Recycling Karma (edited)

Recycling Karma (edited)

A Story by Willys Watson



Doc had worked late adding some finishing touches to a remodeling job and it was half past eleven when he turned his Jeep into the service station at the corner of Highland and Beverly Blvd. After parking in front of an empty pump he headed to the all-night pay window until he noticed a car parked at the corner of the building and saw a man pounding the open trunk lid of the car with his fist.

As he approached the car Doc noticed it was an older model compact import that was long past its prime and it had a flat rear tire. The person pounding the trunk lid was a tall, slim, handsome young man, perhaps in his mid 20's, and Doc assumed he was one of the many younger actors who moved to Hollywood every year hoping to make it in the film industry. And he likely took an evening job so his days would be free to find an agent or make casting calls during the day.

"No spare, my friend?" Doc asked when close enough to start a conversation.

"Ah, man, the spare I’ve got. I even found a lug wrench," he replied as he looked up at whom he hoped was a good Samaritan offering help, then added, "I was just a dumb a*s for not checking to make sure it had a jack when I bought this old piece of s**t.’

"And your muse is having a real snit because I bet you’ve got a call back in the morning, huh?"

"Snit is too polite for what she’s thinking and I wish it was a call back. But I do have a promising open call tomorrow for a young black male actor," he laughed, then asked, "Since you’ve figured me out I guess you’ve been there, too, right?"

"Sort of," Doc responded, feeling flattered that he, a man who looked more like one of those cigarette commercial rugged looking mountain men, would somehow be considered a serious actor. "But I’m just a writer trying to sell his first screenplay."

"A lot more gigs for us actors than writers, dude, so I wish you serious luck," he said as he offered Doc his hand. "And if you’re into writing about irony my name’s Jack."

"Ironic enough for an art house film script," Doc chuckled as they shook hands. "People call me Doc. Give me a moment and I can help you with your tire’s deflated ego issue."

"Thanks, Doc," Jack countered as Doc walked back towards the pay window.

Doc paid for his gas, then opened the hatch to pull his jack out of the storage compartment and carried it back to the waiting young man.

"You need some help with the spare or jack, Jack?" Doc inquired whimsically.

"Spare jack spare, Jack?" he answered with a hearty laugh. "You’re better off writing comedy but I would stay away from the docs, Doc. And no thank you, I can handle the spare. My old man made sure we kids knew all the basics about cars."

"Been there, too. Oil change, spark plugs, the whole routine. Just get some sleep and don’t stress out about the audition and you’ll be okay," Doc suggested.

Jack nodded and started loosening the lug nuts and Doc turned to walk back to his Jeep to fill the tank.


Seven months later Doc was half-way through writing another screenplay, but was not really any closer to landing a decent agent. He was still doing carpentry work to pay the rent and his newest job was building a custom walk-in cigar humidor for an attorney living in Malibu Canyon. On his way home he had a front tire blowout on the twisting, narrow two lane blacktop Malibu Canyon Drive. Taking such happenstance in stride as a slightly skewed metaphor for his life in LA he slowly steered the vehicle safely onto the shoulder.

But when he opened the Jeep’s storage compartment panel to pull out the jack it wasn’t there. After a split-second of confusion he realized he hadn’t retrieved it from the young actor he had lent it to back at that filling station in Hollywood. Following a few minutes of chastising his mental lapse with less than mild profanity Doc unbolted the spare from its tire carrier and rolled it to the front of the Jeep, leaning it against the front fender.

Knowing his options were limited because he didn’t have AAA and even if he did he couldn’t have called them, he rested against the driver’s door and waited for a passing motorist, hoping for either a sheriff’s patrol car, a tow truck or a local kindhearted resident. As a vehicle approached he waived with one hand and pointed to the spare with the other.

At least a half-hour went by as he waited for someone to pull over to offer help and perhaps forty cars passed by without doing so. At leash a few did slow down long enough to gawk before driving off on their way into Calabasas or beyond towards the 101 Freeway but this didn’t relieve his frustration and by the time the forty-first car, a Mercedes SL with its top down, sped by with the driver pretending he didn’t even notice the Jeep stranded on the shoulder Doc was fighting his instincts to offer the drivers an obscene gesture as they passed by.

