Planks

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“It all happened in a matter of minutes,” he said. His friends smiled after an amusing story. He took a long pull from his beer and grinned back at them.

Another said, “Oh come on Franklin, do you really expect us to believe these crazy yarns of yours?”

“I don’t care if you do or if you don’t, but they happened, just as I relate them,” he replied, “I don’t add anything or spice’em up.”

“I swear,” said another, “You could tell a tale about anything, even a stick of wood.”

planksFranklin thought for a moment and said, “What about two sticks of wood?”

His friends laughed and chimed in, “You’re on, two sticks it is then!”

And so he began.

“In my youth, I was a bit of a wanderer. I used to travel to different parts of the country and live there just to see what it was like. I was in New England at the time. My girlfriend, Teri, was giving me a lift one Saturday morning on her way to work. She was driving me from North Salem, New York to Newtown, Connecticut, where some friends lived.”

“After dropping me off, she needed to turn around and head back to her job, but we couldn’t find the right exit off the parkway. So I told her to pull over on the grass median in the center. She was not a very experienced driver and had not made such a maneuver before. When the car came onto the grass it was going too fast and instead of coming to a stop parallel to the road she spun 90 degrees and ended up suspended over a trench in the center of the median.

If she drove forward the car would bottom out and damage the undercarriage while getting stuck on the top edge with the rear end in the ditch and if she backed it up there would be a similar outcome at the other end. She was stuck and realizing this about to burst into tears. For some reason, I was optimistic we could get ourselves out of this fix.

‘This may not be as bad as it looks. I’ll get out and look around, see what can be done.’  I said.

She just nodded at me and held back her tears.

It’s funny, but have you ever been in that state of mind, it usually happens to me when I’m traveling, where life is an adventure, you’re upbeat, in a really great mood?”

One of his friends said, “Sure, all the time, especially when I tell whoppers.”

The woman next to him said, “Quiet Joe, what happened next?”

He continued.

“This state of mind is rather magical. It seems to supercharge your improvisation and innovation skills. I looked at the car. It was really in a bad spot, suspended over the ditch fifty-fifty, front and back end. In fact, it was amazing the skid put it in such perfect precarious placement. I started looking around. There was nothing but grass and an occasional piece of litter. Teri was looking at me with worried eyes and a touch of shock.

Then I saw them. They were green. Maybe why I didn’t spot them on the first scan of the area was because of the green grass they sort of blended in except they were a darker shade, more like an evergreen in color.”

“What are you talking about? What was green?”Asked another sitting across the table.

“The planks,” Franklin said.

“Planks?” Another echoed.

“Yes, there were two of them just laying there, long, perhaps 10 feet in length. They may have fallen off a truck driving by, perhaps they were part of a wood fence being transported somewhere. I really don’t know where they came from, but there they were.

I said to Teri, ‘I may have an idea. We’ll give it a shot.’

All of his friends, even the ones who were making fun of him, leaned in to listen.

Franklin said “I picked up one of the planks and carried it over to the ditch, placing it under the car from the rear tire to the front tire on the passenger side. It just fit! I ran back and grabbed the other plank and placed it exactly the same between the driver side tires. These planks formed a kind of improvised bridge across the ditch. The thing was, would they hold the weight of the car? There was only one way to find out.

I stood beside the vehicle and said, “Honey, I want you to put it in low, keep the wheel straight and slowly drive across the planks.”

She began to pull forward. The slow speed of the car crossing caused them to sag way down and were about to snap.

So I said, ‘Wait a minute. Go back.’

She let the car slip back where it was before.

Then I said, “Dear, you’ve got to pull across a little faster this time, but not too fast. Just try it a little faster than you just did. Give it a little more gas with the pedal. Okay?’

She looked at me a mixture of terror and trust.

‘Ready?…Go.’

My fingers were crossed. We both held our breath. She pulled forward a little quicker and kept going this time. The planks sagged and were about to break when the car pulled up the other half and drove onto firm ground—she made it!  It was quite a sight to see, those skinny green pieces of wood saving the day.

We were both elated. She still had time to get to her job and I was within walking distance of my friends.

I told her, ‘Take the car to a mechanic for a check-up while you’re at work. The oil pan touched one of the edges. He can look for damage.’

‘I will,’ she said.

Later her mechanic found the transmission fluid was low, but no damage from our parkway mishap.”

“You think the universe placed those planks there just for your rescue?” asked the woman next to Joe. Everyone laughed but Franklin who shook his head.

“I don’t know what to believe,” he replied, “Like I said, I think it has to do with your state of mind at the time. It’s like you expect to find a solution right in front of you, as though you almost conjure it up.”

“Oh for heaven’s sake,” cried Joe “Now you’re going to tell us you have supernatural powers!”

“No,” Franklin said, “I don’t have them, but something does. Something that watches and waits. That day it came out to lend a hand.”

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