Christmas Soup

Tim Barton
Equipment Editor
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The rabbi told him he would always be a Jew. His mother was Jewish and his daddy was a Baptist minister. “Fine with me,” Sam told him. His momma was French, all the way from Nova Scotia to Louisiana. But Sam turned out to be a Mormon, converting of his free will when he was 18, looking for a faith to keep the family first.

Sam would always be a truck driver, too. And he would always be a soldier, a recon guy who went after shot-down and shot-up pilots in places where no Yankee grunts were supposed to be. Sometimes he wakes up in the malaria sweat he got over there, seeing things he never wanted to see. Some things a man is born into, some things happen to him and some he gets to choose.

Maybe you were out over Thanksgiving and it looks like you are going to be out over Christmas. You are in the Keystone when you want to be in Texas. Your wife is on the phone telling you the kids are coming in. Sometimes you hate the thing you love the most.

The family always had Hanukkah and Christmas at their house when he was a kid. Now it’s just Christmas. Momma’s gone and the kids don’t know how to say Hanukkah. Maybe it’s all just an excuse to get together and be a family again anyway.

You come out of Philly, through all the Christmas lights and then hit the country on Highway 30. The Amish farms are dark. The Amish don’t need much, it seems.

Sam is empty now and looking for a little town where there is supposed to be a load. For some reason he is sweating cold bullets – shaking, too. He remembers standing at the ATM back there and the screen was blurry. He sits down and waits to get his focus while another driver puts his card in. The big driver swears and tells the cashier the machine is out of money.

“How much do you need to get off the pike,” Sam asks him. The question startles the big man. “Forty bucks.” Sam figures that driver needs it more than he does and forks over two 20s. The driver looks confused but finally says he’ll send it to Sam. Sure. Sam doesn’t remember anybody ever paying back a loan.

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Sam’s truck is hot and he doesn’t need to chase this load. He needs to sleep and figure out what ails him. In front of a farmhouse there’s a wide spot. Sam stops, gets out for some air and falls down.

It starts to snow and he doesn’t know if he can get up. It’s already dark and the only life is half a mile away at the farm. He is thinking maybe the snow will keep the fever down and then he doesn’t remember anything until he wakes up in a bed where a tall, old man in black is stoking a fire.

He sees Sam moving. “Your truck is in the barn,” he says. “Would you like some soup?”

“Yes, but

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