“I’m looking for Sweetbud Drive,” I said. “It’s supposed to be off this road, but I can’t—”
“Right there,” she said, turning and pointing to a gravel strip to the right of the produce stand, so narrow it looked more like a driveway than a real street. “Not your fault you missed it, the sign got stolen again last night. Bunch of damn potheads, I swear.” She indicated a spot on the other side of the drive where, in fact, there was a metal pole, no sign attached. “And that’s the fourth time this year. Now nobody can find my house until the DOT gets someone out here to replace it.”
“Oh,” I said. “That’s terrible.”
“Well,” she replied, switching her paperback to the other hand, “maybe not terrible. But it sure is inconvenient. Like life isn’t complicated enough. You should at least be able to follow the signs.” She stood up, stretching. “Oh, and on your way, watch out for the big hole. It’s right past the sculpture, and it’s a doozy. Stick to the left.” Then she patted my hood, smiled at me, and walked back to her lawn chair.
“Thank you,” I called out after her, and she waved at me over her shoulder. I turned around in the road and started down Sweetbud Drive, mindful that somewhere up ahead there was both a sculpture and a big hole. I saw the sculpture first.
It was on the side of the narrow drive, in a clearing between two trees. Made of rusted metal, it was huge—at least six feet across—shaped like an open hand. It was encircled by a piece of rebar with a bicycle chain woven around its edges, like some sort of garland. In the palm of the hand, a heart shape had been cut out, and a smaller heart, painted bright red, hung within it, spinning slightly in the breeze that was blowing. I just sat there, my car barely crunching over the gravel, and stared at it. I couldn’t help but think I had seen that design somewhere before.
And then I hit the hole.
Clunk! went my front left wheel, disappearing into it entirely. O-kay, I thought, as my entire car tilted to one side, this must be why she called it a doozy.
I was sitting there, trying to think of a way I could get myself out somehow and save the embarrassment of having to make such an entrance, when I looked up ahead and saw someone walking toward me from a house at the end of the road. It was just getting dark, so at first it was hard to make them out. Only when he was right in front of my wildly slanting front bumper did I realize it was Wes.
“Whatever you do,” he called out, “don’t try and reverse out of it. That only makes it worse.” Then, as he got closer, he looked at me and started slightly. I wasn’t sure who he’d been expecting, but obviously it was a surprise seeing me. “Hey,” he said.
“Hi.” I swallowed. “I’m, um—”
“Stuck,” he finished. He disappeared for a second, ducking down to examine the hole and my tire within it. Leaning out my window, at the odd angle I was, I found myself almost level with the top of his head. A second later, when he looked up at me, we were face to face, and again, even under these circumstances, I was struck by how good looking he was, in that accidental, doesn’t-even-know-it kind of way. Which only made it worse. Or better. Or whatever. “Yup,” he said, as if there’d been any doubt, “you’re in there, all right.”
“I was warned, too,” I told him, as he stood up. “I just saw that sculpture, and I got distracted.”
“The sculpture?” He looked at it, then at me. “Oh, right. Because you know it.”
“What?” I said.
He blinked, seeming confused, then shook his head. “Nothing. I just thought maybe, um, you’d seen it before, or something. There are a few around town.”
“No, I haven’t,” I said. The breeze had stopped blowing now, and in the stillness the heart was just there in the center of the hand, suspended. “It’s amazing, though.”
I heard a door slam off to my right and glanced over to see Delia standing on the front porch of a white house, her arms crossed over her chest. “Macy?” she called out. “Is that you? Oh, God, I forgot to tell you about the hole. Hold on, we’ll get you out. I’m such an idiot. Just let me call Wes.”
“I’m on it,” Wes yelled back, and she put a hand on her chest, relieved, then sat down on the steps. Then, to me, he added, “Hold tight. I’ll be back in a second.”
I sat there, watching as he jogged down the street, disappearing into the yard of the house at the very end. A minute later an engine started up, and a Ford pickup truck pulled out to face me, then drove down the side of the road, bumping over the occasional tree root. Wes drove past me, then backed up until his back bumper was about a foot from mine. I heard a few clanks and clunks as he attached something to my car. Then I watched in my side mirror as he walked back up to me, his white T-shirt bright in the dark.
“The trick,” he said, leaning into my window, “is to get the angle just right.” He reached over, putting his hands on my steering wheel, and twisted it slightly. “Like that,” he said. “Okay?”
“Okay,” I said, putting my hands where his had been.
“Have you out in a sec,” he said. He walked back to the truck, got in, and put it in gear. I sat there, hands locked where he’d said to keep them, and waited.
The trucked revved, then moved forward, and for a second, nothing happened. But then, suddenly, I was moving. Rising. Up and out, bit by bit, until, in my headlights, I could see the hole emerging in front of me, now empty. And it was huge. More like a crater, like something you’d see on the moon. A doozy, indeed.
Once I was back on level ground, Wes hopped out of the truck, undoing the tow rope. “You’re fine now,” he called from somewhere near my bumper. “Just keep to the left. Way left.”
I stuck my head out the window. “Thank you,” I said. “Really.”
He shrugged. “No problem. I do it all the time. Just pulled out the FedEx guy yesterday.” He tossed the tow rope into the truck bed, where it landed with a thunk. “He was not happy.”
“It’s a big hole,” I said, taking another look at it.
“It’s a monster.” He ran a hand through his hair, and I saw the tattoo on his arm again, but he was too far away for me to make it out. “We need to fill it, but we never will.”
He glanced over to Delia’s house. I could now see her coming down the walk. She had on a long skirt and a red T-shirt, her feet bare. “It’s a family thing,” he said. “Some people believe everything happens for a reason. Even massive holes.”