeway, the Ford pulled into the fast lane, passed them, and then shot back into the right lane, cutting off the truck.
“Why does God allow people like her to get away with behavior like that with no consequences?” Veronica asked.
“Do you think that woman is a joy-filled person?”
“Maybe she’s not full of joy, but I’m furious you paid her toll. She wins.”
“Naw, I don’t think she’s won. She has to live with herself. I would lose if I had to live this life with a heart like hers. Then again, I don’t know what’s in her heart.”
“Look, Uncle Willie!” Veronica pointed forward. She barked a satisfied laugh. “Thank You, God. Our Ford woman has got herself a flat tire.”
They passed the disabled Ford.
“What’re you doing, Uncle Willie?”
Willie pulled the truck to the side of the road in front of the Ford.
“There’s a woman who needs our help back there. Do you want to keep her company while I change her tire?”
“Not on your life.” Veronica crossed her arms over her chest.
“Suit yourself.” Willie walked back to the Ford.
“Help you, miss?”
The woman’s face turned crimson. “How can you help me after what I did to you?”
“I wouldn’t be much of a child of God if I didn’t help someone when I could,” he said, studying the tire.
“You must be an angel.”
He shook his head. “Naw, I’m no one special. But God blesses me occasionally with a job he wants me to do. Do you see that young lady there in my truck?”
The woman looked in the direction of the truck and nodded.
“She wants to do God’s job of judging and punishing other people. She wants to tell God when and how to do His job. It’s not good for her.” Willie removed the jack from the Ford’s trunk.
The woman followed him from the trunk to the tire. “You mean it's not good that she might turn out like me.”
“How would that be?” He loosened the tire nuts.
She lifted her hands. “Always mad at the world and taking advantage of other people before they take advantage of me.”
“Does it bring you comfort living like that?”
She raised her chin. “Sure.” Her shoulders slumped, and she squatted next to where he was pumping the arm of the jack. “I can't lie to an angel. The satisfaction I get is short-lived.”
Willie chuckled. “I suspect you’re nicer than you think you are. We all have to fight temptation of what comes out of our hearts.” He removed the flat tire. “I suspect that just like you getting this flat tire repaired to be as good as new, you could easily do the same with your heart.”
She tilted her head. “You think so?”
“With God’s help, I know so.” He put on the spare tire.
Her tone softened. “You think your God would want to help someone like me?”
“Jesus tells a story about how a shepherd leaves his flock to go after one lost sheep. That’s how God feels about people who don’t know him.” Willie put the flat tire in the trunk.
She followed him. “I can’t believe I’m listening to you—am willing to listen to you. None of my friends would believe it.” She planted her hands on her hips. “So, you think God arranged this circumstance?”
“Yes, I do.”
“For me, or for the young lady in the truck?”
“Don’t know for sure. Maybe neither. Maybe both. Maybe He arranged it for me to learn something.”
She opened her purse. “What do I owe you?”
He captured her gaze. “Would you honor me with a smile?”
“That’s a big price for someone like me.” She shook her head and then smiled.
“Then I’ll cherish it.” He held up his hand in a wave and headed back to his truck.
“Thank you, angel,” she called after him.
He turned. “I’ll be praying for you.”
“Thank you. I think, perhaps, I need prayers.” She waved. “And I mean that.”
Willie lifted his hand again and got back into the truck.
“Uncle Willie, I’m sorry,” Veronica blurted. “While I watched you change that woman’s tire, your words kept going through my head.”
“What words were those?”
“‘Suit yourself.’ That’s exactly what I’ve been doing with Freddie and in respect to that woman. Suiting myself. I’m no better than they are. I could see that you were ministering to that woman by just being yourself. She was receiving the kind of consequences she really needed. I’m so proud of you, Uncle Willie.”
“Not as proud as I am of you, honey.”