Chatzkel sat on the side of the road in the hot Sonoma desert. His car’s radiator hose spewed steam like a small geyser. Saguaro cacti dotted the landscape along with prickly pears and other succulents. Chatzkel looked up towards heaven, “Why? Why did you put me on this earth? Oy vey, everything I touch seems to fail. Why do I seem to be so cursed?”
Chatzkel sighed and looked up and down the two-lane highway. He had walked a hundred yards in either direction in hopes of gaining a cell signal. Unfortunately, his efforts only resulted in more sweat, greater thirst, and no sign that any part of civilization had ever heard of the piece of blacktop.
He looked up to the heavens once more. “Why? Why have you made me such a schlimazel? Nothing ever goes right for me. Do you remember that fantastic job you blessed me with? It was wonderful. Then came that fateful night. I didn’t put that dolly in the shadows of the walkway next to the wall of stage switches, but there it laid. Nobody even cared that I broke my leg. They were more concerned with the lights suddenly going out on stage during the rock concert. How does that happen at the exact time a singer is jumping from a platform? I suppose I should be grateful that he only fractured his spine and didn’t break his neck. Still, you allowed the blame to fall on me, God. Now here I am trying to get to Tuscon for a job interview, and my car breaks down. Why have you cursed me with such bad luck?
In the distance, Chatzkel heard the rumble of a semi. A large black Peterbilt appeared on the horizon. Chatzkel stood next to his car and waved his arms furiously. The truck began to gear down as the distance grew shorter between the two. The truck driver stopped on the shoulder just past Chatzkel’s car. Chatzkel watched as a rotund man made his way out of the cab. He had a thick black beard that contrasted sharply with his gray balding scalp. His green eyes seem to pierce straight through Chatzkel.
“Run into some bad luck?” asked the trucker.
Chatzkel stuck out his hand, “Yes, My name is Chatzkel, but everyone calls me Chaz. My radiator hose cracked.”
The truck driver shook his hand. “Call me Lou. Don’t you have any duct tape?” The trucker released his grip.
Lou continued talking as they walked over to his car. “You should never go anywhere without duct tape, especially the desert. How much water do you have?”
“None, I drank all my water.”
Lou continued mumbling as he stuck his head under the hood. “Should always have extra water.” The steam had receded, and Lou tried to touch the hose but quickly pulled his hand back.
Chatzkel spoke up, “Can you call for help, or give me a ride somewhere?”
Lou shook his head and laughed. Without saying another word he walked over to his cab and opened a lower storage compartment. The trucker pulled out a roll of silver duct tape and came back over to the car. In just a few seconds he had the cracked hose taped up. Lou shot Chatzkel a disapproving look and returned to his cab. He walked back a minute later with a jug of water and poured it into the radiator’s thirsty reservoir.
He capped the tank and turned back to Chatzkel, “That should keep you going until you get to the next town. Check your fluids there and by some radiator fluid if you need it. Don’t leave town without duct tape and extra water.”
Lou made his way back towards his semi. Chatzkel followed behind and said, “I want to thank you. I’ve had nothing but bad luck my whole life. You’re a real Godsend.”
“Not a problem, just remember, duct tape and water.”
Chatzkel turned to leave when the sound of a rattle froze him in his tracks. Just inside the shade of the rig’s trailer was a six-foot-long diamondback rattlesnake. Lou cursed, climb up into his cab and emerged with a snub-nosed .38 revolver. He pointed toward Chatzkel and the snake and let loose a shot. The bullet went clean through the snake’s head, hit the asphalt, and ricocheted into Chatzkel’s thigh.
Chatzkel collapsed on the road. Lou cursed and ran over to check on Chatzkel. “I am so sorry. I ain’t never had that happen before. I didn’t know a bullet could even do that after going through a snake’s head. Lou drugged Chatzkel over to his car and placed him inside. He started his engine and cranked up the air conditioner. “Now you stay right here. I’m going up the road just a few miles, and I’ll bring back the sheriff and some help.”
Chatzkel started to feel woozy. Sharp pain brought the world back into focus for a moment.
“Don’t touch that tourniquet,” said Lou. “I promise I’ll be back in less than thirty minutes. You stay in this cool car until then.”
The air temperature had begun to drop below the heat outside. Chatzkel nodded. He tried to stay focus and watched Lou run to his rig. Both diesel stacks blew jet black smoke as the trucker floored his semi and willed it up the road as fast as he could make it go.
Chatzkel looked up to heaven. “Okay, maybe I am a schlimazel, but you sent me help. Thank you for your mercy. At least I have my air conditioner.”
Although the bleeding has stopped, the throbbing of his leg and the blood loss sent waves of dizziness and nausea over his body. He did not want to fall asleep for fear he would not wake up. For five minutes he battled his own body. Chatzkel was desperate to find something else to focus his attention.
He had no idea how long the car had been hissing. Chatzkel had been looking down muttering what he would say to the recruiter about missing his interview. Looking up he saw steam once more escaping from under the hood. Chatzkel took a deep breath and shook his head. Perhaps it was better this way. Chatzkel reached down to the seat’s controls, reclined his chair and closed his eyes. He would survive, or he would not, but at least he would get some rest. Then Chatzkel’s world went peacefully dark.
Dictionary.com word of the day: Schlimazel