Things are slow for Mark Dalton and he spends some time driving loads in and around the Greater Toronto Area waiting for Bud to give him a long haul.
During that time Mark meets an attractive young woman named Tanya. They become intimate and just when things start going well between them, Bud comes up with some long haul loads. Mark says good-bye, but promises to be back soon.
Out on the road, each load takes Mark farther and farther from his new love. Tanya, for the most part is a patient woman, but she is constantly asking Mark when he’ll be coming home, pressuring him to return to her and making it harder and harder for him to accept loads that put more kilometres between them.
Finally he returns to her and they spend days in bed together, making Mark wonder why he ever left her arms for the road in the first place.
Mark tries delivering containers in and around the GTA for a couple of weeks to stay close to Tanya. But even though he’s been working hard and getting plenty of loads, when payday comes he’s paid far less than he’d anticipated.
Most disturbing is that the transport company had charged Mark for damage to one of its chassis that had obviously been broken long before Mark had used it for a load. Problems like that – and being in one place for too long – have Mark longing for the highway again despite Tanya’s considerable charms. Mark decides city driving’s not for him and calls Bud looking for a long-haul load.
“I’ve got a load going out to Winnipeg,” said Bud. “Pick up is late this afternoon.”
Mark considered it. Winnipeg was a good couple of days drive away, but it wasn’t quite what he had in mind. He needed a destination that made a statement. “Do you have anything farther?”
“Okay.” A pause. “How about Calgary?”
“Maybe Edmonton. Let me look.” Bud put Mark on hold and the phone beeped every 10 seconds or so while he waited.
Bud came back on the phone about two minutes later. “Well?”
“You want far, right?”
“How does Yellowknife sound?”
“Yellowknife? What goes into Yellowknife by truck?”
Bud laughed. “Just about everything, my friend.”
“Great, put me down for a load.”
“Okay, but you’ll have to pick up that load in Saskatoon.”
A pause. “And I suppose you’ll want a load out to Saskatoon as well.”
“Would be nice.”
“I can give you a load to Regina, but you’ll have to bobtail it from there to Saskatoon.”
“And you’ll have to hurry if you want to pick up the load for Regina. It’s a last-minute sort of thing and they want someone there for the load by noon today.”
“I’ll be there.”
Bud began giving Mark the details of his loads, then stopped for several moments and said, “What’s going on with you, Dalton?
Why do you want these long hauls for anyway? You were supposed to be in tight with that hot new lady friend of yours…”
Mark shrugged. “I’ll leave her a note. It’s an emergency after all, you said so yourself.”
“I said it was last minute,” replied Bud. “Not an emergency. You’ll be driving breakfast cereal into Yellowknife, not medical supplies.”
“Yeah, well, I just need to get away from her for a while. Besides, what she doesn’t know won’t hurt her.”
“She’s not the one I’m worried about,” Bud said, sounding genuinely concerned for Mark’s well being.
“Anyway, give me a call when you get to Regina.”
“Will do,” said Mark.
He grabbed a pen and a slip of paper, and began writing Tanya a note.
Mark had his cell phone turned off all the way out of Ontario.
He turned it on while in Manitoba, but only long enough to make his calls before turning it off again.
As he approached the border between Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Mark turned on his phone and left it on, expecting it to start ringing at any moment. But after making it all the way into Saskatchewan without a call, he decided there was no point in waiting any longer.
He couldn’t avoid the inevitable forever, and knew he’d have to speak with her eventually.
Mark picked up the phone and dialed Tanya’s number.
“Hello?” she said in her usual soft, sultry voice.
“Hi babe. It’s Mark.”
“Where the hell are you?” she said, her voice simultaneously rising in volume and losing its warm fuzzy edge.
“Sorry I haven’t called, but I’ve been in such a rush to get this load delivered, I haven’t had time to call.”
“You haven’t had time to call in two whole days?”
Judging by the change in her voice, it was obvious she was having trouble believing him, but Mark had taken his story too far to change it now.
“Oh, man, I’ve been driving hard since I picked up this load. Every off moment I’ve had has been used for sleep…I’m exhausted, but it’s important this load gets there on time.”
“Is it really an emergency?” There were cracks forming in her resolve. There was a chance – a slim one, but still a chance – that she might believe him.
