Mark comes down with a virus and is too sick to drive. Bud arranges for a replacement driver to take over for a week while Mark spends some time at his parent’s home getting better…
“That must be her,” the kid said after they’d been stopped in front of Mark’s parents house in Oakville for a couple of minutes. “And your dad.”
Mark didn’t bother getting up to look. He could already imagine what it looked like.…his mother coming down the driveway with a bowl of chicken soup in her hand and his father following behind with his cane in one hand and a bucketful of advice about how Mark should be running his business in the other. Garth opened the door and hopped out of the cab. He could hear the kid say hello to his parents, then feel his father climbing up the side of the truck. “Why the hell did you get a kid like that to drive your truck for ya?” was the first thing he said.
“I could’ve driven for you for a week. I was a driver for 40 years, you know.”
“But you don’t have your licence anymore,” Mark said.
“So, you’re shutting me out on a technicality?”
“Leave the boy alone,” said the voice of his mother. His father disappeared from view and his mother appeared inside the cab.
“Sick as a dog and you’re hounding him for work.” She turned to face Mark, a broad smile on her face and a travel mug in her hand.
“Are you strong enough to get into the house? If not, there’s some broth for you that’ll give you strength.”
“I can make it mom.”
“Good, then let’s get you out of the cold and into your bed.”
Mark rose up and pulled the blankets off his body. A sudden chill washed over him and the inside of Mother Load seemed to spin clockwise. A few deep breaths and he was able to slip on his coat and shoes. Meanwhile, his mother pulled a toque tightly over his head.
“Drink this,” she said, handing Mark the travel mug. Mark didn’t feel like having any soup, but he had to admit it tasted pretty good going down. As he crawled out of the truck, he could hear his father giving Garth the third degree. “How many years you been drivin’? You got your FleetSmart certification? What about SmartWay? Ever drive a Peterbilt?…” The questions rattled off his father’s tongue like bullets out of a machine gun, but Garth had the right answer for every one.
“C’mon, son,” his mother said, wrapping him in a blanket. “I’ll get you feeling better.”
Mark trudged up the driveway, wondering what the scene must look like to the neighbours. Probably like Mark was knocking on death’s door and had come home to die. ‘Let’em think that,’ thought Mark, ‘because that’s just how I feel.’
“Take these,” mom said, putting a cold hand across his forehead. “They’ll take the edge off your fever and allow you to get some sleep.”
Mark took the two pain relievers and washed them down with some water.
“Get some sleep. I’ll be around in a couple of hours to check up on you, and I’ll have some fresh broth for you at suppertime.”
“You’re not getting enough mileage out of your fuel,” his father said as he entered the room. “I checked your truck and you’re only getting…”
“Hush now and leave the boy alone,” his mother said, blocking out his father before he could reach the bed. “The last thing he needs is you harping on him. How many years does he have to drive a truck before you can acknowledge that he does it as well as you ever did?”
His father considered the question, then lifted his cane. “When he’s driven 45 years, then we’ll talk.”
“You’ll be dead by then,” his mother said, pushing his father out of the room. “Now give the boy some peace. There’ll be plenty of time to talk later.”
His father gave a ‘harumpf!’ and exited the room. His mother turned at the door and said, “It’s good to have you home. Even if it’s for just a little while.”
“It’s good to be home, mom.”
She shut the light and closed the door and Mark took a moment to let his eyes wander around the room. It was his old room, just as it was when he’d first left home. There was a Wendell Clark poster on the wall and a Bachman-Turner Overdrive album cover hanging over his bed. There were a few minor hockey trophies on the dresser and a high school graduation photo on the desk. There were even a few truck models scattered around the room, including one of a Peterbilt rig just like the one he ended up driving for a living.
He took a deep breath and let out a sigh. It was great to be able to come home again, and it was wonderful that he had two loving parents who would always take care of him no matter what, but he couldn’t help feeling he was of an age where he should be able to take care of himself.
And that’s when he got to thinking that perhaps he should have a home of his own, where he could be sick…or just unwind on his days off.
“How are you doing?” his mother said, barging into the room. “Comfortable?”
“How can you be when your head’s not even on a pillow?”
She put a hand on his head and lifted it so she could slide a pillow beneath it. “There! Better?” It wasn’t really, but he said yes, anyway.
“Good. Now get some rest.”
Mark closed his eyes. ‘Yeah,’ he thought. ‘A place of my own. That would be good.’
He awoke later thinking he’d slept a couple of hours, but a glance at the Blue Jays clock on the wall told him he’d been sleeping for almost 10 hours. It was dark outside and the room was lit only by the night light that he’d had since he was in grade school.
And although he didn’t move, his mother somehow knew he’d awakened.
“There’s my sleepyhead,” she said, fluffing his pillow and straightening the bed covers. “Your father wanted to talk to you when you came around, but you outlasted him and he fell asleep on you.”
Mark could hear his father snoring out in the living room and it reminded him of years gone by. “Nothing’s changed.”
“Not much. If you’re hungry I’ve got soup for you in the kitchen.”
Mark nodded. “I’ll be down in a minute. I just want to check in with Bud.”
“Don’t be too long. My soups are full to the brim with love, but they still get cold.”
When she was gone he grabbed his cell phone off the nightstand and dialed Bud’s number.
“Bud, this is Mark Dalton,” Mark said, not giving Bud the chance to play any games.
“You still sick?”
“I’m feeling a bit better.”
“Why you calling?”
“I just want to know what’s going on with Garth and my truck. Everything okay?”
“Excellent. He’s delivered his load on time and undamaged, and he was early picking up his next load so he’s already a couple hours ahead of schedule.”
Mark sighed. “That’s great.”
“Yeah, so don’t you worry about a thing. Your truck’s in good hands and you can take a week or two off without anyone even knowing you’re gone.”
“Terrific,” Mark said, the word sounding three times as long as it really was.