Down in the Dumps

by Edo van Belkom

Mark Dalton: Owner/operator

Mark had tried to clean up the inside of “Mother Load” after it had been stolen and recovered, but it was one of those jobs that required the services of a professional.

The candy wrappers laying around the cab were easy enough to pick up, but the chocolate that was ground into the carpet was going to need some heavy duty shampooing to come clean. And then there was the ever-present smell of urine …

He still couldn’t believe it.

How could a driver take a leak inside the cab? Even damn cats knew not to shit and eat in the same place.

No wonder Randy Reynolds had never been able to hold onto a job for very long. Anyone who’d pee in another man’s truck was clearly not part of the same fraternity of truck drivers that Mark belonged to.

But grumbling over the state of his truck wasn’t going to get it any cleaner. He needed someone with the proper tools and equipment to give his truck a good scrub, inside and out.

A quick check of his insurance policy informed Mark that he was allowed to claim an amount in restorative costs following any theft or vandalism, as long as the claim was accompanied by a copy of a police report specifying the damage done to the truck. Well, Mark had a copy of the report and there was a pretty good list of things that were found wrong with the truck upon recovery.

Of course, just because his insurance company said it would cover the cost of clean-up, that didn’t necessarily mean Mark would want to put in a claim. He’d heard insurance companies described in plenty of ways, but the description he liked best was that insurance companies would loan you an umbrella on a sunny day, but would ask for it back the moment it start raining. Like many drivers, Mark’s insurance rates had nearly doubled in the last year and the last thing he wanted to do was make a claim and see his premiums go through the roof. He needed to have his truck cleaned – no doubt about that – but he’d decide what to do about the claim after the work was done, depending on the total charge.

After sitting down to a hot cup of coffee and a Boston cream donut, Mark picked up a copy of the Toronto phone book and looked under “Auto Detailing” for a nearby shop.

There was nothing in the phone book that set one place apart from another, so he picked one with a catchy name that wasn’t too far from his present location. Sweet & Cherry … Probably two hard-working young guys who took real pride in their work. That was the place for him.

Mark finished his donut, gulped down the last of his coffee and grabbed a newspaper from one of the tables on his way out of the shop.

When he got to his truck, he laid the newspaper down on the seat, then climbed in. It stunk like piss and his hands stuck to everything he touched. After rolling the window down for some fresh air, he started up the truck and hurried out of the lot headed for Sweet & Cherry.

Just thinking about the place, made his truck smell better.

Sweet & Cherry was located on Dufferin Avenue just north of Wilson in behind a gas station on the northeast corner of the intersection. There were more than a dozen cars parked in the lot in front of the shop, SUVs mostly, but also a healthy assortment of other makes like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Hummer, Lexus and Jaguar. There were even a few big old Cadillacs thrown in for good measure.

All of them were immaculately clean.

Chrome shone, windows gleamed, and the paint jobs on each vehicle were so shiny it was hard to even look at them without sunglasses on.

“Oh yeah,” he said to himself. “These guys are good.”

He pulled into the lot, slowing the truck down to a crawl in order not to hit any of the cars on either side of him.

It was a tight fit, especially since there was one blood-red Ferrari parked there that was so low to the ground he almost ran it over with his front left tire.

Finally, when he had Mother Load parked off to the side and away from the rest of the cars, Mark engaged the parking brake, shut off the engine and climbed down out of the truck. Then he closed the door behind him and turned toward the shop… only to find four people standing outside the front door of the place staring at him.

‘What’s their problem?’ he wondered, turning around to see if there was some sight to behold directly behind him. But there was only Mother Load.

“It’s a truck,” someone said.

“No,” Mark said, casually throwing his thumb over his shoulder. “It’s not just a truck, it’s a Peterbilt.” He began walking toward the group of people outside the shop. “Best of all, it’s bought and paid for.”

“It’s a big truck!” the voice said again.

“Oh yeah, it’s big all right,” Mark said. “It’s dirty too, inside and out. That’s why I’m here.”

