We were still an hour away from the North Woods Comic Convention when Victor’s minivan blew a tire. It looked like the whole thing just fell apart, like it suddenly got tired and gave up. For a few minutes we gathered around the tire’s remains, each of the four of us awkwardly holding one of the van’s stock automotive tools, pretending like we knew what the hell we were supposed to do next. The sky had really opened up by then, sending down a deluge, so we hurried back into the safety and comfort of the minivan before our costumes and make-up got ruined. Victor called his insurance company and they said they’d coordinate with a tow truck company.
While we waited on the tow truck, we flipped through the convention’s schedule for the hundredth time that week, checking to make sure we were each going to the right panels at the appropriate time. There was no way we were going to miss the talk on adapting comics into films. There were some tremendous names attached to that panel.
The rain stepped up its game as if to say, just because you’re in that van doesn’t mean you can ignore me. It began hammering on the minivan’s roof, sounding like someone had unloaded an entire truck’s worth of pea gravel on top of the van. We could barely hear the radio, and we had to shout to have a conversation.
Vehicles whipped past us, with wake of the semis buffeting the van and rocking it on the axles.
Close to an hour later we watched the red and yellow lights of the tow truck pass our van and then back up. We’d miss the first few signing lines, but if this got squared away quickly, we’d make it in time for the first panel.
We climb out of the van to meet the tow truck driver on the shoulder. The name tag on his jack read, “Howie.”
“What seems to be the trouble?” Howie asked.
We showed him the remnants of the tire, and he got to work on changing out the rubber nightmare for the spare. There was nothing we could do to help, but it felt right to stand out there with him while he worked. If he was going to get soaked, it only made sense that we should suffer in solidarity. We certainly wouldn’t win any costume contests this year, but supporting Howie was a solid reason for forfeiture.
Howie finished tightening the lug nuts and tossed the wrecked tire into the minivan’s trunk.
“How far you guys going?” he asked.
We told him Cedar Crossing, and he got this weird look on his face.
“You probably don’t want to go that far on the donut there. There’s a tire shop in the next town up. THey might have what you need.”
We thanked him and after Victor signed the necessary paperwork, we slipped him a twenty for his troubles. He thanked us, and as he pocketed the cash he pointed at the hood ornament on Victor’s minivan.
“You guys are into D&D?” Howie asked.
We thought it was pretty obvious that we’d be into gaming, given the fact that the four of us were dressed as various superheroes and sci fi creatures, but we appreciated that Howie didn’t make assumptions.
The hood ornament was a custom job crafted in the shape of the Mercury symbol by made up of polyhedral dice, with the d20 at its nexus.
We told him that we were, and that we had just ended our largest campaign yet the night before.
“No shit,” he said. “I’ve been playing with some buddies for a few years, but my son just started to take an interest. I’m looking forward to running a few games with him.”
We thought Howie looked like the kind of guys who used to beat the hell out of us in high school for being into D&D. It never felt better to be wrong.
We thanked Howie once again, and then told him about the convention, and he said that he might see us there.
We piled back into Victor’s minivan, and waved goodbye through the sheets of rain. When a pocket in traffic opened up, we took our chance, and barreled north.