Curbside Fiction: 1987 Ford Bronco II Making Ends Meet

(Authors Note: This story was inspired by the following truck, all other pictures found on Google)

Barbara sighed heavily and glanced out the window of the diner. Through the snow streaked glass she could just make out the tall, boxy shape of her little Ford Bronco parked in the small lot outside. It was her job to close again tonight. She watched as the tail lights of her manager’s new Accord faded off in the distance, and picked up a rag, halfheartedly wiping down the already clean counter for the third time in as many minutes. In all her thirty three years, she had never seen such a dull evening. She glanced up when she saw headlights glint off the chrome bumper of her truck and squinted a moment.

No. It couldn’t be him… Not after this long.

She watched in disbelief, as a car she hadn’t seen since she was seventeen pulled up and parked in a spot right by the front door. The Buick wagon was stuffed to the brim with cardboard boxes and looked like it had seen some hard use. The white paint was mottled and peeling, the chrome trim was missing in several spots. It looked… tired. The man that got out looked even worse. Time seemed to stand still as she waited to see if it was really him. Finally, the little bells on the door jingled as the man walked in.

“Dad…” She said, her voice faltering. “W-What are you doing here?” She finally managed to say as a man she knew to be in his mid sixties, took a seat on the stool in front of her.

He took a big breath as if steeling himself for what was about to come.

“Barbara, I know I can’t say anything that’s going to make this better… If it means anything to you, please know I’m sorry.” He coughed and rubbed his hands together. “Can I get some coffee?”

Her mind raced as she poured the hot liquid into a chipped mug and passed it to him. With sympathy pains, she watched as his gnarled hands curled around the cup and his pale blue eyes met hers.

He continued taking a small drink.

“What your mom and I did to you wasn’t right and I-”

“Your damn right it wasn’t!” Barbara said, anger suddenly flaring up inside of her now that the shock had passed. “Do you have any idea what you did to me? I was just a kid! Do you have any clue what it was like for me out there?”

“Your mother and I just didn’t agree with your lifestyle…” He said simply, as if that explained the whole thing. She suddenly felt as if she were back in her living room, sixteen years ago, having this exact same conversation. She took a breath and gripped the counter, glancing around the empty diner.

“Dad, who and what I am is not up for debate. Why are you here? Who even told you how to find me?

“Ashley, and before you go getting upset at her, she gave me an earful before she’d tell me where you worked.”

That’s my girl. Thought Barbara as she glanced at the clock and walked around the counter to start putting up chairs.

“Where’s Mom?” She asked.

“She’s at the house… she’ll be staying there. I’ve decided to leave her.”

Barbara stopped and nearly dropped the last chair. Gently, she set it on the booth table and walked back over to him, putting a hand on his shoulder. They stayed where they were, each unable to think of what to say. Finally her father pulled a small card from his wallet and scribbled something down on it, pulling a pen from his coat pocket.

”I’m leaving Dallas for Kansas City tomorrow. The railroad let me move departments but I had to be quick about it. It’s late and I’m exhausted…” He said slowly, as if to say it was more than the time of night that was weighing on him. “This is the hotel I’ll be staying at for the night. I’ve got to get checked in. I’ll be leaving at eight tomorrow morning. Please… If  you want to talk, come see me. Your mother asked me to let you know… she doesn’t want to see you. Please try and respect that.“

”I will. Believe me.” The words slipped out before she could stop them. “Do you need anything else?” She asked as if he were any other late customer, though she hoped it hadn’t come out that way.

He looked up and her with eyes that held a sadness she knew he would never speak.

”I’ve got to get going.” He said and she watched as he walked out the door and the big Buick pulled away, the light from it’s headlamps illuminating the address on the back of the business card he had left there.

She found herself closing up the diner in a numb haze that swirled around her head, making even the cold December air seem distant as she climbed in the driver’s seat of her Bronco and slammed the door, started it, and let the sound of its V6 jar her out of her daze.

She listened to the sound of her fiancé pull up in her little red Miata, the one she had since high school, its tiny tires struggling over the snow covered parking lot. Ashley got out and quickly opened the door to her truck, climbing in the passenger seat and put her hands over the heat coming from the vent in front of her.

”Well… how did it go?”

Barbara looked down at the round gauges of the plastic wood dash.

“It… went. He left Mom, said he’d be heading back to Kansas tomorrow.” She pulled his business card from her pocket. “He’s staying at Dawson’s Landing.”

”That hotel isn’t far away…” Ashely said, trailing off, putting a gentle hand on her arm. “You know I’d go with you.”

Barbara nodded and slipped a hand down to the gear shift before her. This truck was as old as she was, made in the same year. It was purchased from a deer lease and while far from perfect, it had always been there for her. Many nights had been spent in the back before she had a home after being kicked out. Just like her, her parents had never approved of it. She looked out over the snow covered lot and saw two sets of tire tracks. The ones coming from the left were put there by Ashely pulling in, and the ones on the right, now being slowly filled in by snow, were left by her father’s Buick. She knew how easy it would be to go left, to leave behind this chapter of her life and try to forget all the bad memories sixteen years of struggling to make ends meet had caused to become dull in her mind. This interaction with her father had ripped open that old wound once more. She took a breath and let it out slowly, letting the mist hang in the air to dissipate. She put the Bronco into four wheel drive and slipped it into first, gripping the thin wheel.

”Let’s go.”

She pulled out and went right, her headlights pushing back the falling snow as Ashley rested her head on Barbara’s shoulder. They went into that uncertain future just as they had all those years ago… together.

(This Bronco’s name is Barb, short for Barbara, and is the newest member of my growing COAL series. I want to keep her for at least six months before I write a review of her.)