After several weeks on the road, Mark decides to give Mother Load a thorough cleaning, inside and out, top to bottom. He’s so pleased with the outcome, he decides to enter the truck in the Fergus shown’n’shine that weekend.
Mark does his best to get his truck really clean, but he can’t compete with the driver of a Freightliner parked next to him whose whole family is constantly polishing and shining their truck. Mark comes up with a plan and offers some boys at the show a way to make some money.
Mark offers money to the boys to throw eggs at the Freightliner, but they get paid more to throw eggs at Mother Load. Mark ends up cleaning his truck in the middle of the night, but just as he finishes, it starts to rain…
It was still raining when Mark woke up at eight the next morning. He climbed into the driver’s seat and took a look around. There were puddles in the grass all around his truck and the dirt road that ran in front of the line of trucks was muddy with big dirty pools forming all along it.
Every time a vehicle drove down the road, muddy water sloshed and sprayed up on either side of it. “That can’t be good for my truck,” he said under his breath as a huge 4×4 lumbered down the road, its oversized tires sending drops of dirty water flying in all directions.
Mark changed clothes and got out of his truck to inspect the havoc the rain and mud was inflicting. As he suspected, the front bumper, fenders and tires were all covered by a brownish film. Higher up on the truck the film thinned out into random spots and speckles. Yesterday, Mother Load had been clean, but today it looked as if it had spent several days exposed to the elements, not just one night.
He checked his watch and saw there was little more than an hour before the judges would start making their rounds. The rain had stopped and looked as if it might hold off for a while, so there was no time to lose. He gathered up all his cleaners and clean rags and set upon Mother Load, wiping down the bumper and fenders and climbing up onto the cowling to wipe away the rain and get the windshield back to the way it looked the previous afternoon.
As Mark worked, he resisted the temptation to look over at the Freightliner, but he couldn’t hold off for long. He glanced over his shoulder and saw the man standing out in front of his truck in his usual t-shirt and shorts, holding a coffee cup in his hand. He was also barking orders like some General, making sure his crew didn’t miss a thing.
Mark stopped what he was doing for a moment and watched. The family was amazing, climbing all over the Freightliner as if it were some playground apparatus, spritzing and wiping, spritzing and wiping, until the whole thing gleamed.
But that wasn’t the end of it. Each time a vehicle drove by, the General would order his troops back onto the truck to make sure no new dirty droplets had landed on his machine.
Mark looked at the wet rag in his left hand and the bottle of window cleaner in his right and wondered how in the world could he compete?
The truth was, he couldn’t.
He gave the windshield a few more wipes with the rag and then climbed down from off Mother Load. He’d done his best to keep the truck clean, but he was only one man. Whatever happened now was in the hands of the judges.
The judges came by a half-hour later. He could see them working their way down the line of trucks and from the way they circled and inspected each vehicle, they seemed to know what they were doing…or at least what they were looking for.
Mark knew from previous show’n’shines that judging teams were made up of people who knew and worked in the trucking industry, from dispatchers to mechanics, owner/operators to trainees. Some drivers, usually those who didn’t win, claimed that judging was political and that judges could be swayed by the company name painted on the door of a truck. Mark didn’t believe that, but he could picture the Freightliner guy blowing a gasket if some miracle occurred and Mark ended up winning the class.
The thought of that put a smile on his face.
But the smile didn’t last long once the judges started in on Mother Load.
“You got a grease smudge here,” said one of the judges.
“Found a stone chip,” said another.
One of the younger judges rolled onto his back and made his way under the truck. “There’s rust under here.”
‘You don’t say,’ Mark thought. With all the kilometres he’d driven across North America, in all kinds of weather, with ice and slush clinging to his undercarriage and chassis for months at a time, what did the judge expect to find under there?
Mark could feel himself seething as the judges picked apart his truck. It was like someone was insulting his mother, and in a way they were.
“Not bad,” one of the judges said as they finished their inspection. “One of the better trucks I’ve seen with that many miles on it.”
“Yeah, for the year and the amount you’re driving, it’s a really good effort.”
Mark beamed. “You think I have a chance at winning something?”
The judge shook his head. “No. It looks to me like you’ve spent the past couple of days cleaning your truck. There are guys in your class that keep their truck spotless 24/7. Your truck’s clean, but it’s not the cleanest.”
“Thanks,” Mark said.
The judges moved onto the Volvo on the other side of him, leaving Mark standing alone in front of Mother Load. He looked at her a long, long time, proud not only of how clean he’d gotten her but also of all the adventures they’d been through together.
“At least we gave it a try, didn’t we Mother?” Mark said.
Mark knew it was impossible, but from the way the sunlight broke through the clouds and reflected off Mother Load’s front bumper and grille, it looked as if she were smiling.
After breakfast and a walk around the show, Mark returned to Mother Load to drop off some of the stuff he’d picked up at the booths. The sun had come out now and he couldn’t help but notice the large trophy positioned proudly in front of the Freightliner.
“Best in show,” the man called over to Mark. “And top spot in all five classes I entered.”
“You’ve done well,” Mark said. The man turned his attention from Mark to some of the admiring show attendees who had stopped in front of the Freightliner to admire it and congratulate him on the win.
“It was a lot of hard work,” he said to one of them. “But it’s all worth it in the end.”
Mark shook his head.
The man’s wife and two of his children were sitting on lawn chairs in front of the truck, but he still had one of the kids circling the truck and wiping away rain drops wherever he found them.
He looked over at Mother Load. There was no trophy in front of her, no admiring crowds, just a clean, hardworking truck that was more at home on the road than on display in some beauty contest.
“We don’t really belong here, do we Mother?” Mark said aloud.
There was no reply, but in Mark’s mind he knew she agreed.
Mark reached down, scooped up a handful of mud and threw it at his truck. The dirt landed with a hard splat on the windshield, sending dirty lines streaking out in all directions.
“That’s better,” Mark said.
He turned and walked away, ready to enjoy the show for the first time since he arrived.
-Mark Dalton returns next month in another adventure.
Did you know that there are two full-length novels featuring Mark Dalton?: Mark Dalton “SmartDriver” and Mark Dalton “Troubleload.” For your free copy register with ecoENERGY for Fleets (Fleet Smart) at fleetsmart.gc.ca. Both are also available in audio book format.