Exclusive Excerpt from A New Life
by Mel Gough
This is the first flashback chapter from the storyline that runs alongside the main plot.
Eighteen Months Earlier
Donnie’s truck was messed up. It had been leaking fluid from somewhere below for several days, and no hoping that it would stop on its own changed the fact that he would have to take it to the garage.
The problem was, Donnie was broke. He never had much money, since he worked at the community center as a volunteer, and Floyd rarely shared his benefit checks with him. Most of that money went on booze and, increasingly again, drugs.
On Wednesday, as Donnie drove to work, a red dashboard warning light came on. When he was small he’d dreamed of being able to fix cars, but nobody had bothered to show him how. But he knew that the red light meant that something was overheating, and all the way into town he prayed that he wouldn’t break down.
He made it, just about. The clanking from the engine had him wonder if he’d get to the center before the engine gave out. As he rolled into the staff car park, Arthur got out of his Volvo.
“Morning, Donnie,” Arthur greeted him as he climbed from the truck. He nodded at the hood. “That doesn’t sound so amazing.”
“I know.” Donnie chewed his lip and stared at his feet.
“You might want to have that checked,” Arthur continued.
“Donnie.” Arthur’s voice was low and kind. Donnie knew the tone. He looked up. The old man’s eyes were very gentle. “You don’t have any money to have the truck fixed, do you?”
Tears of shame stung the corners of Donnie’s eyes. He shook his head.
Arthur reached into his back pocket.
Donnie’s heart sank. “No, don’t, Arthur…”
“If you don’t have a functioning vehicle, you can’t come to work. And what do we do then?” Arthur said decisively, and pulled out a wad of cash. “Don’t worry, it’s not my money. These are the donations from the church fundraiser, I just picked it up from the pastor.” He flicked through the notes. “Do you know what’s wrong with it?”
“There’s water dripping out,” Donnie said, feeling embarrassed that he didn’t know more about cars.
“Hmm, could be the radiator hose,” Arthur murmured. “That’d be about seventy dollars or so. But if the radiator’s shot it could easily be four hundred…” He glanced at the cash, then held the whole wad out to Donnie. “Tell you what, take it all. If it’s the hose only, you bring me back the rest. If not…” Arthur shrugged. “Shit happens.”
Donnie had to bite back the tears. “Thanks, Arthur,” he whispered.
“Hey, son, it’s the least I can do.” The old man smiled. “You should know by now: If it was up to me, you’d be earning a proper salary.”