The Tow: A Short Story

by Jason Stotts

[Author’s note: this is the first short story I’ve ever written, constructive criticism would be appreciated.]

When you’re unemployed, each day is like the last and they end up running into a blur of searching for jobs, submitting resumes, and waiting anxiously for calls from potential employers.  So, when he woke up today, John expected that today would be much like every other day for the past several months.  Following his regular routine, he dragged himself out of bed, shaved, showered, and had breakfast.  As he was sitting by his window eating his eggs in his small, unadorned, apartment, he was staring blankly outside, thinking about what he could do differently to find a job before he ran out of money.  So far, he was doing alright and he had managed to be current on all his bills, but he knew time was running out.

Just then, he was startled out of his reverie as the tow truck he had only vaguely noticed pulled up to his car and began to maneuver itself into position to pick it up.  He leapt off his chair and rushed to get dressed.  By the time he was outside, the tow truck was already putting the chains on his car in order to lift it onto the bed of the truck.

“Stop!”  John yelled as he ran over to the tow truck.  “What do you think you’re doing?”

“Calm down guy,” the tow truck man said gruffly.  “I’m just doing my job.”

“There has to be some mistake, I’m not behind on my bills or speeding tickets or anything like that.  Can you at least double check that you’re getting the right car?”

“Plate’s match boss, there’s no mistake.”

“I’m not going to let you take my car!  If you don’t stop, I’m going to call the police!”  John said, mostly as a last resort, as he pulled out his cell.

“Fine by me, guy.  I’m just doing my job.”

Realizing that the threat wasn’t stopping him and that his car was almost onto the truck at this point, John call 911 and reported that his car was being stolen.

“The dispatcher said that they have someone in this area and he’ll be here in a minute.  You’re going to be sorry.”

“Listen guy, I’m just doing my job.”  The tow truck driver said, more than just a little annoyed, as he finished putting John’s car onto the truck.  He walked over to him angrily,  “What’s your problem?”

“You want to know what my problem is?  That’s my car.  I’m unemployed and without it I’ll have no way to get a job and, besides, there’s no way you’re towing the right car!”

As he finished saying it, the cop pulled up in his squad car behind the tow truck with his lights on and stepped out of his car.  He was middle aged, in good shape, and looked like he had been on the force his entire life.

“What’s the problem here, gentlemen?  We got a report that a car was being stolen.”

“Officer, this man is towing my car for no reason!  I’m not behind on my payments, I have no outstanding tickets or anything like that, and this guy is trying to take my car!”

“Okay, calm down.  What’s your name?”

“My name is John Owens, I live here,” he pointed vaguely at his apartment behind him, “and this is my car.”

“Okay,” the officer approached the tow truck operator standing by his truck.  “What’s going on here?  What’s your name and who do you work for?”

“Officer, my name is Frank and I work for ASAP Towing here in town.  I have orders from our headquarters to get this car here.  The model, make, and plates all match the orders.  It’s the right car.  I don’t know what this guy did to get his car towed, but I have a job to do.”

“Be that as it may, I’d like to get to the bottom of this first before you head out.  Do you have the number for you headquarters so I can call them and find out what’s going on?”

“Sure, officer.  It’s right here on the side of the truck.”

“John, right?  Why don’t you call down there and see what’s going on.”

“Okay.”  John took his phone back out and dialed the number on the side of the truck.

“ASAP Towing, this is Alyssa, how can I help you?” the woman on the other end of the phone answered.

“This is John Owens, I’m the owner of a Honda Civic that one of your trucks is towing right now and I want to know why.”

“I’m sorry to hear about your confusion, Mr. Owens.  Let me see what I can look up.  Just one moment.”  She put him on hold.  She returned after a short time.  “Mr. Owens?  We have a record for the tow request, but I can’t find who submitted it.  Our manager is out of the office right now, but he’ll be back in less than ten minutes.  Tell you what, why don’t you let the truck take your car down here to our office and you can take a cab, it’s not far from where you live.  We’ll sort out what’s going on and if we find that it was our mistake, we’ll compensate you for your time and trouble, how does that sound?”

“Um, hold on one second.”  John turned to the officer, “The woman on the phone says that they have the order for the tow, but that she can’t find who the order came from.  She wants me to come down there to sort it out.”

“That sounds like the best thing we can do.”  He said.  “How far is your headquarters from here, Frank?”

“Less than a mile.”

“Okay, tell you what John, I’ll give you a ride down there and you can work out what’s going on, okay?”

“Fine,” He put the phone back to his ear.  “Okay, I’m going to have someone take me down there.  I want you to know, though, that I’m very upset about this.”

“I can certainly understand your frustration, sir.  If it is our mistake, we’ll make sure to compensate you adequately for your troubles.  The address for our office is 153 Main St, just South of where Maple crosses main.  We’ll be expecting you.”

“Fine, we’ll be there soon,” John said curtly and hung up.

“Alright Frank, why don’t you head back to your headquarters and see what’s going on.  We’ll be down there shortly.”  The officer said.  “John, why don’t you get whatever you need from your house and lock up and I’ll take you down to their office.”

“Okay, thanks.”  John said.  As he ran back to his house, he turned back as the tow truck drove off with his car.  He grabbed his coat and locked his house, then ran back over to the officer, who was now sitting in his squad car.  “I’m ready.”

“Okay, I have the address, let’s go.”  He started his car and they headed the over to the office in silence; the officer, although curious about the situation, had nothing to say, while John was too worried to say anything at all.

They pulled into the address, 153 Main Street, but it was immediately apparent that something was wrong.  Although the sign did say ASAP Towing, the windows were boarded up and it was evident that they had been out of business for some time, judging by the state of disrepair.

“I don’t understand it!”  John said desperately, leaping out of the car and running over to pull on the door.  “This is the place!  Where is my car?”

The officer got out of his car and surveyed the scene.  “Well, it looks like you were right after all, your car was being stolen.”

2 Responses to “The Tow: A Short Story”

  1. Ben

    Nice. A good O. Henry-style ending.

  2. Erosophia

    […] “The Tow” – This is the first story I ever wrote and I think it’s pretty decent.  It’s not […]