Mark didn't know the name of the place but he'd eaten there a dozen times before. Like just about every other Mom and Pop greasy spoon along the Trans-Canada Highway, they served an all-day breakfast ...
Mark didn’t know the name of the place but he’d eaten there a dozen times before. Like just about every other Mom and Pop greasy spoon along the Trans-Canada Highway, they served an all-day breakfast and those meals always seemed to hit the spot. And the price? How could you beat a few bucks for your choice of bacon, ham or sausage, two eggs any way you like’em, hash brown potatoes and a cup of coffee to wash it all down? It had gotten to the point where Mark had been eating all-day breakfasts for months on end and had begun to know the difference between Ontario and Alberta bacon, and preferred cube cut hash browns over sliced.
On this morning, Mark had paid the extra dollar to treat himself to bacon and sausages, simply because he couldn’t decide on one or the other. He’d ordered his eggs scrambled because he’d found that short order cooks couldn’t screw up scrambled eggs the same way they could sunny-side-up or once-over-easy. The hash browns were lightly browned and smothered in ketchup, and the coffee was ordered to go in a large paper cup so Mark could head out on the road as soon as he was finished eating.
Not that eating this kind of breakfast was something you could do in a rush. All that meat and potatoes took time to savour and even more time to digest and if it took him 20 minutes to get it done, then so be it. Mother load would always be there, but eating breakfast -at breakfast time, no less -happened just once each day.
When Mark was done eating, feeling all fat and bloated from his meal, he tried to get up from his seat but felt his pants -and his waistband in particular -putting up a fight.
He reached down to set his pants right, but had a hard time sliding a thumb between his stomach and the waistband of his pants. He could force a finger in there with some effort, but even after he’d adjusted his pants, there was no way he’d be able to sit behind the wheel of Mother Load for eight hours without some serious discomfort, maybe even pain.
“Stupid pants,” Mark said, sitting back down at the table.
He decided to undo his pants and loosen his belt, but when he had the belt open he realized that he was already on the last hole. That was a bit of a shock since there had been three extra holes in the belt when he’d bought it, and now his waistline had expanded through those three holes and was looking for a fourth.
“Lousy belt,” he muttered under his breath.
Then he pulled his multi-tool from his pocket and used the knife blade to poke a new hole in the belt. The blade was sharp and pierced the leather easily, making the belt a full size larger.
Mark smiled at his handiwork, pleased that he’d found such an easy solution to his problem. Then, leaving his pants undone, he hitched his belt up to the hole he’d just made and got up from the table. Again he tried to run his thumb between his stomach and the waistband of his pants and this time he was able to run his fingers all the way around.
“Good as new,” he said.
Mark left the diner moments later and headed across the parking lot toward Mother Load. Although his truck was parked at the farthest end of the lot, Mark immediately saw that something was not right. The driver’s side door to the rig was open and swinging back and forth on its hinges. Mark knew that he forgot to lock his rig from time to time -especially when he stopped for a bathroom break and a coffee -but he’d never left the door open wide like that.
He quickened his pace, anxious to see what was going on. And a moment later he saw it, some guy’s rear-end sticking out the open door. Obviously, he’d left the door to his truck unlocked and some guy cruising the lot had noticed and was rifling through his truck to steal anything he could get his hands on.
‘As if making a living driving a truck wasn’t tough enough already,’ Mark thought.
Then he shouted, “Hey you! Get out of my truck!” and started to run.
The guy inside Mother Load stopped what he was doing, backed out of the cab and looked over his shoulder at Mark.
Mark charged across the parking lot toward him.
Realizing he was busted, the guy jumped down from Mother Load and began to run away.
Mark picked up the pace. “Stop thief!” he shouted. He was less than 100 yards from Mother Load but it felt like 100 miles. He’d started out sprinting at a good clip, but the dash lasted no more than 15 or 20 yards before he began losing steam.
In seconds his legs felt like lead and he couldn’t get enough air into his chest to satisfy his aching lungs. Five… six…seven more strides and Mark was done.
There were still 50 yards to go and all Mark could do was bend forward at the waist, rest his hands on his knees and try to catch his breath.
When he looked up again the thief was gone. He heard a rig starting up somewhere beyond Mother Load, but in seconds there were several trucks on the move and it was impossible to tell which one belonged to the guilty party.
But suddenly, catching the guy who’d robbed his truck became less of a priority. Now, job one was keeping the big breakfast he’d enjoyed down in his stomach.
He turned back around in the direction of the diner and began shuffling toward it as quickly as his rubber legs and noodle knees would take him.
• Someone must have called the police because by the time Mark came out of the restroom there was a young OPP officer looking for him.
“You the one who was robbed?” the constable asked.
There was a name tag on his vest that had his badge number and a name -Pye.
“I guess I am,” he said. He’d finally caught his breath, but his clothes were uncomfortably damp with sweat.
The officer pulled out his notebook and said, “What happened?”
Mark sighed. “Well, I came out of the restaurant after breakfast and I saw this guy inside my truck. The door was open and he was kneeling on the driver’s seat like he was looking for stuff.”
“And then?” “I started running toward him and
he…well he ran away.” “How far did you run?” “Oh, well, I don’t know…” He
pointed. “From here to there, I guess.” “Here to where?” “About to where that truck is.” He
pointed to a Freightliner that was less than midway between the diner and Mother Load.
“So about 150 feet?” It was an accurate estimate, but it
didn’t sound like very far. And looking at the distance he’d run, it hadn’t been very far at all. “This guy was in really good shape,” Mark said. “Like an Olympic runner, or something.”
The officer looked at Mark, his eyes going up to Mark’s head, then down to his shoes. “Oh, yeah. He would have to be, to get away from you so easy.”
Mark clenched his teeth to keep himself from saying something stupid.
“What did he take?” the officer continued, not missing a beat.
“I don’t know yet,” Mark said. “I haven’t been back to the truck.”
“Maybe we should check it out.” They left the diner and headed out
to Mother Load. “It can’t be a lot, though. I don’t keep much stuff loose in the cab. My guess is he got a couple of magazines, a CD or two, and less than $10 in change.”
“It’s a good thing you came along when you did, then.”
Mark thought the young policeman was trying to be smart again and he was getting irritated with the rookie’s condescending tone. “Yeah, why’s that?” Mark said, ready to have it out with the officer.
“Well, if you hadn’t, then maybe he would’ve have gotten away with more of your stuff.”
“Oh, yeah,” Mark said, all of the fight suddenly gone from his body. This young man wasn’t judging him, and he didn’t have an attitude. All he was doing was his job. “Right.”
Mark felt terrible, unsure exactly what his problem was. He was either getting old, ornery or fat. Probably all three. •