Mark Dalton finished topping up Mother Load's tanks, picked up a cup of coffee and a copy of the Toronto Sun, then parked his rig in the far corner of the Husky lot so he could give his dispatcher Bud...
Mark Dalton finished topping up Mother Load’s tanks, picked up a cup of coffee and a copy of the Toronto Sun, then parked his rig in the far corner of the Husky lot so he could give his dispatcher Bud a call.
“Bud, this is Mark.”
“Mark who?” Bud said, back to his old trick of always acting like he didn’t know who Mark was. This didn’t bode well for Mark.
If Bud was joking around it meant he had little work and a lot of time on his hands.
“Mark,” said Mark. “Mark Getsetgo.”
“What? Get… set… go? Is that you Dalton?”
“Oh, so now you know who I am?”
“What do you want?”
“A load would be nice.”
“For you and me both.”
“You haven’t got anything?” Mark asked.
“Dead as a raccoon run over by a Freightliner.”
That was dead all right, but in the past there had been times when Bud had cried “No work,” while keeping a few choice loads for his top drivers.
“You sure you haven’t got something there in the office for me… You know, Mark Dalton, the guy you always give the tough assignments to ’cause you know he’ll get the job done. You haven’t got any work for that guy?”
“Nice try, Dalton,” Bud replied. “But this time when I say I haven’t got any work, I really haven’t got any work.”
Mark sighed. This was not good. He had a brand new truck to pay off and he needed some steady work, or if not that, then at least a decent long haul to put some miles on his odometer.
“C’mon Bud, I’ve got payments to make and the bank’s not going to care if you don’t have any work for me.”
“Well, there is something…”
“What? Tell me, I’ll do it.”
“There’s a guy I know who owns a container company out by the airport. He says he’s looking for drivers and owner/operators to do city routes for him, day and night.”
Mark sucked a bit of air between his teeth.
Those kinds of transport companies always seemed to be looking for drivers.
Mark had done some work hauling containers before and it had been a tough way to make a living.
A lot of your time was unpaid while you sat in line-ups at the railway yards waiting to pick up your load.
But that was years ago, Mark thought, surely they must have streamlined the process by now. “Where’s the place?” Mark said at last. “Maybe I’ll go check it out.”
Bud gave him the info.
Mark was hooked up to a standard 40-ft chassis less than 30 minutes after arriving at the Land and Sea Transport yard in Mississauga.
However, two hours after that he was still sitting in line at CN Brampton waiting for his container.
Once he finally got the container, it took him less than 20 minutes to make the delivery, then it was back in line at the rail yard waiting for another container.
He got the box loaded onto his chassis at 4:45 p.m., but by the time he got to the warehouse it was after five and the loading dock was closed for the day.
Frustrated by the day’s events, Mark had no other choice than to go back to the yard and sit there with the load until the warehouse opened again at 8 a.m. the next morning.
As he checked out his paperwork for the day, Mark calculated that when all things were considered, like fuel, insurance, and wear and tear on his truck, he’d probably made all of $50 on the day.
And when you calculated that amount in terms of the time it had taken him to earn it, he’d probably earned less than $10 an hour for his trouble.
Well, it didn’t take a genius to figure out that there were plenty of jobs out there that paid as much or more but didn’t come with the added headaches of keeping your rig on the road. No wonder these companies go through so many drivers, he thought.
But in the end, Mark wasn’t complaining.
Fifty dollars was more than he would have earned doing nothing all day, and it was only a short-term thing until Bud found a decent long-haul load for him.
With a couple of hours until his regular bedtime, Mark locked up his rig and took a walk. There were a couple of strip joints near the yard, but Mark wasn’t in the mood for peelers.
Something to eat, a cup of coffee and a newspaper were more his speed tonight, so he decided to get a sandwich at a deli just down the road from the yard.
She caught his eye the moment he walked through the door.
She was older than him by a few years, but she was tall and fit with a body that suggested a maturity and experience that younger women just couldn’t match. She said hello to him and her smile was another new surprise, bright and warm and looking like she was genuinely glad to see him.
