A Helping Hand in France

This month marks the 8th anniversary of month long visit to Europe with my mother in tow. We left Paris on a rainy day after picking up a car on Boulevard Voltaire. Leaving the rain behind we headed south for sunny Bandol France. Somewhere south of Dijon or was it Lyon, the exact location is not important, we came upon an unattended toll booth. The sign next to our rented VW had various forms of payment to be given to lift the barrier, but what I had to give had been crossed out. Having been down this stretch of France a few years prior, my thought later was this had to be new. For some reason, maybe the fact we were stuck, I got out of the car. Next to us pulls up a minivan. Noticing the man spoke English, I blurted out, it will not take cash, nor my debit cards! He handed me, ironically, his American Express card, without a second thought and said he would meet me on the other side. I jumped into the car, grateful for no one being behind us, and inserted the ticket, then the card. It was 47 euros! On the other side of the barrier, I handed the card back, getting ready to pay that large amount when he said he didn’t want payment. His response was “Remember Chicago, Broken Hope and Jeremy Wagner.” I thanked him, and hurriedly jumped back into the car, since we were on an interstate after all and a car would eventually come. It was siesta time, now that I think about it. We were back on the road again. The day had turned sunny and it was warming up so we stopped for something to drink. Back in the car we went. An hour and a half later we stopped for fuel. As we pulled up to the pump, my mom said, “Isn’t that the van that helped us?” Sure enough in the back was Jeremy Wagner of the band Broken Hope, on a European Tour. Broken Hope is a death metal band out of Chicago, formed in 1988. We talked for a few minutes, as I tried to pay him the money. He told me just to order their new CD when it came out. We exchanged emails that day since I didn’t have Facebook, and have stayed in touch over the years. That year Omen of Disease came out with a cool t-shirt and a card with the guys made up as zombies. A chance meeting in the middle of a seemingly empty road, with help from a stranger, a fellow American with the heart of gold, what are the odds? Jeremy also is a writer, with many awards in the genre of horror fiction. Last year I told him he should write a story about the pandemic. He said he already had. Rabid Heart had come out two years prior. An omen of the future? At least a coincidence.

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