Mail-Order Millionaire

By: Carol Grace



Ariel held the underwear up, her arms stretched out as wide as they’d go. Miranda’s eyes moved from shoulder to shoulder, across the itch-free cotton. “Could he be that large?” Ariel asked, biting her lip anxiously.

Miranda threw her hands in the air. “I don’t know. Maybe he looks like the Incredible Hulk. Put it in a bag. I’ve got to get going.” She waved to her sister over her shoulder, left the building, got into her truck and headed onto the Interstate. The weather stayed clear and cold, just as he’d said, and she arrived at the ranger station with minutes to spare. There was a Sno-Cat parked outside the door and she ran her gloved hand over the treads.

“How do you like her?” A male voice came from behind her. She turned. A man in a down jacket and a hat with flaps over the ears smiled proudly at the shiny machine.

“Great. I’ve got a tractor at home. A little older and a little worse for wear. The clutch went out last summer.”

“They do that when they get old. This one here’s probably a lot like yours, just newer.”

“Are you the ranger? I’ve got a package for Mr. Carter, the meteorologist.”

“Yep. You can put it inside with the food and the rest of the mail. He’ll be glad to see you. Nobody’s been up for a week, and he’s running low on fresh food. I started up last Monday, but had to turn back because of the fog.”

“Oh, no, I’m not going up. I’m just delivering the package. Mr. Carter said to leave it here.” She glanced up at the snow-packed road that wound up the mountain.

“Up to you.” The ranger looked her over. “Can’t believe he told you just to leave it. Does he know you very well?”

“Not at all. I mean, just on the phone.” She pulled her hat down over her ears. “Have you worked here long?”

“Me? About five years. Max has only been here over a year. Came up from someplace in Georgia.”

“I thought maybe he’d be retiring soon,” she said, feeling shameless.

“Because of the inheritance he got from his uncle? Not him, he loves his job.”

“Of course he does,” she said, idly wondering just how much was this so-called inheritance. “I was thinking more about his age.” Now it was his turn to say….

“He’s only thirty-two,” the man said. “And he’s in good shape, so I don’t see him retiring any time soon.”

“Oh, no, of course not.” She took a deep breath and gathered her courage. “But it must be hard on wives being separated from their husbands. . .”

Fred nodded vigorously. “You can say that again. My wife doesn’t even want me driving up there, for fear I might get stuck and not get down, especially now— Is that the phone?”

He turned and disappeared into the small concrete structure that housed the station. Miranda opened the door to the tractor and climbed in. She put the box in the back of the vehicle, and then, unable to resist, sat on the comfortable padded seat, pushing the gas pedal and working the gearshift through its four positions. As soon as she had the money, she’d get her tractor fixed, before summer, if possible, so she could put in some barley.

She looked up to see Fred knocking frantically on the windshield. “Oh, miss, I’ve got to go. My wife’s in labor. Could you just slide the keys in the ashtray?”

Miranda opened the side window to answer, but he was gone. Somewhere in the distance she heard a car start, wheels squeal and then she saw him drive past her, waving with one hand and steering with the other. For several moments she sat staring out the windshield at the mountains in front of her. She’d been driving tractors since she was fifteen, but never a Sno-Cat. She’d always wanted to drive one, but never had the chance. She had no doubt she could drive it on open flat ground, but up a snow-covered mountain road?

She could see there were markers on either side of the road, and she wouldn’t run into any traffic. On the other hand she had fulfilled her responsibility. She’d delivered the boots to the ranger station. It wasn’t her fault if the ranger had a more important delivery to attend to. Max Carter couldn’t blame her this time. Or could he?

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