A dream filled with whining mosquitoes gave way to the equally unwanted buzz of the alarm clock as Aurora, still more than half asleep, smacked the off button. Something plastic clattered to the cold hardwood floor in the dark—she’d bumped Darrell’s photo off the dresser again. She switched on a light, blinking as her eyes adjusted. Darrell smiled up at her from a cheap frame in a dusty corner, his blue eyes crinkling at the corners and sandy-blond hair falling to his shoulders.
She would have plenty of time for dusting after work, alone in the apartment as usual. The photo was about all she saw of Darrell most days, since he’d taken a truck-driving course last year—not long after their marriage—and gotten a job as a long-haul trucker. He was always talking about how much he loved the job: driving the big rigs, seeing the country, being part of life’s adventures rather than just watching life go by.
Aurora could understand that feeling. After all, they had met while working at a McDonald’s just off the interstate. Last month, she had been promoted to first shift manager. The job was mostly okay, but some days she felt like it would be great to jump in a truck and never look back. Darrell had ambitious plans, saving up to buy his own truck—he had in mind that Aurora would learn to drive it and they’d be an owner-operator team.
But for now, all she drove was a beat-up old Chevy sedan, which at present was sitting in the parking lot covered with about three inches of snow—as she discovered when she looked out the bedroom window. The forecast hadn’t predicted snow overnight, and Aurora hadn’t thought to set her alarm clock earlier. Now she’d have to hurry to work, especially since she was responsible for unlocking the restaurant to let in the morning crew.
She dressed quickly and went outside, putting on thick gloves to keep her hands warm while she brushed snow off the car. A bitterly cold wind blew from the north, and the predawn sky was still pitch black. A city truck had just gone by, plowing up the snow into big dirty heaps. Aurora drove the few blocks to the highway and got on the ramp. There wasn’t much traffic yet this morning. She passed a semi, noting a Bible verse on its trailer. 1 Corinthians 16:14, it proclaimed: Let All Your Work Be Done with Love.
Well, that certainly hadn’t been the first thought in her mind, after waking up in the dark on a morning like this. And there was a slowpoke ahead in the exit lane, crawling down the ramp she needed to take. Some people had no idea how to drive in the snow. She drummed her fingers on the steering wheel as the usual list of complaints ran through her head: dreary, dull, dismal, dark, depressing winter. The sun wouldn’t rise for a long time yet. It was no wonder ancient people had made up myths about it, telling stories around the fire on the long, dark nights.
In the story from which she got her name, a chariot pulled the sun across the sky. Every morning as dawn approached, the celestial gates had to be opened to allow the chariot to pass. That was the goddess Aurora’s task. The myths had seemed silly, learning them in school; but at least they had enough simple, realistic details that it wasn’t hard to imagine being in the stories. Even goddesses had to wake up before dawn and trudge off to work.
She pictured her mythical namesake on a chilly Mediterranean morning, wrapped tightly in a wool cloak as she made her way along a windy mountain trail. From somewhere far below came the sounds of the sea. The moon had just set, and she had only the stars to light her path. She took a deep breath that tasted of pine and of the snow on the high peaks.
In the east, a pale glow brightened—the sun! Excitement rose within her as well, and she started running, the path coming clearer at each step. Her sandals slapped against the stony earth, in harmony with the hoofbeats echoing through the sky as the chariot approached. There they were before her, the golden celestial gates, shining in perfect glory! She lifted the bar, letting the gates swing wide as the chariot thundered through, feeling the thrill of its passage as it rumbled by…
The only rumbling as Aurora parked the Chevy outside the McDonald’s came from a semi on the interstate carrying cold rolled steel. The imagined hoofbeats still echoed in her mind, all the same, and the unexpected joy lingered. It wouldn’t be long—one of these days, she and Darrell would have their own truck, driving out of the east like the chariot of the sun. For now, though, her place in the world could be a meaningful one, right here where she was. Opening the gates.
Aurora found herself smiling as she unlocked the door of the restaurant, doing her work with love.