“Oh look! It’s the Dominator!” Janette called out, pointing her finger to where a sturdy tank-like truck flew past them on the highway. “I wonder if Reed Timmer is inside. We should follow them!”
“Follow them?” Chandler was incredulous that after witnessing the aftermath of a multi-car collision just three days prior Janette would have the desire to follow a speeding vehicle. “Are you insane?”
“Hey, we’d be checking off an item from my bucket list.” Janette didn’t even seem to have her feelings hurt from him calling her insane. Still, he reminded himself to tone down his annoyance at his wife. They were finally getting along for the first time in years, and he didn’t want to ruin that. “I’ve always wanted to go on a tornado chase.”
“So, are you saying that if I increase our speed and attempt to follow the tank, that alone will check off a bucket list item?” Chandler asked in a teasing voice. They’d had a great day so far, in spite of the heat. After spending the prior evening hanging out with their son and his new girlfriend, they’d enjoyed some time at the hotel pool and relaxed in the hot tub. Chandler had to admit that Janette choosing hotels with hot tubs was a good idea.
“Well, no,” she admitted. “We’d actually have to see a tornado.”
“We’ll rent the movie Twister on Netflix or something. Problem solved.”
“I want to see one in person,” she said definitively.
“And you think the idiot who just flew past us is going to lead you to a tornado?” Chandler reached his arm out the open window of their Outback, loving the pressure created by the rush of air from the eighty mile an hour speed limit in the western Texas panhandle. They were almost to the New Mexico Stateline and were in the middle of nowhere surrounded by rocks and dust.
“Reed Timmer is the expert on tornadoes,” Janette said. “If anyone could find me a tornado, he could.”
“Well, there are storm clouds on the horizon,” Chandler said. “Maybe you’ll get your wish.”
Just then there was a loud bang accompanied by a whoosh of air and Chandler gripped the steering wheel as the car pulled to the right, their blown out back tire flapping against the pavement.
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Chandler grumbled as the Outback gradually slowed down. He guided the limping vehicle to the side of the road and pulled as far off the highway as he could without going into the weeds. He turned on the emergency flashers, initiated the parking brake, and swore under his breath.
“We have roadside assistance with our car insurance, right?” Janette asked rhetorically. She opened the glove compartment and started sifting through papers, presumably looking for the phone number for their insurance carrier.
“Do you honestly think I don’t know how to change a tire?” Chandler shook his head with annoyance. “I can change the tire faster than the roadside assistance people can even get here.”
“But it’s so hot out there,” Janette whined. “You’re going to melt in the sun.”
“We are going to melt in the sun,” Chandler corrected her. “You’re helping me.” Without waiting for her retort, Chandler opened the door and exited the vehicle, heading around back and opening the hatch. When he remembered how much luggage they were going to have to move just to get to the spare tire, he groaned.
“I do not know how to change a tire,” Janette said from beside him, almost stomping her foot and pouting. She sounded like a spoiled little rich girl who had never had to do anything for herself. Not far from the truth.
“Help me move these suitcases,” Chandler snapped at her. “Make yourself useful.”
With little more than a grumble, Janette started helping him lift things out of the trunk and carrying them a few feet away from the car to get them out of the way. “What if it starts raining?” Janette glanced to the west where the storm clouds were brewing.
“Then we’ll move everything back in.” When they’d cleared out the trunk, Chandler lifted the rubber mat and pulled up the access door. The wheel lock key was still in its original packaging since they’d never had an issue with this car prior to hitting the obnoxious pothole in west Texas. He pulled out the scissor jack and lug wrench, then lifted the lid to the spare tire and twisted the wing nut holding the tire in place.
“Are you turning that thing the wrong direction or something?” Janette asked. “Why is it taking so long?”
“They’ve got this thing in here good,” Chandler said, reminding himself not to respond to her frustration. He lifted the replacement tire out of the well and set it next to the car then reached for the jack. Positioning the jack under the car, Chandler inserted the lug wrench into the jack and turned and turned and turned. If she’d been impatient waiting for him to release the tire, this was sure to make her tap her toes.
He used the lug wrench to unscrew the lug nuts, then carefully removed the blown-out tire. The spare tire fit easily and still looked brand new, contrasting with the dusty tire and filthy car. Janette was handling well her car being this dirty. She usually washed her Outback frequently and dried every crevice with a microfiber towel. To her credit, she hadn’t complained yet.
The process of screwing back on the lug nuts and lowering the jack was a reverse of the process of removing them and within a few minutes, he was finished. As promised. He sat back on his heels and brushed his hands off on his khaki shorts, realizing too late that he’d possibly ruined them with grime from the road. That and Janette would strangle him if he sat on her fabric seats with filthy shorts. Great.
“Wow, it’s humid all of a sudden.” Janette waved her hand in front of her face like a fan.
“What are you complaining about? You’re just standing there. Try helping me get all this back into the car.” Chandler rolled the blown-out tire over to the back of the vehicle and loaded it into the well where the spare had been, then replaced all the tools.
Since his suitcase was already out of the trunk, Chandler unzipped it and dug around for a clean pair of shorts. The easiest pair he could find were his long athletic shorts that he could slip on after slipping off his filthy khakis. Opening both side doors to provide a little privacy from the cars speeding past, Chandler balanced on one leg as he untied one of his sneakers and slid one leg out of the khakis and immediately slipped his leg into his athletic shorts and his foot back into his sneaker.
Feeling proud of himself for his accomplishment, Chandler shifted to the other foot and untied that sneaker. With each leg in a different pair of shorts, untied sneakers, both suitcases on the side of the road, one of which was open, Chandler felt the first raindrops fall from the sky, which had suddenly taken on an eerie green tint.