The balding, pot-bellied man in the Razorbacks cap and the Confederate flag T-shirt finished his coffee at the counter and drearily trudged out of the truck stop restaurant. It had been a bad day and a bad night. Caught speeding, then caught with an overweighted load, and he was still thinking about that child support letter. How he missed having someone next to him on the road to share his bunk with -- hell, even having someone waiting home at the end of his run.
He had really gotten to hate truck stops. He just had to get the hell out of this trucker life. Nothing but trouble and no money left and hemorrhoids. He hitched up his jeans and set his fake-snakeskin boots toward his rig out in back, near the tall chain link fence.
His hand stayed frozen on the half-opened door of his cab, his boot paused on the running board. For a moment he wondered if some teenage runaway had sneaked into his cab. That had happened once or twice.
“Mister?” The young voice was hardly more than a whisper. It was coming from outside someplace. He looked around, then back at the fence. Then his mouth opened in astonishment and he slowly put both feet on the ground.
She was about halfway up the fence, away from the lights, her X-shaped form barely visible. As he slowly approached in wonderment, his improbable first impression was confirmed. It was indeed a totally naked girl -- maybe no more than a teenager. She had half-climbed the fence from the other side, her fingers clutching above her head, her big toes grabbing the fence below. The fence was twenty feet high and didn’t have bar supports where it should, it was wobbly and loose, hence the need to grab with fingers and toes, also the need to spread her hands and feet wide to stabilize herself. Her thin form was tanned and dark, her hair wild.
“Please, mister, do you have something I can put on? Something I can wear? Please?” In the dim light he could see the glow of her green eyes, beautiful and striking in the night, pleading at him through the fence.
It was a second before he found his words. “Girl -- are you O.K.?” His first thought was that she had been raped or something. “Want me to call the police?”
“No,” she said quickly. “Just something to wear, please?”
He gulped and said, “Sure thing, honey, don’t move.” And, finally tearing his eyes away from her, he dashed up into the cab and back into the bunk compartment. He couldn’t just give her any crappy thing -- he looked to the bottom for something clean and presentable. After a frantic search he finally dug down to a T-shirt which he was pretty sure hadn’t been worn since his last wash. It would be long enough to cover her private parts.
He bounded out of the cab and to the fence. But she was gone. He looked hard at the trash-strewn woods beyond, shutting his eyes so that they could become more quickly used to the dark, then looking again. Nothing -- though he thought he did hear branches being trampled somewhere back there.
No response. Just silence.
“I got you something!!”
He found himself suddenly close to tears. Had he really seen a beautiful naked girl there? Or was he imagining it? Thinking back on the vision, she seemed so young and sweet, and the prettiest body he had ever seen. In a rare moment of do-or-die desperation he grabbed the fence and tried to climb it, but he was defeated by the wobbliness of the fence, his tender fingers that could not support his weight, and the usual sharp pain in his lumbar discs.
A police car meandered up next to him. The office stuck his head out the window. “Anything wrong?”
“No,” he sighed. Then he decided he was not going to let this go. There was a naked girl out there. “Yes! I saw a girl back there, with no clothes on. I think she’s in trouble.”
He went the whole nine yards, filing a report with the officer, who drove around to the end of the fence to look, though he found nothing. Later that night, on his run, the trucker talked on the CB to some friends about what he saw. The word went out, of this naked girl seen at a truck stop outside of Houston, Mississippi, who had asked for clothes but then run back into the woods. As for the trucker, he thought of this girl for the rest of his life, returning to this spot from time to time over the years to think about her, and found himself for the first time in years praying -- praying to God that she would be O.K., and that someday, somehow, he would meet up with her again.