Mother Load is repaired to showroom condition after being trashed by a group of punks.
Mark marvels at the good shape the truck is in, but after narrowly avoiding a highway collision, Mark wonders if Mother Load’s luck has run out. He decides to buy a new rig and trade in the old while it’s still in one piece.
The salesman offers him $35,000 in trade, much less than the truck is worth. When Mark balks at the offer, the salesman says he can always hire someone to drive it and Mark suddenly has dreams of being a fleet owner.
Mark bought his new 379 from a dealer in Northern Ontario, choosing to buy there because the salesman never lied to him, never promised him anything, and simply shrugged his shoulders when Mark balked at his trade-in offer on Mother Load.
That had been a week ago, and in three more days Mark would be taking ownership of his new truck, 400-plus horsepower, overdrive transmission, engine brake, upper bunk and as many extended warranties as he could afford.
He decided on a dark shade of green and asked that the name “Mother Load II” be painted in small inconspicuous script on each side of the sleeper.
He paid three-quarters of the sales price in cash, leaving the rest for monthly payments.
In the meantime, he was interviewing drivers for Mother Load at a Tim Hortons in the east end of Brampton near the airport.
The area was crawling with drivers and Mark figured he’d be able to hire one easy, then have a couple of days off before they delivered his new truck on Friday.
That had been the plan, but he was into his second day of interviews and was starting to think that all kinds of people wanted to drive a truck for a living, but nobody wanted to actually work for a living.
Like this guy sitting across the table from him.
He was a young guy, decent-looking and had a clean abstract.
He seemed to be on the ball too, until Mark began telling him about the job.
“We do a lot of long-hauling, so it wouldn’t be unusual for you to make a trip west stopping in Brandon, Regina, Edmonton and Vancouver, and then making the same kind of stops on the way back again.”
“Vancouver?” the guy said. “It takes a while to drive out there.”
“Yeah,” Mark said. “It is kind of far away.”
“But I don’t want to work any weekends. My wife-“
Mark put up his hand, cutting the guy off. “Then you’re in luck.”
“Yup, the Monday-to-Friday-9-to-5 Trucking Company is interviewing at the Coffee Time down the street. If you hurry you just might catch’em before all the good routes are gone.”
“Gee, thanks,” he said, getting up to leave.
The next driver dropped by a half-hour later.
He was a young guy in his twenties wearing a new Mack ball cap and a pair of freshly washed jeans.
“You okay with working weekends?” were the first words out of Mark’s mouth.
“Weekends? Sure, no problem.”
“And you don’t mind driving long haul?”
“As long as I’m back every five days or so.”
“See, I’ve got this girlfriend and she is smokin’ hot. I’m afraid if I’m gone more than five days she’ll find someone else to turn her crank…know what I mean?”
Mark knew exactly what the man meant.
He was about to suggest that he could always take his girlfriend on the road with him, but that would be like opening up a whole new can of worms.
“And I don’t like picking up or delivering in Quebec. They don’t speak English very well there and it feels like a whole different country.”
“Okay, then. I’ve got you’re number. I’ll let you know.”
“You’ll call me, right?”
The next guy through the door seemed perfect – good driving record, clean-cut, well-spoken, willing to work – except for one small problem.
“You’re okay for the U.S., right?”
The man inhaled a breath through clenched teeth.
“I’m not sure. I did a few years in the New York state pen for assaulting a police officer… but that was a long time ago. You think that’s a problem?”
Then there were a series of drivers who probably would have been excellent, conscientious, hard working and loyal, except for the fact that they didn’t speak a word of English.
Mark was about to give up hope when a young man sat down in front of him and said, “I couldn’t help overhearing. You’re looking for a driver, right?”
“Well, your search is over, man.”
He extended his hand. “Mitch Murtog’s the name.”
Mark was dubious. Sure the guy – Mitch – was old enough to have some driving experience, and he looked well enough groomed to be a fine representative of the company, but there was something about the way he came on that put Mark on edge.
“Twelve years,” he said, pulling a few papers from an inside jacket pocket.
“It’s all there. Clean abstract, clean police record, letter of reference… and if the info you want ain’t there, I’ll get it for you.”
Mark was impressed. Mitch seemed to have everything in order and on paper, looked like the driver of his dreams.
Still, Mark couldn’t help but feel Mitch was working him like, well, one of those used truck salesmen he’d met recently.
“You work weekends?”
“Extended periods away from home?”
“No problem. In fact, don’t take this the wrong way but, sometimes the more I stay away from home, the better.”
Mark understood that.
He basically lived out of his truck and that suited him fine.
Here was a driver that was a lot like himself in many ways, and that couldn’t be all bad. “What sort of rate are you looking for?” Mark asked.
Mitch told him, and they began working out an agreement. When they were done, Mitch asked, “When can I start?”
“As soon as you want.”
“How ’bout right now?”
“Drive safe,” the salesman said, closing the door on Mark’s brand new 379, Mother Load II.
“I will,” Mark answered, sitting in the driver’s seat, shoulders back and head held high.
He took a moment to take a deep breath, simply enjoying the smell of his new truck.
It was nice to know that no one had ever spilled coffee or farted on the seat, and that he would be the only one to ever spend the night in the sleeper.
“It’s going to be fun driving this,” he said aloud, turning the key and reveling in the rattle and thrum of his brand new Cummins diesel.
Just then Mark’s cell phone rang.
“Mark, it’s Mitch. I got a flat on the right front tire.”
“Well, I thought you better get it fixed since I can’t drive it the way it is.”
Mark let out a long sigh. Of course, as a truck owner it was up to Mark to arrange for such repairs so he could keep track of cost and quality of any repair. “Where are you?”
Mitch gave Mark his exact location, on the side of the road near the military base in Trenton, Ontario.
Mark checked his book of contacts and found he had a card from a company he’d done business with in Belleville.
“Stay where you are and I’ll send someone to you. Got it?”
“No problem, boss.”
Boss. Mark liked the sound of that. Mark Dalton: Bossman.
He called the company in Belleville and gave them the location of Mitch and Mother Load.
After they assured them they’d be there in 20 minutes, Mark put Mother Load II into drive and headed south for his first load.
Before he even reached his pick-up point, Mark’s cell phone rang. He was expecting it to be Mitch, but it wasn’t.
“This is Gerry from Wright Tire in Belleville. I’m in front of the entrance to the base and there’s no truck here. I asked a guy walking the road if he’d seen any truck and he told me there had been one here with a flat tire but he got it changed and was gone about two minutes before I got here.”
“I told him to wait for you.”
“Well, he’s not here now.”
“No problem. We’ve got a minimum $50 charge for any service call. I’ll send the invoice to you in the mail.”
Mark hung up the phone, seething. He called Mitch.
“Where are you?”
“On the road, boss. Haulin’ ass.”
“Why didn’t you wait for the truck I sent?”
“You called a guy? Oh, I’m sorry I didn’t know. I was waitin’ so long, I thought you forgot, so I made a call myself and the guy came right awa
y. He wanted to repair it, but I told him to give me a whole new tire. So he did, and it only cost you $175. Isn’t that great?”
“Yeah, great,” Mark said, hanging up. He hadn’t been in business as an owner for more than a few days and he was already a couple hundred dollars in the hole.
Hopefully it was just a case of beginner’s bad luck. After all, how much else could go wrong in his first week as an owner?