It wasn't a new model pick-up. On Chuck's earnings, he doubted whether he'd ever be able to afford one of those.This would have to tide him over for quite a while to come, at least until he was able to sell off part of the land he'd inherited when his Ma and Pa had died in that tragic accident back in 1993. Property prices were pretty lean right now so he didn't hold out too much hope for an immediate solution.
The truck was a 1977 Chev' El Camino V8 Pick-up that he'd bought second hand back in 1988. When he'd bought it, it had been a proud, orangey, metallic gold colour, but over time, this had faded to a rather dull, matted rusty colour.
He'd needed to have a good strong workhorse to be able to tow both the caravan and the boat which he kept on his smallholding three kilometres outside of Ashton. Another twenty two kilometres to the slipway at Sterry Bay.
The Caravan he used every few months, just to get away from the home environment and to settle into any area where he could regain his sanity, drink a few cold beers and just chill out for a while. "Forget about life, forget about the Wife," he often joked half-heartedly to his mates down at the slipway.
The Boat, proudly named Janine, after his once beautiful, once desirable Wife, was his bread and butter, Without the boat, he was a dead man.
Rather like his Wife, the boat had taken on a shabby, dull, unkempt appearance over the years.Without the Pick-up, he was a dead man too.
After the farmlands burned back in 1993, he'd had no choice but to do what he knew well and loved most, to earn a living - Tow his boat down to the slipway and spend the day catching fish that would be proudly eaten at many a dinner table that evening.
The El-Camino seller, had assured him that this Pick-up would "go on forever" and true to his word, this one had cost him very little to keep on the road over the last 17 years. The odd oil change, which he did himself, brakes every year or so, and the occasional set of filters, kept her going strong, allowing him at least to get the boat into the water and to catch whatever was biting in the bay.
The odometer showed more than 380 000 kilometres, but that had died on him back in 1992. He reckoned it was way past the half million mark by now.
Most of his catch, he managed to sell on the side of the Highway at the end of the day, and very rarely did he return home with anything more than his chest freezer could hold.
His Wife, Janine, was very proud of his fishing skills and this allowed her to do what she loved best. She spent the waking hours of her day, sprawled on her now generously proportioned backside, watching soaps, eating bag after bag of Lays crisps, washing them down with tubs of "Fat-free" ice cream, whilst chain-smoking her un-filtered Camel cigarettes with the other hand and generally, just pigging out until it was time for Chuck to get home and start their supper.
Today was a day just like every other day for the last twenty odd years, (except Sundays when he went to the local church to catch up on all the local gossip, and occasionally to pray) and Chuck had managed to catch about sixteen, good size Yellow Fin Tuna, which he sold within half an hour on the Highway lay bye.
He got into the cab of his pick-up after making sure everything was tied down on the boat behind him. He turned the ignition key with his usual silent prayer, and breathed the usual sigh of relief as the motor throbbed into life. The pick-up belched clouds of black smoke, enveloping the cab.
Chuck pulled out of the lay-bye and drove the two kilometres to the turn off and on to the gravel road towards Ashton.Since the new Toll road was built a few years back, not much traffic used this narrow, red dirt road, so Chuck was relaxed as he travelled at a good steady 50 kilometres an hour and headed home. Any oncoming traffic would always be well signalled by the cloud of red dust on the horizon.
Half way down the gravel track, he stopped to let his "Crew" get off the back of the pick-up. He watched in the rear-view mirror as Smiling Solomon, a fifty-something Zulu, Father of five, climbed out of the truck carrying his two-fish-share of the catch and his Vodacom Rugby rucksack containing the tools of his trade.
Chuck waved a goodbye knowing that tomorrow morning, Solomon would be waiting next to the fence like clockwork at 5.30. Solomon would have sold his "Share" before he got home to the small village he lived in almost thirty minutes walk from the fence. Solomon would have a very proud Wife tonight back at his Kraal. Smiling Solomon would live up to his name tonight.
Chuck drove on for another five minutes when he spotted a familiar cloud of red dust on the horizon, indicating an oncoming car. He slowed down to 40, just in case.
Then it happened. His faithful, ever-loving pick-up truck, jerked twice, spluttered a few more times, backfired loudly, with an accompanying cloud of black smoke, and then, very suddenly, just died on him.
He free-wheeled to a halt, trying hard to steer towards the edge of the road but not into the ditch. The silence of the once throbbing V8 engine rang sharply in his ears.
He strained his ears to pick out the sound of the oncoming vehicle and looked up to see that the trailing cloud of dust was almost upon him. He switched on his headlamps as a warning to the oncoming driver.
The cloud grew bigger, taller, and wider and Chuck expected to see a large Truck, probably from one of the neighbouring farms, coming into view very soon, judging by the dust storm it was trailing.
He listened for the familiar Diesel Motor sound to come into earshot.Chuck heard nothing except a sharp, almost electric-type of singing, whistling sharply, almost playing out a tune. The sound reminded him of these new fangled, Mobile Phones he'd seen when he went into the city, once in a while.
