After returning from a long haul to the west coast, Mark Dalton’s dispatcher Bud asks him for a favor. He reluctantly agrees to do some local work…
The next day, Mark showed up at the Intra-City Truck Lines truck yard looking forward to doing something different for the next few days. No doubt, there would be plenty of headaches doing short distance deliveries rather than longhaul across the country, but the change of scenery just might do him some good.
Since he would be using a company truck for this gig, Mark parked Mother Load away in a far corner of the lot, but under a light standard that would no doubt keep his truck bathed in light – and less of a target for thieves – overnight.
Early on in Mark’s truck driving career, he would park his rig in secluded spots thinking that if it were out of the way no one would bother with it. But after his truck had been broken into a few times, he began parking in the brightest, most prominent spot he could find, preferably close to the road where plenty of people passed by both day and night.
After ensuring Mother Load was secure, Mark made the long walk across the yard towards the company office. As he moved along, he scanned the trucks parked around him looking for the short trailer he was supposed to be driving. Funny thing was, there wasn’t a single short trailer in the yard to be seen.
“This is not looking good,” he mumbled under his breath. Instead of short trailers there seemed to be no shortage of long straight trucks with six of them in total, each one looking as if it could spend a week in the garage – and still looking like they were long past their prime.
The door to the office was foggy with dirt and there was the gluey residue of several stickers that had been peeled away over the years – the kind that said, Office, Open and No Cash on Premises.
Inside the office sat an older secretary who looked as if she’d been with the company for 35 years and probably knew more about the day-to-day operation of the business than whoever was in charge these days.
“Hi,” Mark said. “I’m Mark Dalton.”
“Who?” she asked.
This can’t be happening, Mark thought.
He tried again. “Mark Dalton. I’m supposed to be driving a taxi truck today. I was told to ask for Magic,” Mark said the name as if it were a question.
“Macek,” she said. “It’s the Polish name. He’s the foreman.”
“Ah, can I see him, please?”
“Have a seat.”
Mark took a seat in one of the battered chairs near the window overlooking the yard and glanced around for something to read. All there was on the table in front of him was a two-month-old copy of Truck News magazine which he’d already read. Luckily, Mark was left with no time to read as a minute later a man came out of one of the open doors behind the secretary and a large wiry man strode up to Mark and thrust out his hand.
“Thanks for doing this,” he said. “My name’s Macek.”
“Uh, you’re welcome, I guess. I’m Mark Dalton.”
“I know, I know. I’m happy you’re here.”
Mark looked out across the truck yard and saw several trucks moving and other men and women moving in between the parked trucks.
“I’m flattered,” he said. “But it looks like you’ve got plenty of drivers working for you. Why do you need me?”
Macek laughed, deep and throaty like he’d been smoking heavily since he’d been 12 years old. “I know how they drive already. I want someone good to do this for me…at least at the beginning. I don’t know if you know this, but Bud speaks very highly of you. Says you’re his best.”
“Nice of you to say,” said Mark. “But that doesn’t sound like the Bud I know.”
Macek let out another laugh and slapped Mark on the back. “Let’s go to your truck,” he said, opening the door to the yard for Mark.
Out in the yard, Mark was led toward one of the straight trucks lined up on one side of the yard. “Uh, I was told I’d be driving a trailer. A real short trailer.”
“We have one,” Macek said. “But we needed it for a run to Montreal.”
He put his hand on the fender of the straight truck before them.
“This truck runs great. It hasn’t broken down in months.”
So, it’s due for a break down, was all Mark could think. “This has got to be 45 feet from front to back. If I’m driving in the city, shouldn’t I have something more like 30 or 25 feet?”
Longer trucks were hard to drive in the tight confines of the city, especially in downtown settings. A short truck could move around more easily and a short trailer could turn even sharper in tight confines. “This thing’s going to be so hard to move around.”
“See, that’s why I need your advice.”
Mark wasn’t impressed. Any of his drivers could have told him that. He shook his head, wondering what else would change before he got onto the road.
“I was told I would have a helper.”
Macek nodded. “That would be my son. He’s not here yet.”
“You told me to be here by nine.”
“And you are. Thank you.”
Just then, a late model Mustang pulled into the lot and came to a screeching stop just a few feet from where they were both standing.
“Here he is,” said Macek. “This is my son, Martin.” A pause. “And your name again?” he asked Mark.
“Mark!” said Mark. “Mark Dalton.”
“Yes, that’s it. Sorry I forgot. Mark.”
Mark looked over at the younger man who’d just gotten out of his car. “You’re late,” he said.
“We don’t have anywhere to go,” Martin replied.
Mark looked over at Macek with a blank stare.
“It’s a taxi truck,” Macek said. “We have to wait for calls.”
Mark sighed, but at that moment Macek’s cell phone rang and he took the call, scribbling something down on a scrap of paper. “Here you go,” Macek said. “It’s our first pick-up.”
Mark took the slip of paper from Macek and read it.
“What are you doing?” Macek said.
“I’m reading your note to see where it is that I have to go.”
“There’s no time for that,” Macek said, putting a hand against Mark’s back and moving him in the direction of the truck. “Go, go, go!”
Mark took the keys from the man and began walking toward the straight truck he’d be driving through the city for the next few days. And all he could think was, What have I gotten myself into this time?
Mark Dalton returns next month in part three of Dalton is hailed a cab.