THE STORY SO FAR
Mark finds himself stuck in downtown Toronto traffic as the city’s taxi drivers protest the start of Goober, the ridesharing service that is cutting into their business. After an hour Mark is so upset about his wasted time that he decides to sign up for Goober and make some extra money on his next trip west.
Mark’s first ride is terrific – a young musician traveling the country and celebrating Canada. The second however is a strange moonchild who Mark believes is possibly from another planet. He hurries so much to get her to her destination and off his truck, he winds up with a speeding ticket…
After dropping off Lucy Moonbeam on the eastern edge of Winnipeg, Mark had a few hours to kill before turning in for the night. His next fare was going from Winnipeg to Calgary in the morning, but in the meantime, there was a chance he could pick up a fare going across town.
Mark logged into the Goober website and put himself on duty. In less than the time it took him to order and eat dinner, he had a fare going in the right direction.
The rider wanted to be picked up in the eastern Winnipeg suburb of Transcona and travel west to Headingley, a rural suburb on the city’s western edge. It was all perfect for Mark’s needs. The street he was to pick up the fare was not suited for big rigs so Mark drove slowly down the narrow street, hoping a jump in house numbers would move him along before anyone complained about a noisy truck rumbling down a normally quite residential roadway. When he reached the house, Number 99, he resisted the temptation to give a blast on his air horn. Instead, he placed Mother Load in park and climbed down to knock on the door. Before Mark was halfway up the drive, the door opened and an elderly white-haired man in a golf shirt, cardigan and slacks appeared on the front porch.
“Who are you?” the man said in a voice that sounded like it had been scaring kids off his front lawn for years.
“My name’s Mark.”
“Mark? Mark who?”
“Do you know Bud?”
“Nevermind. I’m Mark, your Goober driver.”
“Goober? In that?” He pointed at Mother Load as if the truck was on fire.
“Yeah. I’m supposed to take you to Headingley.”
“I wasn’t expecting a Peterbilt for a ride across town.”
“I’m going that way anyway” Mark said. “Besides, it’s got a comfy seat, it’s clean and you can listen to any satellite radio station you like.”
He stood on his porch for a few moments longer, then said, “I’ll get my bag,” and disappeared into the house.
Mark went back to Mother Load, got in and put his truck in gear. The old man was at the passenger door a short while later. “It’s open,” Mark said.
“I know. I’m still trying to climb up inside.”
“You want some help.”
“Why? You think I can’t do it? You think cause I’m old I can’t climb into trucks anymore.”
Mark thought about it, then decided he had no reason to lie to the man. “Yes,” he said. “That’s exactly what I think.”
Suddenly the door popped open and the old man was getting into the truck. “Well I can still climb into trucks.”
“And you know what else I can do?”
“Make love to a woman half my age!” he said, slamming his right fist into the open palm of his left hand. “That’s where you’re taking me…to see my girlfriend.”
Mark was shocked, but didn’t let on. “How old is she?”
“She’s 42. I’m 75. That’s not quite half, but it’s darn near close.”Mark got Mother Load rolling, still wondering if this guy was a crazy old man or a dirty old man. “So how’d you meet her,” he asked. “She your caregiver?”
“Ha, ha. Very funny,” the old-timer said. “It just so happens I met her on Binder if you really want to know.”
“I’ve heard of that, it’s a dating, match-making site.”
“That’s it. You ever tried it?”
Mark felt almost ashamed that he hadn’t. He had signed up on Facebook and Instagram, but he’d avoided online dating for years. Maybe he was missing out on something. “No, I haven’t.”
“Maybe you should.”
“I’m not looking for a relationship,” Mark said.
“Neither am I, sonny,” he said with a smile. “Way I see it, they’re lonely. I’m lonely. Together we’re not so lonely anymore.”
As they neared the road in Headingley where Mark would be dropping his fare off, Mark asked. “You need a ride back in the morning?”
“Morning? She wants me to stay for the week.” As they pulled up in front of the house, a middle-aged woman came out the front door. She looked nice, like an elementary school teacher. And she was obviously excited to see him arrive judging by the way she hurried down the walk.
“Thanks for the lift, sonny,” he said, climbing down from the truck.
At the side of the road the two came together in a long, wet kiss. “Good for you, Buddy,” Mark said. “Glad I could bring you two together.”
Mark spent the night at the Husky Travel Centre in Headingley, conveniently located on the Trans Canada. Before he was even awake there was a knock on the cab door. “You a Goober driver?” said the voice.
“Yeah,” Mark said, glancing at his watch. “You’re not supposed to be here til 9 a.m.”
“It’s 9:30, sir.”
Mark checked the clock on Mother Load’s dash and realized he was late. “Hold on, I’ll be right there.” Without another second lost, Mark scrambled out of bed and set about changing his clothes. And all the while he was shaking his head. Normally, if he’d slept in or needed more sleep, he would just sleep more and get up when he was ready. Now, as a Goober driver, he was on someone’s else’s schedule and had to be ready when they were. “You want a coffee?” Mark said as he climbed out of the truck.
“No thanks,” the man said. He was a boy really, under 20, but looking strong and tough, with well defined muscles and more than a few scars across his face. “I had a coffee while I was waiting for you.”
Mark noticed the man’s luggage consisted of a hockey bag and four sticks and pulled out some straps from an outside compartment. “Tie up your stuff on the back of the rig. I’ll be back.”
When he got back from the restaurant, the kid was waiting for him. Mark handed him a coffee. “It’s on me.”
Inside the truck and on the highway, Mark asked. “So you’re a hockey player from Winnipeg?”
“Toronto, actually. I hitched a ride into Winnipeg and was going to thumb it the rest of the way to Calgary, but then I saw your thing on Goober.”
“You’re going all the way to Calgary to play hockey? Aren’t there plenty of teams in Ontario.”
“Lots,” he said. “But they all know me…know that I’ve got a temper and I liked to drink. The manager in Calgary said I could try out for the team. It’s a chance for a fresh start, so I’m taking it.”
As the miles fell under Mother Load’s tires, Mark and his rider talked about hockey…the entire way. It was the quickest Mark had ever driven from Winnipeg to Calgary, or at least it seemed like it. In Calgary, Mark drove to the arena to drop him off. He wished him luck and gave the young man his card.
“Sorry I don’t have a card to give you,” he said, “but if you’re ever in town and we’re playing, I’ll make sure there’s a ticket for you.
“I’d like that,” Mark said.
Alone in Mother Load, Mark left the truck idling while he contemplated his Goober experience so far. If he forgot all about Lucy Moonbeam, he’d brought a Canadian troubadour to Winnipeg, united old and young lovers in Headingley, and he’d delivered a young hockey hopeful to a fresh chance in Calgary. He couldn’t wait to see what the future had in store.