The cloud was almost upon him and fearing that the truck might not see him until it was too late, Chuck climbed out of the cab of the pick-up and stepped back, well away from the road's edge.
Half expecting to hear a smash as the big truck came past, Chuck was relieved when he heard the whistling noise, flash past his pick-up, and looking up, saw that whatever it was, it was trailing a huge cloud of red dust.
It took quite a few minutes for the dust to clear and Chuck spent the time wiping the dust from his eyes and thinking to himself that this must be something new. Maybe an electric truck or some other new fancy gadget that he didn't get to hear about because, quite frankly, he wasn't that interested.
Just like these damned mobile phones! Who needs them,? he thought to himself. The last thing a Man should have is a Wife who can phone him every waking minute of the day. Where has the joy of privacy gone, if your Wife can phone you at any time of the day or night, anywhere, any place? he thought to himself. The next thing, she'd be phoning to say, she's run out of crisps or cigarettes or Ice Cream or some other item!
Chuck did a double take.
He looked back towards the receding cloud of red dust, and there, sitting parked by the side of the road, not more than five meters from where his pick-up had died on him, was a car.
No, not just a car, but a very fancy one at that!
This was one of these, new-fangled, fancy four-wheel-drive's he'd heard about. A big, black model sitting high and proud with it's four, fancy, rectangular headlights and tinted black windows. The badge on the front grille was un-mistakable - this was a Chevy, through and through, he thought as he admired the shining chromed Chevrolet Badge.
The passenger door of the Chevy opened. Chuck could see a vague outline of the person getting out of the Truck, and caught the familiar curve of the steering wheel being held as the occupant alighted.
Chuck realised then, that this wasn't the passenger getting out, but the driver. This was one of those imported, left-hand drive models which cost an arm and a leg once the import duty had been banged on the top by the Government.
A long, leather clad leg, slowly stretched itself down to the roadside gravel, followed by another shapely leg. A leather clad arm extending to a slim hand, with brightly red-varnished nails, reached around the door side, grabbing the handle.
The door closed and Chuck could see for the first time, the Occupant in full glorious Technicolor.
To say she was beautiful was the understatement of the century, Chuck thought to himself as he admired the slinky curves that made up the body of the truck driver.
Chuck looked up to the face of the driver to see what every man always dreams of.
The hair colour was not natural, he thought to himself. No-one could have hair as brilliantly Black, no, reddish-black as that, he thought.She must have spent a fortune on cosmetics as well, judging by the beautiful jaw-line, perky little upturned nose, and such a beautiful mouth, he thought to himself. Her eyes, although shaded by dark black sunglasses with little gold "Ray Ban" labels in the one corner, glowed, almost green, from behind the frames.
My God, he thought, she's absolutely gorgeous! In fact, she looks a lot like My Janine did when I first met her!
Chuck thought back to the early days of High School when he'd first met Janine and been overcome by her sheer beauty. Oh how time changes many things, he thought to himself. Yes Sir! Twenty years and two hundred pounds later…….
"You got a problem Big-Boy?" the Stranger asked, smiling to herself as she approached with long, elegant strides to where has was now leaning against the Pick-up.
Janine had called him "Big-Boy" too, way back then, when she was still interested in the physical side of their relationship. Over the years, this had petered out to almost nothing except maybe for his Birthday or for Xmas when she would "do her duty" urging him to "hurry up and finish" the second he'd climbed over her bulging belly, and positioned himself, hoping to actually penetrate through he layers of accumulated fat.
"Seems she eventually went and died on me, just ground to a halt" Chuck replied.
"Well, let's go and take a look under the bonnet then shall we, Big Boy?"
There it was again, he thought, "Big-boy."
"Big-boy," where does she come with that? He smiled and wondered to himself as she slid past him, standing at the front of the pick-up.
"Why don't you pop the hood and let me take a look" she said.
Obviously she's an import too, thought Chuck listening to her accent and wondering if it was American or Canadian. Probably American he thought, reasoning that only American's call the bonnet a "Hood."
He reached under the dash and pulled at the bonnet release lever.He walked to the front of the pick-up to find that the Stranger had already rolled back her tailored leather sleeves and was fiddling around under the air filter.
She withdrew her hands and said " Give her a turn and lets hear how she sounds."
Chuck went back to the cab, positioned himself in the drivers seat, and turned the ignition key. The engine turned as the starter motor strained against the already tired engine. You could hear the spark plugs trying hard to ignite the fuel. A splutter, a cough, and then an almighty metallic grinding sound brought the engine to its final resting place.
"I think you've dropped a valve. Sounds pretty much dead to me" the stranger apologised, now standing next to the drivers window, giving Chuck a bit of a shock.
"I think I've seen the last of her, she's eventually given up the ghost!" he replied. "They certainly don't make them like that anymore. I doubt your Truck will still be running twenty years from now," he suggested. "It's such a pity that these things just fade away, eventually".
The Stranger smiled.
"Wouldn't it be fantastic if you could just turn back the clock and everything could be just the way it was, way back then?" Chuck smiled, trying hard to console himself.
