Mark gets a regular route from Edmonton to Yellowknife, transporting supplies for the winter ice roads. Halfway through his first trip he gets sleepy and nearly drives off the road. When he takes a break and gets out of his truck, he’s swarmed by insects. After jumping back into his truck, he is fighting off the bugs all the way to High Level.
After a fitful night’s sleep in High Level, in which he was continuously pestered by the intermittent buzzing of mosquitoes in his ears, Mark was back on the road to Yellowknife. In the first three hours of his drive he dispatched 12 of the bloodsuckers,
either in the palm of his hand or against his dashboard.
Every time he squashed one of the tiny bloodsuckers, he breathed a sigh of relief believing that that one had been the last of them.
But, sure enough, minutes later, another one would take its place keeping Mark attentive and getting him to Yellowknife without ever once dozing off or driving onto the shoulder.
When he reached the company yard in Yellowknife, Mark was more than ready for a long night’s sleep.
He’d dispatched the last mosquito about an hour past Fort Providence and there was a nice secluded corner of the yard where a half dozen other drivers had parked for the night.
He should have really ventured into town and indulged in a hotel room, but that would take time and effort and put off the rest he so desperately needed, so as soon as he’d checked in with the yard boss, Mark snuck into a out-of-the-way spot at the edge of the lot and crawled into his bunk.
Sleep came almost instantly, followed by…a woman he’d met in the grocery store who’d said her name was Rachel…who was wondering if Mark could help her with something back at her house…and he could…and when they arrived there didn’t seem to be any problem that Mark could see…except for her husband angrily pounding on the door and wanting to get in…
“Dalton!” he said. “Dalton, I know you’re in there.”
Mark’s head jerked up off the pillow. “Huh? What?”
“You got to be in there, Mark,” a voice said outside the truck. “I’ve come too far for it not to be you.”
“Who’s there?” Mark said.
“Hah! I knew you were in there. It’s me, Johnny.”
“Who?” Mark wasn’t playing a game, he really didn’t recognize the name.
“Me, Johnny Jones. You helped me a few years ago when I was driving for J.J. and G. and was delivering Just-in-Time loads of auto parts to GM in Oshawa. You made sure I didn’t get ripped off.”
Mark remembered the guy, but barely. “Things turned out alright, then?”
“Yeah. They sure did. I own four trucks now…got a bunch of drivers working for me. Life’s good, and it’s all because of you.”
“You’re welcome.” Mark let his head fall onto the pillow.
A few moments of silence, then, “Aren’t you coming out to see me?”
Mark realized he was being a little rude, but he was just so tired and he needed to rest. “Sorry, friend. I’m really tired and I’ve gotta get some rest.”
“No way. It’s fate that our paths crossed way out here. I’ve always wanted to thank you and this is my chance. I want to take you out for dinner, maybe a drink or two and a few laughs.”
“Like I said, I…”
“I’m going to keep asking you till you open this door and come into town with me.”
“I mean it. You can sleep when you’re dead, I want to show you a good time.”
The irony of what the man said wasn’t lost on Mark.
Of course there would be plenty of time to sleep
after death, especially when a lack of sleep while
living might actually have something to do with bringing on that very state of death.
It was also obvious that this guy wasn’t going to allow him to sleep no matter what he said, so he might as well go out, enjoy a free dinner and have a few laughs.
He almost laughed under his breath when the thought popped into his head…What’s the worst that could happen?
Mark couldn’t remember what time he got back to Mother Load. After he’d had a plate of char and other fish from Great Slave Lake at the Bullocks Bistro, they’d gone to
a small pub on Yellowknife’s main drag. After closing the place down a cab dropped him off at Mother Load and then it was morning and another man was knocking on his door.
“You in there?”
“Yeah,” Mark said, his head sore. “Your load’s ready. It needs to be out of the yard in half an hour.”
Mark managed an “Uh-huh,” and the man went away.
Then, 20 minutes later Mark was connecting Mother Load to a flatbed that had two other flatbed trailers piled up on top of it. They were all older trailers scheduled for overhauls that would extend their life on the Mackenzie Highway and the ice roads later in the year.
And because the work on the trailers would be extensive the shop time for their repairs was already scheduled, meaning there was a hard deadline for their arrival in Edmonton.
‘Perfect,’ Mark thought aloud.
While his logbook showed that he’d had more than the required amount of off-duty hours, less than half of those hours had been spent resting.
And now, even though he was out of the yard and on-duty, he still had to take care of little things like a food, fuel and a bathroom break before he could begin to put any meaningful number of kilometres behind him.
Within no time he could feel he was driving tired and seriously wondered if he’d be able to make it to High Level without going off the road.
He put another audiobook on, an Outlander book by James Axler that would have lots of gunfire and sex to keep him awake and alert, but after a couple of hours he was having trouble following the storyline.
He stopped at the roadside and poured himself a cup of coffee from his Thermos and was able to
carry on for close to another hour before it was obvious that he needed to rest. And so he found a safe spot to pull over and reclined his seat back for a quick 15-minute nap.
He was awakened two hours later by the airhorn of a passing rig.
Two hours, Mark thought staring as his watch. It had felt like two minutes.
Regardless, Mark was happy to have had the rest and got back onto the highway feeling refreshed and energized.
It was a feeling that didn’t last.
Mark was expecting his cell phone to ring at any moment and hear Bud yelling in his ear, “You’re late, Dalton. How can you do this to me?”
But thankfully, Mark’s cell phone wouldn’t get any reception until he was closer to Edmonton…tomorrow.