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Survival of the Fittest Part 2

The story so far... Mark has been eating all-day breakfasts at greasy spoons for months and when he finishes breakfast, his pants don't fit him anymore. He pokes a hole in his belt to solve the proble...

The story so far… Mark has been eating all-day breakfasts at greasy spoons for months and when he finishes breakfast, his pants don’t fit him anymore. He pokes a hole in his belt to solve the problem, but when he heads back to Mother Load he sees someone going through the cab. He runs toward his truck to try and catch the guy, but he’s gassed after a hundred feet and the thief gets away.

• Mark searched for the number on his cell phone and then pushed send. The phone rang four times before someone picked up at the other end.

“Hello?” “Hi Bud, this is Mark.” There was a pause and Mark wondered if Bud was thinking about asking the question, or just being slow. “Mark who?”

Mark sighed and shook his head. “Mark McGwire.”

“The baseball player?”

“Yeah, I’m looking for a home run, you got any?” Mark was currently in Kelowna, British Columbia. He’d been out west for several weeks and he was getting tired of looking at mountains and trees.

“This is Dalton, isn’t it?” “No flies on you, eh Bud?” “Nope, I have caller ID.”

Mark was speechless. If the man had caller ID why in the world did he keep asking, “Mark who?” But that question would have to wait for another day. There was something else Mark had been wanting to ask his dispatcher.

“Bud, how much do you weigh?”

“What?” A pause. “What kind of a question is that? I thought you were looking for a load.”

“I’m serious Bud, how heavy are you?”

Bud thought about it, then said, “I haven’t checked in a while, but my guess is around 250.”

That was a lie. Mark was sure of it. “Really?”

“Okay, alright…maybe 270 or 280.” Another pause. “Two-ninety tops.”

Bud was a big man. Some might say a huge man, and 290 pounds was starting to get into the range of what Mark – or anyone else who’d ever met him – thought he weighed. “Don’t you think that’s a bit much?”

“What’s with all the questions?” “I’m curious.”

“Okay… No, I don’t think it’s a bit much. Not for six foot.” “You’re not six feet tall.” “Okay, so five ten.”

Mark doubted Bud was even that, but he didn’t want to stop the conver-sation over a couple of inches. That wasn’t important anyway. What was important was that when Mark first met Bud he was solid and muscular, the proverbial brick outhouse with hands like granite, corded muscles of hardened steel, and a six-pack of ab muscles that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the cover of a fitness magazine. He wasn’t anything like that now. These days Bud looked more like a brick warehouse, his muscles were like bowls of pasta, and the only magazine he’d be appearing on anytime soon would be something like Coroner’s Monthly.

“You used to be in such great shape.” “Used to be.”

Mark couldn’t beat around the bush any longer. “So, what happened?” Bud let out one of those long wistful sighs of regret. “I became a truck driver.”

“Yeah, and…”

“Bacon and eggs for breakfast every day, and coffee all the time. I mean, you buy a coffee at one stop, but you’re not really buying it as much as renting it ’cause you’re stopping an hour or so later to get rid of it. Then, since you’re already at a coffee shop, you might as well have another coffee…and what goes better with coffee than a donut? It got to the point where I was planning my routes based on the coffee shops and rest stations along the way.”

“I knew you liked coffee, but…” Bud cut Mark off. He was on a roll, like a wound had been opened up and it wasn’t going to stop gushing until the thing had bled itself out.

“You’re working – and the work’s hard, don’t get me wrong – but you’re sittin’ on your ass all day long with nothing else to do but smoke cigarettes and listen to audiobooks. Now how lazy is that, gettin’ someone else to read a book for you? And when you get to your destination there’s someone waiting to unload your truck for you. The only time you bend over is to pick up a quarter…and these days, I don’t even bother for anything less than a dollar.” He paused a moment, as if winding down. “Yeah, truck driving’s a job that puts a lot of physical demands on a person’s body and you don’t even realize it’s happening until it’s too late.”

“But you haven’t been a driver for years,” Mark said.

“Dispatching isn’t much better. There’s a lot of sittin’ around and a lot of stress dealin’ with drivers like you.” His voice sounded sad now, like he were a beaten man. “The only thing that helps is coffee and cigarettes…and, well, there you are five ten and 290 pounds.”

“You ever tried doing some exercises?”

“Sure, I’ve tried exercising lots of times.” He paused and Mark could hear the sound of a lighter being flicked and Bud lighting up a fresh cigarette. “But when I start to sweat just changing my shoes, there’s not much left in the tank to go joggin’.”

Obviously Bud’s health was something that weighed heavily upon his mind. Mark knew Bud had gotten big, really big, but he’d never seemed to worry about it much, and as a result Mark hadn’t known it had gotten so bad.

But just how bad was it?

“When you stand up, can you see your feet?”

“The answer’s no, if it’s any of your business,” Bud said. “Besides, who wants to see my feet anyway?”

“Not me, that’s for sure,” Mark answered, wondering how many other body parts Bud hadn’t seen in a while.”

“What’s will all the questions, anyway,” Bud said. “What’s your problem?”

Mark took a second to think about his answer, then said. “I had to punch another hole in my belt this morning.”

Bud just laughed on the other end of the phone. Then he said, “Just watch out or you’ll end up like me before long.”

“What?” Mark said. “Rude and obnoxious?”

“No,” Bud answered. “Heavy-set.” Mark smiled. “I’ll be careful.”

• Mark thought about the conversation he’d had with Bud for a long time as he made his way eastward to Calgary. Bud was a big man, but he hadn’t always been fat. From what he knew of Bud’s background he’d been a big athlete in high school and an all-star football player. Big men ate a lot of food, which is all well and good when you’re practicing five days a week, but once school was over and there were no more sports to train for, all that food just started to sit.

Eventually Bud got fat, which is not something that was especially hard to do in their line of work.

As a long-haul driver you rarely made your own meals, and greasy spoons don’t list many fruits choices on the menu. Driving took a lot out of you physically, especially in harsh weather or in stop-and-go driving conditions, so who had energy at the end of the day to exercise? And even if you wanted to exercise, it was impossible to belong to a gym. So, where were you supposed to get a workout every day? The side of the highway was a very dangerous place to do push-ups.

Still, Mark thought, maybe he should be doing more to be healthier.

And what better time to get started than right now?

Mark pulled into a truck stop, parked his rig in one of the far corners of the lot and headed out for a walk.

He’d taken just a few steps before he stopped and turned back around to lock the doors to Mother Load. That done, he resumed his walk. He didn’t go far, barely more than a mile, but it was a start.

-Mark Dalton returns next month in Part 3 of Survival of the Fittest.

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