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Down in the dumps — Part 3

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 ...


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.

Thinking that the detail work on his truck might be expensive, and without anything to do for a couple of days in Toronto, Bud suggests Mark drive a dump truck around town for a couple of days. Mark is employed by Boris Bordenski, who gives Mark a crash course in driving dumps and a list of pick-ups and deliveries to make. While dumping his first load, Mark nearly rolls his truck after setting up on uneven ground and allowing his load to freeze inside his box. He ends the day not looking forward to tomorrow…

The next morning Mark got behind the wheel of the Mack dumper determined to get through the day without making a mistake.

He knew it was a long shot since there were just too many things that could go wrong, but he thought if he was careful he’d be able to keep the damage to a minimum.

His first run was to pick up a load of gravel for a construction job in Richmond Hill. The gravel pit was located north of the city in Caledon. As Mark stopped for a coffee along the way, he saw a steady stream of dump trucks, trailers and even pups, heading north on Highway 10.

He’d heard that Caledon, with its rolling hills and curving roadways had the highest accident rate in all of Canada. Seeing the size of the trucks heading north, and imagining the weight each one of them carried when they were full, Mark hoped that he wouldn’t be contributing to any accident statistics today.

After getting in line behind a Western Star trailing a pup, Mark read a copy of Truck News while he inched his way forward into the loading area. When his turn came he gave the loader the order form Boris had given him that morning and parked his truck in position to receive the load.

Moments later the gravel was dumped into the back of the truck. Mark hadn’t been prepared for the noise. He’d been loaded yesterday with building debris, but it hadn’t prepared him for the sound of stones hitting the steel box.

It was like nails in a sheet metal box, only a hundred times louder.

The loader said something to Mark and then gave him a wave, but Mark hadn’t heard a word the man had said.

“What?”

The loader climbed up onto the side of the truck and said, “That’s it,” he said. “How much do you think this truck of yours can carry?”

Mark had no idea. He’d thought that the gravel would be filled right up to the top of the box, but now he guessed that probably wasn’t the case. Gravel was a heavy commodity and considering the age of the truck, it was probably for the best that he had a slightly less than full box.

The dump truck was hard to maneuver, but as long as he took his time, gave himself plenty of room to brake and didn’t try any quick or sharp turns, he’d be fine.

When he reached the building site in Richmond Hill, Mark learned that the gravel was for the floor in a large new industrial complex just off Yonge Street, north of Major Mackenzie Drive. The construction foreman stopped him as he entered the site and asked, “Who are you working for?”

“Boris -” Mark began to say, but stopped himself as he remembered the name of the company. “BB,” he said.

“Jesus,” the foreman muttered, shaking his head. “It’s like he’s got a new driver every day.”

“This is my second day,” Mark said.

“Yeah, whatever. Find unit 26. There’s a dump man there who’ll guide you in.”

Mark headed off in search of unit 26. It should have been easy to find but the unit numbers stopped at 20 at the end of the building. When he asked someone where 26 was, the guy explained that units 20 to 40 were on the other side of the building.

“Thanks,” he said, rolling up his window, then whispering, “That would have been nice to know before.”

He circled around the building, having a hell of a time finding his way through the stacks of bricks and two-by-fours laying all over the site place, not to mention cars and trucks parked anywhere there was an empty spot.

Finally he reached unit 26. The dump man signaled for Mark to start backing in and Mark shifted into reverse. He followed the dump man’s signal and backed into the unit, moving toward a large bare spot on the floor.

Just then a woman passed in front of Mark’s truck. She was probably someone from the construction company looking for the foreman, or maybe the architect. She was a looker dressed in a tight-fitting gray business suit, with long legs and sharp black heels. The hair under the hard-hat was blond, tied up tight behind her head in a bun. The glasses she wore made her look both smart and sexy.

“Hey!” someone shouted. “Hey! Whoa!”

