Down in the dumps – Part 2

by Edo van Belkom

The story so far…

After the man who stole Mother Load left it soiled and dirty, Mark decides to get his rig professionally cleaned by an auto detailer. He picks a shop called Sweet & Cherry only to find that the shop owner isn’t interested in working on trucks. In fact, he looks down his nose at Mark as if trucks were beneath him. Mark is angered by this and insists they clean his truck, no matter what the cost. Reluctantly the shop owner agrees to do the work on Mother Load.

After dropping off Mother Load at Sweet & Cherry, Mark decided to call his dispatcher, Bud, and let him know he’d be out of action for the next two days. Hopefully Bud would have a load for him by the end of the week and Mark would be able to get a clean start with a fresh new Mother Load.


“Hi Bud, this is Mark.”

“Mark? Mark who?”

It was funny how everything in Mark’s life could be turned upside down by life, but Bud never changed. He could always be counted on to be irritable, annoyed and rude. And that’s what made him so good at his job.

“Mark O’Polo,” Mark said. “I’m the new Irish driver you hired last week.”


“Yeah. My rig’s getting cleaned and detailed today and tomorrow, so I’m looking for a load toward the end of the week.”

“Detailed? You mean cleaned with little brushes?”

“I guess so.”

“Those places charge a fortune.”

Mark knew the service at Sweet & Cherry would be expensive, but as long as his insurance company would be taking care of it, Mark hadn’t been all that worried. “Insurance should cover it.”

“Yeah, but there’s usually a limit to the amount you can claim for something like that. And there’ll probably be a pretty stiff deductible amount too.”

Suddenly Mark could see this little episode costing him dearly, but he wasn’t about to admit as much to Bud. “Whatever it costs, it’ll be worth it to have her back shiny clean and good as new.”

“If you think so.”

Mark could almost see Bud shrugging his shoulders at the other end of the line.

“So will you have something for me the day after tomorrow?”

“Nothing right now, but I’ll see what I can do…” Bud’s voice trailed off and there were a few moments of silence, as if he were thinking. “Wait a minute! What are you doing the rest of today and tomorrow?”

“Reading books and watching TV, I guess. Why?”

“I know a guy in town who owns a few dump trucks. He’s always looking for short-term drivers.”

“I don’t know anything about dump trucks.”

“What’s to know? Box goes up. Box goes down. Besides, this guy usually pays in cash at the end of the day… which might come in handy when you go to get your truck back.”

Mark figured Bud was right. Cash was always a good thing and it would be smart to be ready for the bill when it came.

“Okay, sure. I’ll give it a try.”

Bud gave Mark the number to call.

The guy’s name was Boris Bordenski and he seemed happy to hear from Mark.

“When can you start work?” he asked in a thick Eastern European accent after Mark explained who he was and the situation he was in.

When Mark said he could start work right away, Boris gave him the address of his yard and told Mark to hop in a cab. “I even pay, okay?”

And so Mark called a cab and went to the BB haulage yard at Albion Road and Highway 50, in northwest Toronto.

“You drive truck long time?” Boris asked Mark as they headed out into the yard toward a line of trucks that had long since seen their prime.

“I’ve been driving for years, but never dump trucks.”

“That’s okay. You have licence, right?”


“Then is okay.”

Mark was beginning to have reservations about driving for this man, but he’d paid the cab driver the moment he arrived and cash money at the end of the day wasn’t an easy thing to turn your back on.

“This truck for you,” Boris said.

It was a Mack dumper, that was obvious, but Mark couldn’t be sure how old the truck was. It could be five years old, it could be 10.

After he started up the truck – which Mark was happy to hear ran like a charm – Boris gave Mark a crash course on dump truck operation. “Here’s controls,” he said. “This make box go up. This make box go down.” He pointed to the controls in turn. “Up. Down. Up. Down. Now you try.”

Mark mastered the two controls, but thought there had to be more to driving a dump truck than just being able to lift and lower the box.

There was.

In a quick 20-minute talk, Boris told Mark everything he’d need to know about driving a dump truck. The problem was that it seemed to Mark that this stuff should be taught over a couple of weeks inside a classroom, and then maybe another week of practical training on the road, but here it was in a nutshell – and a very tiny nutshell at that – in just a few minutes.

