(a short story by John L. Harmon)
Bubba was 15 when his pop died. This forced the lanky teenager to make a decision. School or work? Someone had to take care of his mama, so Bubba took his pop's position at the factory. His mama wished it could be another way, but her age and health limited the options available to them.
Bubba didn't mind the monotonous factory work. He found the repetitive actions calming and interesting. All the pieces of metal he assembled each day with his own hands gave him an idea. He would fix up the old truck that had been rusting in the barn for as long as he remembered.
The library had a book on auto mechanics and that's what Bubba read when he wasn't at the factory or taking care of mama. His mama didn't know of his plans for the old truck. She was just happy to see him reading. He read that book cover to cover and back again until he was ready.
On a day off, and while mama was napping, Bubba swung open the barn doors. The afternoon sun shined on the run-down truck and the sight took Bubba's breath away. He saw beauty in the rusted shell and cracked windshield. He saw what nobody, not even his pop, ever saw in that truck.
"You and I..." Bubba spoke to the truck like an old friend, "We're gonna go places."
Days turned to weeks as Bubba stole moments between work and taking care of mama to fix up the truck. A daily ritual emerged early on from the routine. When the light started to dim, Bubba climbed inside the truck's faded, torn interior and sat behind the decrepit steering wheel. There he watched beyond the wide open barn doors as the sun disappeared beneath the flat horizon.
Weeks turned to months as Bubba realized it was going to be a long road ahead. The truck was in worse shape than he expected and the book didn't fully prepare him for the extensive work. He was disappointed, but, like when his pop died, this wasn't going to stop him. He had his youth, his wits, and all the time in the world.
Months turned to years as he saved up money to buy parts for the truck here and there. It wasn't easy with doctor bills, but he got what he needed when he could afford it. His mama was less worried about her own health and more worried about her son. She had watched him over the years as he woke up in the morning, walked to the factory, came home, worked on the truck and then went to bed. All the while taking care of her. It just didn't seem right.
"I wish you would find someone to take care of you, Bubba," she said as he helped her from bed.
Bubba learned to just say he was looking even though it wasn't true. He hadn't caught anyone's eye and that was fine. Friends and romance were for others. Bubba had his job at the factory. He had his mama to take care of and he had his truck to fix. That was enough for him.
One morning Bubba woke up and found his mama dead. He sat with her for awhile, holding her hand one last time. Then he kissed her goodbye on the cheek and phoned the doctor. After they took his mama's body away, Bubba went to the factory and later worked on the truck. He didn't know what else to do, but that evening's sunset filled his eyes with heavy tears.
There had always been some chatter around town about how queer Bubba was. All he did was work at the factory and tinker with some old truck, but he took care of his mama, which made him a good son. Now that his mama was gone, chatter became gossip as the years turned to decades. Not that anyone cared enough to try and know him. They just sat with their cups of coffee and watched and talked from a distance.
Bubba didn't care what others had to say. There was still the factory work and the truck to fill his days. He just went about his life without making a fuss, even when he had to wait a couple of weeks for a part he ordered. That was just how it was and he had the sunsets in the truck to look forward to.
One day Bubba's work on the truck was done. The passing years, and Bubba's determination, had been kind to the truck. It's fresh coat of deep blue paint glistening in the late afternoon sun took Bubba's breath away. The passing years, and the factory work, had been less kind to Bubba. His youth was gone, his wits were faded and all the time in the world had flown by.
Bubba climbed into the black-upholstered interior, using the sleek steering wheel as leverage. He situated himself and then started the old truck up. It's engine purred like a newborn kitten and Bubba smiled as bright as the sun shining on him and his truck. He was going to take it out for a spin, but he was tired. It was enough for him that he brought the old rusted truck back to life. He turned off the engine, leaned back and watched through the smooth windshield as the sun disappeared beneath the flat horizon.
News spread around town that Bubba was found dead sitting in his spiffed-up truck in that dilapidated barn. Theories ran wild about how he died. It didn't matter that the doctor ruled it a heart attack. Folks were gonna say what they were gonna say, and they said a lot after his burial. They said Bubba would've been a disappointment to his pop. They said his mama must be spinning in her grave over the fact he spent more time with that dumb old truck than with people. They said he never really did anything or went anywhere in his pathetic life, but they could never see what Bubba saw. Every evening since he was 15, Bubba sat behind the steering wheel, gazing beyond the barn doors at the sunset and he went places in his truck. Places as far away as his dreams could take him.
2021, John L. Harmon
Bubba's Truck was inspired by a talk-to-text translator mishap during a conversation with a friend about his music, which can be found here...
Thank you for reading or listening to my half-blind words.
P.S. A different short story from a different time...