“What’ll you have?” she said, pouring him a cup of coffee before he even sat down.
“Some kind of sandwich,” Mark said, feeling a bit of a lump in his throat. She was just so attractive, the sort of woman he’d been looking for ever since his first marriage had crashed and burned.
“I’ll have that, then.”
When she brought him the sandwich he asked, “What’s your name?”
Her smile grew even wider. “Well, aren’t you forward.”
“What is it?”
“Tanya,” she said.
“Mine’s Mark… Mark Dalton,” he said, taking a look around the mostly empty shop. “Why don’t you sit down. We could talk.”
She hesitated at first, then after looking around herself and verifying that the place could get along just fine without her services, she sat down across the table from Mark.
They chatted until closing time.
The next day Bud still didn’t have any long haul loads, but Mark didn’t care so much. He gladly spent the entire day picking up three loads and earning $100 for the day, just so he could visit Tanya in the coffee shop later that evening.
She was there, and what’s more it seemed as if she’d been looking for him and was happy that he’d shown.
This time, instead of waiting for Mark to invite her to sit, she brought him a fresh sandwich and sat right down at the table.
“I was worried you weren’t going to drop by.”
Mark saw the smile on her face and caught the look in her eye and couldn’t help feeling that this might be his lucky night.
“Of course I’d be coming by. Sandwiches I can get anywhere, but there’s only one Tanya.”
Judging by the look on Tanya’s face, Mark had just about said the most perfect thing.
Her eyes widened and her mouth opened slightly as if she’d let out a gasp.
“I’m not doing anything after closing time,” she said. “Do you have a car? Maybe we could go for a ride somewhere?”
Mark was about to tell her his truck had its own bed, but decided that would be a little pushy.
So he simply said, “I don’t exactly have a car, but the ride is smooth enough.”
Tanya giggled at that, then said. “I’ll see if I can get off early.”
They drove around in Mother Load for a couple of hours, talking, then parked for a while at the end of one of the airport’s runways to watch the planes take off and land.
They kissed a little, but Mark didn’t sleep with her that night. Like a gentleman, he brought her home to her apartment and spent another night in Mother Load. The following night however, both he and Tanya seemed ready for a more physical relationship.
After Tanya got off work, Mark drove straight to her place where they immediately wound up in bed.
In the morning, with Mark debating whether he should get out of bed to haul containers and earn less than a C-note for his troubles, his cell phone rang.
“Dalton,” barked the voice on the other end. “It’s Bud.”
Mark smiled. “Bud who?”
“Don’t give me that crap Dalton. I’ve got a load of car parts headed for Edmonton… you want it?”
Mark sat up in bed. “Yeah, sure. Great!”
Bud gave him the details.
When he hung up the phone, Tanya rolled over and asked,
“What’s so great… as if I have to ask.”
“Oh,” Mark hesitated, realizing this could be awkward. “That was my dispatcher. He’s got a load for me. A good load. So, I…
I’ve gotta go.”
t?” she said. “You’re leaving, just like that! After what we…,”
“It’s not like that at all. It’s a good load and I need the money. And I’ll be back.” He smiled and kissed her naked shoulder. “I promise you that.”
“Where are you be going?”
“Alberta? How long will you be away?”
“Just a couple of days. Maybe a bit longer if I get something out of Edmonton heading west.”
“Like to where?”
Tanya began shaking her head. “I don’t believe this,” she whispered, sliding a hand over his chest and belly. “Everything’s going so well. Are you sure you have to go?”
Mark considered it. She made a very persuasive argument for staying, but the bottom line was that living and working in the city was costing him too much money. He had to get out and start putting miles under his wheels.
“I’ve got to start taking some loads that really pay, or I could have trouble hanging on to my truck.”
Tanya’s shoulders slumped in obvious disappointment and she let out a long, heartfelt sigh.
Then she climbed up on top of him and gave him a long, hot kiss goodbye.
“I’ll be waiting for you when you get back.”
Mark couldn’t believe his luck. He had a new truck, a good load in front of him and the love of a good woman to return to.
Mark’s life might have been better at some point, but he couldn’t remember when.