Mark didn't have to pick up a load until 10 the next morning so he ordered himself another beer.On the big screen on the far wall at Turtle Jack's, the Toronto Blue Jays were struggling with the Bosto...
Mark didn’t have to pick up a load until 10 the next morning so he ordered himself another beer.
On the big screen on the far wall at Turtle Jack’s, the Toronto Blue Jays were struggling with the Boston Red Sox, down 3-0 in the sixth with a starting pitcher who was lucky he could still find the catcher’s mitt.
His beer arrived at the end of the inning with the Jays down 4-0, but the frosted cold one delivered by the pretty, smiling waitress wasn’t the only thing arriving at his table …
“Hey, I know you,” the guy said, putting his beer on the table and sliding into a chair across from Mark.
Mark stared at the man for a few moments, but while he looked familiar he couldn’t quite place him. “Sorry, I don’t remember you.”
“It’s me, Randy Reynolds,” he said, slapping both his hands against his chest. “We were both driving for Bison Brothers a few years back.”
Well, that might be true. Before Mark had ventured out entirely on his own, he had driven for Bison Brothers for a few weeks. But that had been several years ago and how this guy, this Randy Reynolds, remembered him was nothing short of amazing.
“Oh yeah, hi.”
Randy smiled, revealing gaps in his teeth big enough to drive a Freightliner through. “How’s it going? Working hard?”
Mark had been working hard of late, and with the beers flowing, he didn’t mind letting this guy know all about his good fortune. “You bet I’m working hard. Starting tomorrow, I’ve got a string of loads that’s taking me across the country with a two-day layover in Vancouver. And when I get back, I’ve got a ticket to the Jays game against the Yankees.” He gestured at the television as if he could see the seat on the giant screen. “First base, three rows up.”
“What kind of loads?” Randy asked. He had the beer in his hand now, but judging by the way he was holding the bottle, he must have been nursing the thing for the past few hours.
“Not sure,” Mark answered. “Got the list in my truck, but my dispatcher assured me it was all high-end, no-touch merchandise. You know, electronics and stuff like that.”
Randy’s nod was exaggerated. “That’s cool.”
There was silence between them, and although Mark didn’t really want to ask, he thought it would seem impolite if he didn’t. “What about you? How are you doing these days?”
“Crappy,” he said. “My old lady’s coming down hard on me these last few weeks.” His voice suddenly took on a high, whiny quality. “‘When are you gonna get a load?’ ‘The magazine’s are full of ads for drivers,’ ‘What are you waiting for?'”
Mark just looked at the guy not sure what his problem was. “What are you waiting for?”
“Well, I don’t have a truck, for one.”
“Lots of companies out there have plenty.”
“Let’s just say my abstract’s not the cleanest on record at the Ministry.”
Mark shrugged. “Not all company’s do extensive background checks.”
“I’d have to find one of them companies, now wouldn’t I?”
Mark took a sip of his beer. “Few phone calls probably do the trick.”
“Sounds like a lot of work to me.”
“That’s why they call it that… you know, work.”
“Yeah, but then I’d have to be at home usin’ the phone and the damn woman would be hangin’ over my shoulder askin,’ ‘What’d he say?’ ‘Did you take the job?’ ‘When do you start?'” He shook his head. “You know, her name’s Mary … she likes to think of herself as Queen Mary, but I know her as Bloody Mary.”
What a lost cause, thought Mark. What man didn’t have woman trouble every once in a while? And if you had a valid driver’s licence, there were always plenty of places hiring these days. Mark decided to give up trying to convince the guy there was work out there and made peace with him by simply agreeing to whatever he said. “Geez, sounds like you got it rough.”
Randy sat up a little straighter. “Man, you don’t know the half of it…”
The guy kept talking, rambling on and on and on, but Mark wasn’t listening anymore. He was too caught up in the game to care.
On the screen there were two out with Blue Jays on first and third. With the score 4-0 in the Red Sox favor, the Jays looked to be ready to gamble. The runner on first was taking a big lead, as was the runner on third. Either one of them could have been caught by a quick throw from the pitcher, but the Red Sox seemed intent on having the Jays’ batter hit a ground ball, or strike out trying.
“…of course she’s got a sister whose husband is a garbage man for the city. You know how much those guys make in a year? My old lady knows, and she likes to remind me of it … all the freakin’ time.”
Randy stopped talking then, and Mark felt like he was supposed to say something to the guy, but he didn’t want to take his eyes off the game, or encourage him to say any more.
And then the Jays’ runners were on the move.
They were trying to steal home.
“I’m going to the can,” Randy said into Mark’s ear.
“Yeah, sure,” Mark said, waving the guy away without taking his eyes off the screen.
The runner slid into home just as the ball crossed the plate. The umpire gestured “Safe” and the Sox catcher turned around in circles looking for the ball. It had gone all the way to the backstop. The runner from first was rounding third. He was being waved home. The catcher threw the ball to the pitcher covering home. The throw was high, sailing out past the mound and all the way to the second baseman. The second runner scored. “Safe.” The Blue Jays now trailed 4-2 and the momentum of the game had definitely swung in their favor.
Mark took a sip of his beer, then took a look around. Randy was gone. He’d said something about the washroom, but that had been a while ago. Maybe he’d moved off and was bothering someone else in the joint now. That was fine by Mark. The Jays were rallying and it was going to be a great finish.
When the game went into extra-innings tied 4-4, Mark ordered himself another beer. What the hell.
That’s when his cellphone rang.
“Mark. What the hell is going on?” It was Bud and he sounded agitated.
“What do you mean? The game’s going into extra innings.”
“No, not that,” said Bud. “Why are you driving like a maniac?”
“What are you talking about?”
“I just got a call from someone complaining about the way you’re driving.”
“It’s not me,” Mark said. “I’m sitting here at Turtle Jack’s watching the Jays’ game.”
“Well then, someone is out on the 401 following a Peterbilt that’s going back and forth across the lanes … on the back of the truck is a sticker that says ‘How’s my driving? Call 1-800-‘”
Mark cut Bud off. “It’s not me.”
“They said the name on the back of the truck was ‘Mother Load.'”
Mark shook his head, even though Bud wasn’t there to see the gesture. “Must be a mistake. I’ve seen trucks like mine with names like ‘Brother Road,’ ‘Break the Code,’ and ‘Drivin’ Mode’…”
“Do me a favor. Just take a look outside and see if your truck’s there, will ya.”
Mark got up from his seat and realized he didn’t hear the familiar jingle of keys he usually heard when he stood up. He put a hand to his belt loop and discovered his keychain wasn’t there.
Mark ran out of Turtle Jack’s and into the parking lot.
Mother Load was gone.
His home, his life, everything he had in the world had been stolen.
“Mark? Mark are you there?” Bud was still on the phone, calling out to him.
Mark slowly lifted his cellphone to his ear and said, “It’s gone, Bud.”
– Mark Dalton: O/O will return next mont in Part 2 of Stealing home.