He thought of Smiling Solomon, standing next to the fence in the morning, wondering what had happened to his lift.
"How far are you going" she asked.
Chuck told her he was about ten kilometres further down the road, " But don't worry yourself, someone will be along soon and I can scrounge a lift" he suggested.
Chuck realised he was grinning from ear to ear and must have looked like some sort of pervert, his eyes focused on her ample, pert breasts, her nipples pressing hard up against the fine leather jacket she sported.
She smiled, and told Chuck to "Hop in" to her Truck, which he did without any further argument after grabbing his haversack, the car keys, and his pack of Texan cigarettes.
He checked his watch as he slid into the deep leather bucket seats of the fancy imported Chevy. It was ten past six and Chuck thought to himself that he'd still be home before six thirty, in time to get Janine and himself some supper.
"So what brings a stranger like you out to these parts?" asked Chuck, trying to make small talk.
"Just gathering some samples" she replied rather curtly as she pushed a button on the dash of the Chevy. The engine roared into life drowning out any more of this conversation.
He closed his door and the sound of the engine faded to nothing.
Chuck relaxed in the luxury of the seat wrapping around his body.
He noticed the clean, almost chemical smell coming from the car. Unlike his car which at best, smelled a bit like a pile of fish heads that had lain in the sun for a few days. Comes with the territory, he thought.
He was suddenly tired, very tired and he closed his eyes, thankful for not having to make any more small talk with this very obliging stranger.
Chuck opened his eyes, slowly.
I must have dropped off, he thought to himself and looked to his left expecting to see the stranger sitting in her left-hand drivers position.Chuck saw the passenger door of his El-Camino Pick-up.
Chuck sat up with a start.
He looked forward and saw that he was sitting, parked, under the carport, right there at his house.
He looked at his watch and saw that it was 10.38.
I must have been dreaming, he thought to himself as he realised that not only was he sitting right there at home in his car, but that the engine was purring away quite beautifully.
He killed the ignition, waited ten seconds, and then restarted the car.A smooth purring sound came from the car, just like when he'd bought it way back then!
The porch light went on and there, standing in the doorway, was Janine, arms folded across her chest. He couldn't see her face clearly, but imagined she was giving him one of those looks - a look that might just kill a mosquito at 50 paces.
Now I'm going to get me a mouthful, he thought, dreading the next two hours during which he'd be interrogated for all the detail, right down to the last second.
Chuck stepped out of the car and stopped dead in his tracks.
The old faded duco was not only shining like a new pin but as he glanced across the length of the car, he noticed that all of the old dings and dents that had accumulated over the years, had just gone. The bodywork was like it had just come off the showroom floor.
He Glanced back at his fishing Boat, Janine. The once faded paintwork, was now shining, proudly reflecting the light from the porch.
Chuck was speechless and stood there scratching his head before he realised that his Wife, Janine, was standing right next to him.
"And where have you been, my Darling, I've been quite worried about you?" she said softly to him. "You know I hate to be kept waiting, specially after I've spent the whole day making you a nice pot roast, just the way you like it" she smiled and slowly reached out to take his arm.
Chuck looked up and thought that his mind must be playing tricks on him. Maybe that ride in the big four-wheel-drive has poisoned him somehow and he was seeing things.
Janine's arm was no longer flabby and mottled. The hand, with fingernails now painted a bright red gloss, held his arm, quite gently.
He looked up to her face to see that not only had she taken the time to have her hair done, a deep reddish black, but that her face was suddenly firm and contoured, just like it was, way back then!
He took a step backward and just stood there admiring the beautiful shape and form of his Janine, dressed in a figure hugging, glove leather body suit.
" Come now Chuck, don't keep me waiting any longer, you know how I love to set the mood. The table's all laid out, I've got your favourite desert, and, if you eat every last scrap, I might just have something special to relax those poor, tired bones of yours." she said, smiling seductively, licking her lips.
"Let's get inside" she said, taking his hand.
"I'll be with you in a few seconds, you go inside and get things ready," he said, still not quite believing his eyes.
He opened the door of the Pick-up as he watched Janine walk in long elegant strides back towards the house.
He bent down into the cab and reached across to grab his rucksack from the passenger floor.
In the darkened cab, something caught his eye as the light from the porch, reflected from the shining frames.
Trapped, just before they disappeared between the backrest and the seat, was a pair of dark black sunglasses with little gold "Ray Ban" labels in the corner. Chuck quickly put them into the glove compartment, closed the pick-up door and set off briskly for the house.
He opened the front door and set about locking up for the night.
Just as he was switching off the porch light, he looked down and noticed the zipper on his wrangler jeans was undone. A dark, wet patch was radiating out from his crotch area.
" Hurry up now Chuck" Janine called from the Kitchen. "You know how much I hate it when you keep me waiting - Big Boy!"
"I'll be with you in a few minutes. I just want to freshen up quickly." he replied as he walked off to the bathroom, smiling like he hadn't smiled for a long, long time.