When Bud gave Mark Dalton his choice of loads, he decided on one headed for the east coast. A van trailer full of plastic pool toys made in China and destined for Halifax – the light cargo would be an easy one on “Mother Load.”
Hopefully the trip would be an uneventful one, which would be a welcome change after the events of the past few months.
On his last trip to the west coast and back he’d helped a fellow trucker get untangled from a bunch of smugglers, got caught up in an insurance scam, got ripped off on some routine truck repairs, almost got killed working on a movie shoot, helped a friend keep his rig, and spent two hellish days dispatching.
That would have been enough excitement to last a lifetime for most truckers, but Mark seemed to have a talent for finding trouble. Or perhaps trouble had a way of finding its way to him, sort of like an old dog always being able to find its master. Whatever the reason for it, Mark was looking forward to a leisurely drive to the coast, maybe a day on the beach in Lawrencetown trying out a surfboard, and then a load out of the port heading west.
The future looked comfortable.
Just then an older model Buick LeSabre cut in front of him, trying to squeeze into the lane to get around a Suburban pulling a trailer in the left-hand lane.
Mark had to jam on the brakes to avoid hitting the Buick, and the light load gave the trailer’s tires no real grip on the asphalt.
The rear wheels locked up and his rig hardly slowed at all.
“Shit! Shit! Shit!” Mark cursed, turning the wheel right to keep his front bumper from being clipped by the speeding car.
The right front tire of his Peterbilt caught the shoulder and he started sliding to the right over the gravel and dirt on the side of the highway.
The Buick straightened out, sped past the Suburban and turned back into the passing lane, causing the driver of that vehicle to slam on his brakes, and veer into the lane in front of Mark.
Again Mark had to turn the wheel sharply to avoid a collision. Behind him, the trailer swung wildly out across the highway and then mercifully straightened out.
“Dammit!” shouted Mark, slamming his open hand against the steering wheel. “Crazy sonuva -“
By now Mark was travelling slowly and all the other vehicles around him were traveling less than 70 km-h.
He downshifted a few times to find the right gear, then began the long slow climb back up the gears to get his rig back up to speed.
The Buick was about half a kilometre up the highway, driving slightly slower now that he didn’t have to weave and swerve through traffic.
As Mark passed the Suburban, he could see the driver wiping his brow with a handkerchief and the woman in the passenger seat jawing a blue streak as she pointed an accusatory finger at the Buick down the road.
Mark was angry at the driver too. After all, he could have killed somebody.
“Well, you’re not going to get away with that, sonny,” Mark said aloud, pressing the accelerator pedal to the floor and pulling himself upright in his seat.
He was up past 110 km-h now and he could probably get it up to 120 and cruise along at that speed for hours. Even if he didn’t catch up to the Buick, he might be able to stay behind it, looming large in his mirrors so the driver would know that what he’d done was not only wrong, but dangerous.
As the speedometer flirted with 121, the blue and white welcome sign for Kingston zoomed past on Mark’s right. At this rate he’d be through Brockville and Cornwall in just a few hours, and would likely reach Halifax much earlier than expected.
More importantly, he was getting closer to the bastard in the Buick.
Another few kilometres and he’d be on him, right up his rear end, giving him a little taste of his own medicine.
Outside of Brockville, Mark had managed to pull directly behind the Buick. When he got up close to the 10-year-old Burgundy sedan, he was able to read the vanity plate below the trunk lid.
“B-I-G … S-H-T”
Mark wondered what was supposed to go between the H and the T. It was either an O or an I. The driver probably thought O, but Mark was convinced it was I.
When the front of his Peterbilt was just a few feet from the rear bumper of the Buick, Mark let the driver have a blast from his horn. The sound must have startled the driver because the Buick suddenly swerved like a snake slithering down the highway.
“How do you like that?” shouted Mark, his foot never lifting from the accelerator.
The driver of the Buick rolled down his window and gave Mark the bird. Mark saw the man’s middle finger waving in the air and tightened his grip on the steering wheel until his knuckles turned white.
He clenched his teeth together and seethed as his breath moved noisily in and out of his mouth. He could feel his face getting hot and red, and his body was a tightly packed ball of rage and in danger of exploding.
The driver pulled over, as if to let Mark by.
But Mark wasn’t having any of it.
He pulled into the right-hand lane behind the car and kept his foot down hard on the accelerator.
The driver was obviously tired of the high-speed chase and moved left to let Mark by.
“You’re not getting off that easy, Asswipe!”
Again Mark pulled behind him, pushing the guy along with his huge rig. Forcing him to keep up the pace, even if he’d had enough of playing cat and mouse.
The driver moved into the right hand lane again, but this time he tried slowing down so that he could get behind Mark and hopefully be done with it.
But Mark wouldn’t let him.
He began inching over to the right, cutting off the lane and leaving the other driver with no place to go.
The driver was forced onto the shoulder, just like Mark had been forced to do an hour earlier. Dirt, gravel and dust rose up in a plume behind the car and the driver had to struggle to keep the swerving car under control.
“How do you like that, buddy!” Mark shouted.
And then the car jammed on its brakes and began skidding to a stop. It was gone from the lane and had fallen far behind Mark’s rig.
Mark breathed a long breath, reveling in his victory. He’d shown that guy in the Buick a thing or two and he doubted if he’d go speeding down the 401 again anytime soon.
He raised the middle finger of his right hand, knowing full well the driver would never see it. “I’m number one, pal!” he said.
Just then Mark saw a mini-van in the lane ahead of him. He was still moving as quickly as his rig could go and the mini-van was cruising along, probably just under the speed limit.
Mark took his foot off the accelerator, and started downshifting, but it wasn’t going to be enough. He jammed on his brakes and struggled to keep the front of his Peterbilt from slamming into the back of the tiny vehicle.
The back tires cried out in pain and torment as they tried to get a grip on the highway, and the trailer began to slide out to the left, sweeping across the passing lane like an arm clearing off a table top. There was another car in the lane, a tiny Geo Metro that would probably be destroyed if it came into even the slightest contact with the trailer.
The trailer straightened out, the wheels unlocked and he was rumbling along at 95 km-h.
There were kids in the back of the mini-van. They waved to him. Mark waved back.
There was a young girl riding in the Metro. She was talking to the young guy behind the wheel, a boyfriend or fiance, she had no clue about how close she’d come to being killed.
Killed by a maniac road raging trucker named Mark Dalton. Mark took a few deep breaths and could feel the sweat cooling on his skin.
How many times had he read about road rage and felt he was too much of a professional to ever become caught up in the heat of the moment? How many times did he shake his head after reading about some bizarre account of some experienced driver losing it out on the highway? How many times had he said he was above all that?
Countless times. But in the end, he wasn’t immune to it.
He’d fallen victim, just like all the others, and nearly killed a few innocent people in the process.
“Never again,” he said, wiping
the sweat from his brow.
“It’s not worth it.”
He looked in his rearview mirror for the Buick, thinking maybe he could apologize to the driver, but the car was little more than a tiny speck in his mirrors now.
“Keeping a safe distance,” Mark said. “And I don’t blame you.”
Mark focused on the road ahead, brought his rig up to 105, and switched on the cruise control, suddenly content to let the rest of the world pass him by. n
– Next month: Part two of Drivers of the Purple Rage.
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