A young blonde-haired man stepped forward. His hair was pulled back in a pony-tail giving Mark an unobstructed view of the four earrings in his left ear – two on the bottom, two on the top. There were Doc Martens on his feet, and the cuffs at the bottom of his Chinos were pressed to a knife edge.

He had a sweater on that sported the words “The Nylons” over his heart and since there were four microphones under the words, Mark assumed it had something to do with the singing group.

The man looked over at Mother Load and then back at Mark, lowering his head so he was looking at Mark over the top of his thick-rimmed granny glasses. “You want us to clean your truck?”

Mark wondered how the guy was able to ask a question and make it sound like he was wiping something messy off his shoe all at the same time. “It is what you do here, isn’t it?”

“We clean cars here… Expensive cars. We don’t do trucks.”

“Why not?”

“Because they’re dirty.”

Mark didn’t understand. “Cars get dirty too, don’t they?”

“Not these cars.”

“Why not?”

“Their owners usually wash them before they bring them to us. After that, we make them shine.”

Mark thought about taking Mother Load elsewhere, but there was just something about this guy’s attitude that convinced Mark he was going to get his truck cleaned by Sweet & Cherry no matter what.

He looked over his shoulder at Mother Load and said, “So give it a wash before you make it shine.”

The guy laughed then, like Mark was some plow-jockey who just drove into town on Saturday night. “We’re pretty expensive.”

That really pissed Mark off.

No way he was going to let these guys discriminate against him because he drove a truck.

They were going to clean up Mother Load with toothbrushes and Q-tips if he wanted – end of story.

“You think I don’t have money, just because I drive a truck for a living.”

“Just trying to warn you.”

Mark could feel himself slipping out of control, but he couldn’t help it. Maybe it was all the built-up anger over Mother Load being stolen, or the feeling of defilement he had after seeing the condition the truck had come back to him in, but he wasn’t going to take any bullshit from anyone, especially if their name happened to be Sweet or Cherry.

“You clean my truck and make it shine like the rest of the vehicles on this lot,” he said. “I want the best you’ve got, and I don’t care how much it costs me.” Mark almost felt himself on the verge of tears. “She deserves the best.”

The guy put up his hands and shook his head like Mark was carrying an unbalanced load. “Sure, man. Whatever you want.”

“Well, all right, then.” Mark still wanted to be angry, but the guy’s compliance had stolen all of his thunder.

“Come with me and we’ll make up a work order.”

Mark nodded, then followed the guy to the office. “What’s your name, by the way.”

“Thatch Waverly.”

Thatch, thought Mark. What kind of a name is Thatch? “Then who’s Sweet & Cherry?”

“Nobody. That’s the condition the cars are in when they leave our lot.”

“Oh, I see.”

It took Thatch Waverly about 20 minutes to go down the list of options available which ranged from the brand of chrome polish Mark preferred to the scent he would like for the interior of the vehicle.

Mark wanted to ask what this was all going to cost him, but he’d already put his foot in his mouth by
saying he didn’t care how much it cost.

So instead, he explained about Mother Load being stolen and asked, “Do you guys bill insurance companies?”

Thatch shook his head.

“Too much hassle. We bill you, and you figure it out with your insurer.”

“Oh, okay,” Mark said, starting to get a bad feeling in the pit of his stomach.

“Now,” said Thatch, clapping his hands together.

“We won’t be able to finish the job today, so there will be no charge for leaving your truck with us tonight, but if you can’t pick it up by the end of business tomorrow we’ll have to charge you for the second night’s stay. Okay?”

Mark smiled, wondering if he were leaving Mother Load in a detailing shop or a five-star hotel. Charging him to keep his truck parked in their lot seemed strange, but Mark figured there wouldn’t be any reason why he couldn’t pick up the truck tomorrow afternoon.

Besides, this place was basically just a glorified car wash. How much could go wrong in a day?

– Edo van Belkom’s latest book is Be Very Afraid! To order it, or any of his other titles, visit Meanwhile, Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 2 of Down in the Dumps.

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