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Survival of the Fittest Part 4

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 any more. He pokes a hole in his belt to solve the probl...

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 any more. 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 is feeling fat and out of shape. He calls up Bud and asks Bud how much he weighs. Bud had been a star athlete in high school but since becoming a truck driver had put 290 lbs on his 5’10” frame. Bud warns Mark that the same thing can easily happen to him. Mark decides to do something about it and goes for a walk after he’s parked the truck for the night.

Mark modifies his diet, cutting out fried foods and switching to whole grains, fruits and vegetables. He begins to feel better and at the end of the work day has enough energy left over for some exercise. He’s also become more regular which allows him to spend more time on the road, affecting his bottom line…

Mark stuck to his diet and exercise regimen all the way into Toronto, then kept it up during the subsequent trip out east. His new routine also had him checking into a hotel every few days, but only if the hotel had a swimming pool and fitness room. He’d always taken things like that for granted, but now he enjoyed ending his day with a workout and a swim in a pool – or even better, a relaxing sauna or steam bath.

And when staying overnight in a hotel got to be pricey, he would sometimes go for a swim in a town pool, managing to get his exercise and shower in for one low price. It wasn’t always easy to fit it all in, but it was working. In the past two weeks he’d lost just over 10 lbs – had reclaimed one hole on his belt – and was feeling five years younger.

Mark was in New Brunswick, on his way to Halifax when he stopped at the Salisbury Big Stop. He hadn’t done his laundry in more than a week and this would be a chance for him to clean his clothes and go for a run, before continuing on his way.

He tossed his dirty clothes into two washing machines, one for colours, one for whites, and loaded each one with quarters, detergent and fabric softener. Then, with at least 20 minutes to kill, he stepped outside, stretched his legs and prepared himself for a run around the parking lot. Two laps, maybe three should do it. Then he’d have a nice hot shower and sleep like a baby through the night.

As he knelt down to tighten the laces on his sneakers, Mark glanced up at Mother Load.

The truck was halfway across the lot from him, still sitting where he’d parked it, but something seemed not right about her. Mark stared at his rig, wondering what was wrong. Maybe it was his imagination, but he’d thought he’d seen the driver’s side door swinging closed.

But that couldn’t be. He’d locked the door, hadn’t he?

Mark wasn’t sure anymore. He stood up and started walking toward his truck to check the cab doors before he went on his run.

And that’s when door opened and a man climbed out of the truck.

“What the hell?”

There was a black case under his left arm – Mark’s collection of CDs – and Mark suddenly realized he was being robbed…again.

“Hey!” he shouted. “Hey you!”

The guy froze where he stood, looking at Mark as if he’d just been caught with his pants around his ankles.

“That’s my truck.”

Unfortunately for Mark, the guy didn’t run like his pants were down. Instead, the guy turned right and bolted.

Mark gave chase.

“Stop, thief!” he shouted, feeling sort of silly for saying it, but thinking it was what people said in these kinds of situations. But it didn’t matter what Mark said because there was no one around to hear, or to help him stop this man from getting away with highway robbery.

It was up to Mark – and Mark alone – to catch this man and bring him to justice. Luckily, he was feeling up to the task. Mark hadn’t gone for a run that day, so he was feeling strong and fresh. He ran after the thief, determined to catch him, but careful not to run too quickly and use up all his energy in the first 50 yards.

The guy must have been in good shape because he was running at a pretty good clip and it was tough for Mark to gain any ground. And he obviously wasn’t afraid of a long chase because the guy was running straight out to the highway. If Mark paced himself, he’d be able to close the gap, then overtake him when the guy finally ran out of steam.

Mark settled into a comfortable jog, knowing the thief would eventually tire and slow down. Then Mark could catch him, maybe give him a little smackdown, then call for the police to drag his sorry ass off to jail.

Yes, Mark thought, that’s how it’ll play out. All of the diet and exercise he’d been putting himself through the past few weeks were going to pay off here and now on this barren stretch of the Trans-Canada Hwy. Mark would be a hero and there’d be stories about him in the paper the next day with a headline that read: Hero Trucker Goes the Distance.

And that’s when the thief began to slow down. The distance between them started to shrink.

‘I’m doing it,’ Mark thought. ‘I’m going to catch him!’

Closer and closer, Mark reeled the man in like a fish on the line. The gap was getting smaller and smaller. Another minute and he’d have his hands on him.

Heaven help the guy after that.

A smile appeared on Mark’s face. He was empowered by this experience and a feeling of strength coursed through his body. His heart was pumping like a Detroit Diesel and his lungs were still strong. With this kind of motivation there was no telling how far he could run.

Mark was less than 20 yards behind now. Just a few more seconds…

“You can run,” he shouted, surprised that he still had the energy to say anything. “But you can’t hide.”

The guy turned his head to look behind him…and he smiled.

“I’m going to catch you!” Mark said. “You won’t get away from me.”

Again, the guy turned his head around. “Screw you!”

That got under Mark’s skin. It was bad enough that this guy had stolen Mark’s property, but now he was telling him off when it looked as if Mark was going to get him. Maybe the guy had a death wish, thought Mark. Well, if that was the case, Mark was willing to oblige him.

The guy looked behind him once more, the smile still on his face. But instead of taunting Mark, the man slowed – from a jog to a fast walk.

‘That’s it,’ Mark thought. ‘He’s giving up. I’ve got him!’

“Your ass is mine now!” Mark said.

But just then a blue sedan roared past Mark on the highway. It skidded onto the shoulder and before it had come to a complete stop the passenger side door popped open and the thief jumped inside.

Mark heard the two men inside the car laughing, then the roar of the car’s engine as it surged forward. The car’s spinning rear wheels threw up a cloud of dust and gravel, forcing Mark to put up his hands to protect his face.

By the time the air had cleared and Mark could open his eyes, the car was little more than a pair of red lights on the horizon. Another moment and the car crested a hill and was gone.

Mark stopped running then, his chest heaving as he struggled to catch his breath. He bent forward at the waist, and put his hands on his knees to keep himself from pitching over.

When his breathing finally eased, he stood up straight and turned around to see how far he’d run. The truck stop was little more than a spot on the horizon a mile or so behind him

That was a good run, he thought. And I nearly had him. But for all the exercise and clean living Mark had been doing the past few weeks, none of it helped him to actually catch the guy. In the end, he was no better off than he’d been two weeks earlier.

He’d been robbed then. He’d been robbed now.

Mark took a deep breath, let out a sigh, and began walking back to the truck stop. On the way, all he could think about wa
s the bacon double cheeseburger and the super-sized fries he was going to order when he got there.

-Mark Dalton returns next month in another adventure

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