Fireflies

          It wasn’t until all the lights were out that Crewly heard the hum  sounding faint but clear in the darkness. He threw off the bedclothes in  frustration. Another thing to keep me up he thought. Underneath his  stainless steel sink in the kitchen Crewly kept a flashlight. Tripping  toward the cabinet he picked it up from the rusted metal below. He shined it into all the corners of the room. All he saw were cobwebs. But  the hum was still there.
         At last he found it. The hum came from outside his window where the trees just parted enough for him to  see the road. He could hear the hum of cars and trucks as they drove by.  Crewly looked through the break in the trees. He saw a car on the  shoulder with its flashers blinking. The road was only half a mile  through the woods. He decided to walk to the car and find out what the  trouble was. Maybe he could help.
         Crewly lived in a cabin in the woods some people might have called rustic. He didn’t care whether or not it was. He just liked his privacy away but not too far away from civilization. Crewly was not a mountain man or a back to nature nut. He  still bought groceries in the supermarket in town. Planting and  harvesting were not for him. He owned an acre of land around his home  and rarely mowed the lawn which was mainly overgrown weeds. Occasionally  wildflowers would grow in them. This pleased Crewly.
         Since  it is impolite to walk out of the house naked Crewly put on a pair of  jeans, a T shirt and a light spring jacket. These were the last clean  clothes he owned. He wondered why he was going out at this ungodly hour.  Chances were the car’s driver would not be all that welcoming of a stranger. Nonetheless, Crewly stepped out his front door unshaven, hair  uncombed on a quest to satisfy his curiosity if nothing else.
          The path through the woods to the road was a bit overgrown. No one  tended things around Crewly’s house. The word had gotten out that a  strange man lived in the cabin. The neighborhood children and matrons  spread the word. Generally, Crewly liked being alone. Except on this  night he couldn’t sleep because of the road’s hum. Sometimes he was used  to it and didn’t notice the noise. Other times the hum sounded like  thunder to him.
         Crewly walked into the woods carrying his  flashlight which flickered on and off. The flashlight was old and its  batteries rattled around inside it. Halfway to the road Crewly could  make out the shape of a woman in the brief flash of the car’s lights. He  couldn’t tell how young or old she was but she had on a skirt and  carried a shoulder bag. She seemed to be looking off into the distance  when Crewly finally got to her. He tapped her on the shoulder and she  jumped.
         “Sorry to scare you ma’am,” Crewly said.
         “I saw you sitting here and thought you might want some help. Name’s Crewly.” Crewly stuck out his hand.
          Recovering she turned to so she was facing Crewly and replied, “Joan.  Joan Silvestri.” They shook hands. She was nearly as tall as he was. Her  clothes were dirty with grease and she looked all played out.
         “I can’t get this tire changed,” she said. “Do you know how to change a tire?”
          “I can give it a try,” Crewly said. “Whether or not I can do it depends  on your tools and how tightly your nuts are on.” Oh shit! he thought.  What did I just say? He decided not to apologize hoping perhaps she  would not catch the double meaning in his remark. Besides women don’t  have nuts he thought.
         Joan smiled and handed Crewly her tire  iron and pointed to a scissor jack lying sideways next to her car. He  handed her his jacket. “I’d be grateful if you could do it. I’ve come a  long way and no one will stop and help me. You’re a Godsend.” She smiled  again. Crewly say her face clearly in the flashing car lights. She was  about his age with a kind face and brown hair. Her clothes were mature.
         “Didn’t know anyone lived around here,” Joan said. “You can’t see any houses from the road.”
          “No but you can hear them if you listened. I can hear the road. People  on the road are moving so fast they can’t hear or see anything. It’s  lucky for you I couldn’t sleep and came out to see what you were doing.”
          “I’m very grateful,” said Joan and she smiled again. Crewly felt it the  first time but this time his stomach nearly melted. She had such a kind  warm smile. He smiled back trying to make the best of his tousled hair  and stubbly face.
         “I’ll have this done in a jiffy,” Crewly  smiled at Joan again. Something was glowing inside of him. Something he  hadn’t felt for years. But this woman was a stranger. He didn’t know  her. Still, he felt an attraction. He busied himself changing her tire  hoping his vulnerability didn’t show.
         “Did you ever wonder  about finding your way in the dark?” Joan said. “You did it with a  flashlight. But how do the animals do it birds and things like that.”
         What an odd question Crewly thought. “I guess they see better than we do,” he replied twisting off a lug.
          “It’s not just that. Sometimes they know instinctually where to go. I  read once that fireflies give off light in order to signal to their  mates. So they can find each other in the dark.”
         “I heard  that too,” said Crewly as he took off the flat tire and smiled. “Maybe  they got something there,” he said. Crewly put the new tire on without  incident. After he finished tightening the lugs he stood up and said,  “All done.”
         Joan held out a twenty dollar bill.
         “Oh no, I don’t want any money from you. I just wanted to help that’s all.”
         “Well if you’re sure you won’t take it.”
         “Oh yes very,” said Crewly.
         Joan smiled at Crewly and a warm feeling came over him.
         “Well, I guess that’s it,” he said.
         “Guess it is,” she replied.
         They shook hands again and Crewly turned to go back to his dark house with the hum of the road in it.
         “Don’t forget your jacket,” Joan said handing it to him.
          Crewly took the coat and put it on, looked Joan in the eyes and turned  waving good-bye behind him. He heard her car door slam and she pulled  away onto the road. He walked home with his flickering flashlight going  on and off with almost every step. When he reached his front door, he  fumbled in his jacket pocket for his key and felt something. He pulled  it out and balancing his flashing so he could get a steady beam. It was a  piece of paper. On it were written the words, “Thanks for your help.  Call me if you want. Joan. Her number was written at the end.”
          Crewly stared at the note for a while then found his keys. Once inside  his house he placed the note carefully on his writing desk. Took off his  clothes and went to sleep. He no longer heard the hum. 

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