Finally a late 50's model Ford pickup truck pulled to a stop on the shoulder behind the Jeep and an older man, perhaps in his late-60's, likely not much older than the truck itself, stepped down from the cab and approached Doc.

"Need a hand, buddy?" he asked.

"Thanks, that would be great. I’ve got my spare. I just don’t have a jack."

"No problem. I’ll go get you mine," he offered.

Doc watched him as he turned to go back to his pickup. Like most older Ford trucks jacks and lug wrenches were usually kept behind the seat of the cab and the jack was the old school crank handle style, so he was surprised to see this man lift a modern floor jack from the bed of the truck. When the man returned and handed it to him Doc recognized it as a Chrysler issued jack and noticed his own initials etched into its base.

"This thing certainly looks familiar," Doc replied without reveling the story behind its untimely departure from his life because of his own forgetfulness.

"Wouldn’t doubt it," the pickup driver answered with a gentle laugh. "Its certainly been around."

"It has?" Doc wondered as he started loosening the lug nuts and his version of a good Samaritan leaned against the Jeep’s hood while they talked.

"Least in my case it has. I got it because of my truck."

"That’s a ‘58 F-100, right?" Doc guessed as he glanced over towards the vintage work truck.

You know your Fords, don’t you? But it’s a ‘57 and I bought the ‘ol girl a few months back to restore it."

"And this jack came with it when you bought it?"

"Oh, no, no, no," he quickly responded. "I bought the truck as is from a guy in West LA and though the tires were pretty bald the engine sounded good so I decided to drive it home instead of having it towed."

"So it come with the original jack?" Doc pondered aloud as he started to jack up the frame to pull the flat tire off its rim.

"Would have been nice if it did, but nope! On the way home I had a blowout on Mulholland and lucky for me I was easy on the ‘ol girl and was driving slowly and didn’t run into a guardrail."

"More wise than lucky."

"I guess so," the man admitted, then continued his story, "When I went to look there wasn’t a jack behind the seat and all I could do was hope someone came along. And this younger dude came along after awhile and offered me the jack you’re using, saying some nice guy in Hollywood gave it to him because he didn’t have one himself. The guy who gave it to me must have been in the business because he said he just left a location shoot and decided to take Hulholland for a change of scenery."

"Was he, by chance, a young black guy?"

"Nope, but its kinda odd you should ask because he told the story of how a young black actor dude who had just gotten his first part in a film was given this jack by someone and he was just keeping the lucky jack to pass it along to the next person.’

"Fate’s divine intervention," Doc suggested and when the older man didn’t seem to understand his reply, Doc amended his statement, "I’ve seem strangers offering help to others because it was the right thing to do and I try to do the same when I can. It just means there’s a lot of pretty decent people still around in the world."

"Certainly seems to be and when he told me to save it until I came across someone who needed one it that made me feel really good about the younger generation. And now I’m passing it on to you."

"That’s very kind of you," Doc replied after the last of the lug nuts were tightened and the wheel was lowered, them he told the man a sincere lie, "but I actually have a jack back at my house and just forgot to put it back when I was cleaning out my Jeep. You should hold onto it for awhile."

"I shouldn’t because he said to pass it on. Besides I bought one of those smaller hydraulic jacks that I can fit behind the seat and I can’t do that with this large one."

"Maybe so, but I think fate wants you honor her request."

"Yeah, well, I suppose I’ll do just that," he agreed as they shook hands.

With a warm smile on his face Doc watched him walk back to his old F-100, lay the heavy duty jack in the truck bed and clime into the cab. Doc returned his friendly wave as the older man drove away, then reminded himself he better go buy another jack and an extra spare one, too.

© 2017 Willys Watson

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Added on May 24, 2017
Last Updated on May 25, 2017
Tags: kindness, chance, karma


Willys Watson
Willys Watson

Los Angeles, CA

Writer, Artist, Scalawag. more..