I felt the first seizing of panic in my throat even before the engine died, as it gave its first misfire and the accelerator pedal shuddered beneath my foot. That sixth sense, that vague premonition, kicked in, and I knew that I was in serious trouble.
Hoping for a recovery, I pushed down harder on the pedal, trying to up the flow of gas to the choking motor. It was to no avail. The engine gave one last gasp and then gave up, filling the cabin of the truck with a heavy damp silence.
I still had a little forward momentum, and I threw the wheel to the hard right, managing to make it halfway onto the shoulder before the truck came to a complete standstill. Angrily, I hit the button for the emergency flashers, ignoring the honks already coming from the traffic behind me as they swerved around the bed of the vehicle.
Staring out into the swirling white snow, I gripped the key tightly, trying to channel some sort of good luck down through my fingers and into the spark plugs of the engine. Taking a breath, I twisted the key forward.
A few coughs. The engine’s clicking sounded wet, raspy, like a choking smoker laboring outside a hospital to draw breath. I held the key for a few seconds, but the truck couldn’t take in that full breath of air it so desperately needed.
I slumped back in my seat for a moment. I was miles from the shop. It would take nearly an hour for anyone to come get me, even if they left immediately. Thoughts of a tow, of a broken vehicle, of accident reports and service claims filled my head. I shook myself slightly, trying to remain positive as I reached for the key once more.
Click – cough – cough – ROAR.
Somewhere, the gods of travel are smiling down on me. The engine kicks into life. It’s unsteady at first, uncertain, and I hesitate to even move in my seat for fear that I’ll somehow disrupt the intimate balance. But then the engine manages to recover, and erupts into a steady purr. Throwing the car into drive, I hesitantly tap on the pedal, and am rewarded with a surge of forward motion.
I make my way back up onto the road, looking for the nearest chance to turn around and head back to the shop. I take a moment, just a single moment, to appreciate my good fortune, considering how much worse things could have been.