Mark took a look in his mirror. The dump man had his hands out, pushing them in the air in Mark’s direction as if he might be able to slow down the truck with just a gesture.

Mark slammed on the brakes.

“What the hell do you think you’re doing?”

“Sorry,” he said meekly, dumping his load and getting off site as quickly, and as carefully as he could.

Mark’s second load of gravel was destined for a new home being built in an old established neighborhood in Oakville.

Finding the house was tricky, especially since many of the suburban streets had signs prohibiting heavy trucks, but he eventually found it.

The house was a big four-bedroom built on a large lot which was surrounded by similarly large lots with small wartime houses on them.

The foreman instructed Mark to back the truck up into the driveway and to follow his signal to know where to dump the load. After the miscue in the morning, Mark wasn’t about to take his eye off the foreman.

“Okay, that’s far enough,” the man said. “Let her go.”

Mark raised the box, proud of himself for following the foreman’s instructions and putting the load in precisely the right place.

As the box slowly continued to rise, Mark could hear the gravel spilling out of the back of the box. It was a little like the sound of a hard rain falling on a metal roof, an almost pleasant sound…

“Stop!” someone screamed. “Shut if off and don’t move!”

“What now?” Mark said, becoming more than just a little annoyed with this whole dump truck thing.

A laborer stepped around the front of Mark’s truck, pulling away building materials and lunch boxes as if they might be hot to the touch.

“Shut if off and don’t move!” said the foreman, walking oddly up the side of the truck.

“What?”

The man pointed skyward.

When Mark stuck his head out the window for a look, the first thing he noticed were the sparks. White and blue flashes of light jumped and danced from the tip of the box to the overhead wires it had come in contact with.

“Shit!” he said, trying to lower the box.

But instead of coming down on its own, the box caught on one of the wires and snapped it, so that the broken and exposed end of the wire was now laying across the big steel box.

“Don’t get out of the truck,” the foreman said. “If you want to live.”

In the distance he could hear the sound of a siren growing louder. Mark rested his head against the steering wheel. He’d never felt more foolish and embarrassed sitting behind the wheel of a truck before in his life. Hopefully he wouldn’t be here too long.

Four hours later Mark was still sitting in the truck. The trouble was that the power-grid that Mark had tapped into also fed into the local hospital.

In order to free Mark, emergency workers needed to shut down the power and a power shutdown near a hospital was something that was to be avoided at all cost. And so, Mark sat.

He’d used his cell phone to call Bud and make him promise never to let him drive a dump truck again. Bud laughed and promised, then gave Mark his next load, if he got out of his present predicament before
tomorrow.

Next, Mark called Sweet & Cherry to explain to Thatch Waverly that he might not be able to pick up his truck before closing today. Surely the guy would give Mark a break considering the predicament he was in.

“No problem dude, we’ll keep it in the lot overnight.”

“Isn’t there a charge for that?”

“Sure, but it’s just $150 a night.”

“What?”

“That’s our usual charge.”

“Does that include room service.”

“Relax man, it’s only like 10 per cent of your total bill.”

Mark did the math. “That’s $1.500.”

“About that, plus tax. A drop in the bucket for our regular customers.”

But for Mark it was a tidal wave. “Just for washing my truck?”

“We did more than just wash it, Dude. This rig is ready for Saturday night.”

“I won’t pay that much.”

“You signed the work order, man so, no buck, no truck.”

Mark had a few other words in mind that ended in “uck” but held his tongue. He’d never felt so helpless or “ucked” over in his life.

“See you in the morning, dude.”

Mark hung up the phone, then muttered, “I’m looking forward to it.”

Then he sat in his truck for another two hours, thinking of a way to get even with Thatch Waverly for charging him so much and generally being an asshole about it.

But even though Mark had plenty of time for thought, nothing came to him.

Nothing good, anyway.

– Edo van Belkon’s latest novel is Scream Queen. To order it, or any of his other titles, visit www.vanbelkom.com. Meanwhile, Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 4 of Down in the dumps.


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