A friend called and asked if I could help him remove a rack from a pickup truck a widow wanted to give to her grandson. He didn’t want a rack.
The truck had belonged to her husband. Now it belonged to the rack. Or should I say, the dreadnought framework of welded steel owned the truck. Fabricated and bolted to the truck’s bed, it was large and stout enough to hold anything up -- or down. Even the world. After the husband built it, he died. Rack of ages, cleft for me.
We loosened three of the four bolts that held the rack to the truck. The fourth was stuck. We had to saw its head off. The sun rose higher. We got up in the bed and tried to move the rack. It wouldn’t budge. We scratched our heads. Neither of us owned a crane. “How about if we remove the truck from beneath the rack?” I suggested. My friend is from Texas. He thought a second, then nodded. “Goo-ood I-dee-uh!” he said. I went and got my tools. We took off the doors, then the bench seat. The windshield was a bit more work, but that let us lift the dash out. Then we could focus on the hood, the fenders, the engine and wheels. With that behind us, we tipped the cab forward to a resting place in the yard. We took a breather. As it was now past noon, the widow offered us a sip of whiskey. Since a sip or two would likely blunt the benefit of our earlier coffees, we agreed to help her finish the bottle. Next came the truck’s back end. Dirty. Greasy. Well-rusted. Good, clean fun. Once we pieced out the last of it, we could reassemble it a few feet off from the rack. We were glad to help the widow. Plus which, we understood better why she was a widow. Now she could sell the rack. The only trouble? No buyer could possibly move it. I told the widow she should think about selling the rack “as is,” permanently affixed to her yard. Include her house and property in the price. It’s hard to find a rack with a house and land attached to it. The package was sure to fetch good money. I looked at the rack. Without the truck to hold it up, the battleship was settling beneath the waves. The soil beneath it liquefied to quicksand. The rack sunk and the goo flowed over. Like that, gone. Probably picking up speed in its rush to the arms of Mother Magma. “Way-all,” my friend said, “if tha-yut don't beat all.” I looked at the quicksand. A tiny black bubble surfaced and popped. Oil. The rack had redeemed itself. Riches would flow to the widow. Her husband smiled from beyond.
For thirty years, Stuart Watson worked as a newspaper journalist. He loves the writing of Joy Williams — and others. His work is in more than two dozen contemporary publications, including Yolk, Two Hawks Quarterly, Revolution John, Montana Mouthful, Bending Genres, Mystery Tribune and Barzakh. He lives in Oregon with his far more talented wife and their awesome dog.