“…and very important to clean box after every time you dump because you don’t always know what load coming next.”


“And don’t waste time between picking up and dumping because it’s very cold now and material in box can freeze.”


“Any questions?”

Mark had a million of them, but which one should he ask first?

“Okay, then,” Boris said before Mark had a chance to say a word. “Here’s first pick up.” He handed Mark a clipboard with several sheets on it. Some of the sheets were invoices, some of them maps. “Go here and pick up. Then go here and dump. Okay?”

“Yeah, okay, I guess.”

“Good, see you tonight. I pay you then, okay?”

“Right, okay.”

Mark climbed up into the cab of the Mack and disengaged the parking brake. ‘What the hell have I gotten myself into?’ he thought.

Mark’s first load was demolition debris from an apartment renovation in downtown Toronto. When he arrived at the site, he was second in line behind another BB dump truck, this one looking even more run down than Mark’s.

It took about 15 minutes for Mark’s turn to come. From the looks of the stuff they were loading into the trucks, someone had done a to-the-girders gutting of the apartment building. There was all sorts of drywall, broken wood, flooring, windows and carpeting strewn about the parking lot. A heavy duty front-end loader was scooping up the debris and dumping it into the trucks.

When the first load fell into the box, Mark nearly went deaf from the sound of the wood and stone falling on steel. He was also amazed by how much the truck bounced around while it was being loaded.No wonder these trucks look like they’ve been through the ringer…they have.

But it was raining and maybe stuff like the carpet and wood had absorbed a lot of water while it sat outside. Whatever the reason, the truck was strong and could surely handle the extra weight. When his box was full, Mark put the Mack into gear and lumbered out of the lot. Out on the street he checked his map and saw that Boris wanted the load dumped on some rural property south of Newmarket, just off Highway 404. Mark wasn’t aware of any dumps in the area, but he suspected Boris had found a few landowners looking for clean fill. Or, maybe he’d just found a place where he could dump garbage without getting caught.

Mark refused to believe this latter notion because it would mean that he himself would be a party to any crime just by working for the man. And although Mark had broken the law plenty of times in the past, he wasn’t into breaking laws without good reason.

He reached the site a couple of hours later and was happy to see that the dump site was clearly marked and had obviously been in use for some months by several different companies.

“There’s an orange flag at the end of this road,” said the site manager. “Back your truck up to the flag and dump your load over the side.”

Seems easy enough, thought Mark.

But when he got to the end of the road, he discovered that he’d passed the orange flag. Not wanting to go all the way around again, he decided to reverse the truck back to the flag. When the orange flag showed up in his mirrors, he swung the rear of the truck around to the right and backed the truck up to the line marked by the flag. Then, when he was in place, he took a look overhead for any wires – there were none – a
nd started raising the box.

As the box began to rise, Mark noted that one side of the truck seemed lower than the other. A flat? he wondered.

The material in the box began to slide out the back gate, a little at first, but then more and more…

And then nothing.

“What’s going on?” he said aloud.

And then the truck began to move… Not forward or backward, but sideways. Mark took a quick look around and realized that one side of the truck was higher than the other because he was on an angle. And the box…it stopped emptying itself because part of the load had frozen and was stuck on one side, so the truck was even more off balance.

He punched the down control and the box started inching back toward the earth.

“Get out of there!” shouted a voice.

Mark looked to his left and the site manager running toward him.

“Get out of there!”

Mark put the truck in gear and started forward, the box finally coming to rest on the truck’s chassis.

The site manager climbed up on the side of Mark’s truck. “What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Dumping my load.”

“You’re on the wrong side of the flag. This side’s uneven and unstable. You’re lucky you didn’t roll your truck, especially with half your load frozen inside the box.”

“Oh, is that what happened?” Mark said, not liking the soft, meek sound of his voice.

“Break up the load,” the man said. “And try it again. On this side of the flag this time.”

“Right,” said Mark, wondering how many more loads he’d have the chance to screw up between today and tomorrow.” Whatever the answer was it was far too many.

– 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 3 of Down in the dumps.


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