“Absolutely. There are people in the town counting on this load getting through.” That was probably true.
There’s always somebody who needs what’s on the load, otherwise it wouldn’t be shipping.
“Well, okay,” she said, her voice once again warm, wet and inviting.
“But call me when you make the delivery. I want to know when you’re coming back home to me.”
Mark felt a shiver run down the length of his spine.
He’d only been gone a few days, but he still found her calls for his return annoying.
Maybe in another day or two I’ll feel different, he thought. “Sure thing,” he said. “I’ll call you when I get there.”
“I uh, I miss you too.”
Mark hung up, wondering why the words had been so hard for him to say.
“Hi hon,” Mark said, after he’d dropped off the load in Regina.
“You’re coming home now, right?”
Mark wondered if she’d forgotten how to say, “Hello.”
“Actually, I’ve got to head over to Saskatoon for another load.”
“Another load? Is it going to Toronto?”
Mark laughed under his breath. “I’m afraid not. This one’s going to…uh, Yellowknife.”
“Yellowknife? In the Northwest Territories?”
“That’s the one.”
“Don’t you want to come home to me?” she said, seemingly close to tears. “I thought you liked me and wanted to be with me.
Isn’t what we had together worth coming home to?”
Mark was about to speak quickly, but luckily took a moment to think about what he was going to say before opening his mouth.
Yes, what they’d together was worth coming home to, but all this other…crap, took a lot of the shine off their intimate moments.
In the end he said, “Of course it’s worth it,” thinking there still might be some hope for the two of them yet.
“Then why are you going to Yellowknife?”
That was an easy one to answer. It was about 1,200 kilometres from Saskatoon to Yellowknife and a haul like that would cover a payment on his truck, easy.
Plus, he’d never been to Yellowknife and was interested to see what the place was like.
Still, he had to massage that information a bit before passing it on to Tanya.
“A trip to Yellowknife will pay enough to let me work in Toronto for a month or two.”
“Oh,” she said, totally deflated. “Okay, then. But you come home after Yellowknife, alright?”
Mark almost said, “Yes,” but stopped himself before the word escaped his lips. “I’ll call you when I get there,” he said, and hung up the phone.
She’d taken his having to be away for several more days pretty well, but then again he’d sugar-coated his reasons for taking the load.
Mark wasn’t sure that he’d be able to put up with this sort of bickering every time he drove long-haul and vowed that his next call to her would be the o
ne that would decide the fate of their future together.
Mark fingered the dial pad of the telephone as he procrastinated over making the call.
Yellowknife was an interesting city, one that he would have liked to spend some time getting to know better if he only had the time.
Unfortunately, there was someplace else he needed to be.
He dialed the number.
“Hi Bud, it’s Mark Dalton.”
“You in Yellowknife?”
“Yes I am.”
“The reception’s great. It sounds like you’re just around the corner.”
“I’m using a land line.”
“Oh.” A pause. “I suppose you want a load.”
“Yeah, what have you got?”
“If you wait a day, I could find you something out of Edmonton heading east, or…”
Bud’s voice trailed off and Mark couldn’t be sure if the man was thinking, or just messing with him. “Or what?”
“Or you can take a LTL load of native carvings and artwork down into Vancouver.”
“I’ll take it.”
“That woman of yours is going to have a fit.”
“Maybe. Maybe not.”
Mark hung up and gave Tanya a call.
“What? Vancouver? You said you’d be coming home after Yellowknife.”
“I never said that. You did.”
“Don’t you want to see me again?”
“Of course I do.”
“When I get back.”
“And what do you expect me to do until then, spend my nights alone just waiting for you to come home?”
“No,” she said, and even though there were thousands of kilometres between them, Mark could almost see her shaking her head into the phone. “
You either start heading back east right now, or it’s over between us.”
“Is that an ultimatum?”
“No, it’s a promise.”
“Okay, I just wanted to be sure.”
Mark thought about it for a few seconds, then informed her of his decision – one of the easiest one he’d ever made.
No woman was ever going to make him choose between herself and Mother Load – there was just no comparing the two.
Mark headed out to his rig, started the engine, and pulled onto the highway heading for…Vancouver.
– Pick up next month’s edition of Truck News for more of Mark Dalton’s exciting adventures.