Paul Greenberg

He didn't even know where he was. By now, he was doing good to remember who he was. It was getting colder and darker out here every minute. The piney woods had looked just like home in the fading light of day. Now they were only a darkness looming at the side of the road. He could hear the trees sway and crackle in the wind but he could no longer see them -- and there was nothing cozy about them. They rose over him like a threat. Was he going to have to spend the night here? And then what would she think?

What would anyone think if they could see him stumbling back and forth between the driver's seat and the engine, fiddling around under the hood to no good purpose? As if he knew what he was doing. The old pick-up wasn't even sputtering any more, just coughing a little. Like somebody with a bad cold. Wouldn't you know she'd conk out right now, when everything depended on his getting back. Old Reliable indeed. He'd tried poking and prodding and cussin', but nothing seemed to work. His little flashlight, worthless thing to begin with, was growing dim. That's not good, he thought. None of it is good. Any more than he was. What had ever possessed him to go into town? Or to take on the whole trip, for that matter.

He knew the answer to that one. He was going to show her he could take care of her, and take care of business, too. Only right now he couldn't even take care of himself.

Wasn't that just like him, he thought, always biting off more than he could chew, let alone swallow. He wished somebody would come along, then maybe he could hitch a ride. But what would he tell her then, that he'd left the truck on the road, that they'd have to turn back? Go home with his tail tucked?

He couldn't afford to pay a mechanic even if he could find one out here, wherever here was. He knew the road led to where he'd left her out back at the little boarding house, but where was that? Not that it mattered much if he wasn't going to be able to get there.

The whole trip had been like that, his whole life had been like that. Always thinking he could do more than he could, look better than he was. He knew she was pregnant when he'd asked her to marry him, but that didn't matter none. Nobody needed to know. And he'd never seen anyone, anything, so beautiful, so kind and trusting, and, yes, needing him so much. There was something shining about her, from within, that never went out, even when she slept. He loved that.

There comes a time when all a man wants is to get up every morning and ask what he can do for a woman, one particular woman. And he'd known she was the one from the moment he'd laid eyes on her. Something told him.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.