The road was desolate and cold, but what made it even more eerie in the early morning light was the fog that drifted and shifted over the pavement like restless ghosts. Mark was headed west toward Montreal with a trailer full of fresh herring,...
The road was desolate and cold, but what made it even more eerie in the early morning light was the fog that drifted and shifted over the pavement like restless ghosts. Mark was headed west toward Montreal with a trailer full of fresh herring, cod, turbot and whatever else they caught over Newfoundland’s Grand Banks.
It was a good load, especially if he delivered it on time, but that was a task that was proving a lot easier said than done.
First of all, the load had been late getting off the dock and he’d drank three cups of coffee in the employee’s lounge to pass the time while he waited for the shipper to sign off on it.
Of course, he’d fully intended to go to the bathroom before he left the fish processing plant, but by then the load was a few hours behind schedule and there was all sorts of pressure on him to, “Go! Go! Go!”
And so, like a fool caught up in all the rush and hoopla, he’d jumped into his truck and taken off down the road, racing at breakneck speed on less-than-ideal roads, all in the name of getting to his destination on time and making a few more almighty dollars. All of which had left him in a bind.
He was desperately trying to meet the next ferry leaving Port Aux Basques in less than an hour. If he missed it, he’d have to wait for the next one and that meant he’d be even further behind on his delivery time in Montreal. And late was a four-letter word to a driver like Mark Dalton.
But now the coffee was catching up to him, reminding his bladder and his body that – very much like beer – coffee was a beverage that was more rented than owned.
And oh, how it reminded him.
There was an aching sort of pressure pushing down between his legs – sharp and constant.
Every time he went over a bump or made a turn the ache would spread out from his groin in spasms that forced him to lift himself off his seat as he drove, just to ease the pain.
Normally he’d stop and relieve himself by the side of the road, but he had to relieve himself the other way as well and he’d run out of toilet paper on the trip east. Sure, he could always do one and not the other, but Mark was afraid that if he did number one, number two might come calling with a vengeance and it would all end up in a big, big mess.
Besides that, he’d heard reports on the radio that the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary were looking for a madman who had brutally killed an entire hunting party that had accidentally trespassed on his land.
That had happened up on the island’s northwest shore, but the man had slipped through the roadblocks set up by police and the authorities figured he was making his way through the bush, heading inland to hide out, or toward the ferry to get off the island.
Either way, it wasn’t exactly the right time to be outside of your truck, exposed and vulnerable.
There was another option, of course, but even that wasn’t available to him.
He usually kept an empty juice or water bottle handy in the cab so he could do his business inside the truck without having to wait for a rest stop or quiet stretch of road.
That would work here, except that he didn’t have a bottle handy, and even if he did, the fog on this part of the Rock was so thick, that he didn’t dare take his eyes off the road, not even for a second.
He’d laughed at plenty of guys who’d crashed their rigs while trying to pee into a bottle and he didn’t want to be one of them.
He’d also seen more than a few plastic bottles with yellow liquid in them lying on the side of the highway and he didn’t want to contribute to that sort of littering either.
In fact, he often wondered how people who made their living driving the nation’s highways could be so disrespectful to the very thing that gave them their livelihood…but that was another story.
Right now Mark had to go to the bathroom and desperate times called for desperate measures.
Daring to take his eyes off the road, he searched the cab for some newspaper. It wasn’t toilet paper, but it would do in a pinch and he could always freshen up properly at the next truck stop if he had to.
He looked around the cab. There were copies of Maclean’s, and the latest Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition lying on the passenger seat, but neither one would do. One was Canada’s national news magazine and the other had pages of beautiful women in bathing suits in it. ‘Can’t very well wipe my rear with either of those,’ he thought.
He glanced quickly back at the road, then searched around some more, turning this time to check the sleeper where there was a copy of yesterday’s National Post lying around.
Finding the paper, he put it on the passenger seat and flipped through it looking for a section he wasn’t all that interested in reading, like book reviews.
Mark looked over his left shoulder to make sure he was still headed straight down the road when he caught sight of something appear out of the corner of his eye.
He snapped back around in his seat in time to see a large animal lumber onto the highway no more than 50 feet ahead.
Foot off the gas.
Engine brake engaged.
Right foot on the brakes.
The truck remained pointed straight, but the rig’s wheels locked up, getting little bite in the fog-slicked surface of the road.
Mark held his breath.
Time stood still…the moment of impact seemed to take forever to arrive.
And then it happened.
Ten tonnes of semi-trailer collided with one tonne of moose.
He could feel the animal hit, but instead of bouncing off the truck the moose seemed as if it had been gobbled up by Mother Load and had become part of its front end.
Then Mark could feel another thing…
Something wet and warm running down the inside of his thigh.
“Ah, Geez!” – Mark Dalton will return next month in Part 2 of Man and Moose on the Loose.