After they dropped off the load of car parts at the GM plant, Johnny invited Mark home for supper."Are you sure your wife would appreciate you bringing a trucker home unannounced?" Mark asked. "Seeing...
After they dropped off the load of car parts at the GM plant, Johnny invited Mark home for supper.
“Are you sure your wife would appreciate you bringing a trucker home unannounced?” Mark asked. “Seeing how happy she was to get the check, you two might have some celebrating to do tonight on your own, if you know what I mean?”
“Oh, I know what you mean, Mark, but none of it would have happened without your help, so I owe you. Dinner and putting you up is the least I can do.”
“Don’t worry, we’ll still be celebrating, only you’ll be in the basement, and we’ll be up on the second floor.”
“All right,” said Mark, smiling. “I could do with a home-cooked meal.”
On the way they stopped to check on Mark’s rig. It was parked in a safe enough spot in the lot of a gas station owned by a friend of Mark’s. But the place closed for a few hours each night, and that was more than ample time for someone to do damage to the rig.
It was usually kids, breaking in and stealing anything they could get their hands on quick. If they couldn’t find anything to steal, they sometimes broke things in frustration, or emptied out the fire extinguisher inside the cab, just for the hell of it.
The rig was fine, just as Mark had left it. He took a clean change of clothes, locked everything up again, and rejoined Johnny in his rig.
When they arrived, Mrs. Jones wasn’t too happy to see Mark following her husband into the house. But once Johnny explained Mark’s role in his hijacking his latest load and basically holding it for ransom, Rachel – her name turned out to be – couldn’t do enough for Mark.
Pork chops and potatoes turned into a five-course meal. After supper, Rachel offered Mark yet another beer and a cigar, which she didn’t even send him outside to smoke.
“King for a day,” said Johnny.
“What do you mean?”
“She’s really giving you the royal treatment.”
“You mean she’s not like this every day of the week?”
There was a moment of silence, then they both burst into laughter.
“What’s so funny?” Rachel asked, joining them in the living room.
“We’re just happy about the way things went today, is all,” said Mark.
“Well, I’m pleased too,” said Rachel. “In fact, I was thinking that maybe you and Johnny should become partners. God knows he could use someone with experience looking out for him.”
Mark suddenly felt as if he’d sat down on a very hot seat.
“Well, it just worked out I had time to help Johnny out. Usually I’m driving my own loads … and that’s the way I like it. You know, on my own.”
The room was suddenly silent, and Mark feared that Rachel didn’t like what he’d said.
“I thought you’d say something like that,” she said at last.
“But can you at least check in on him once in a while, and, you know, give him some advice when he needs it?”
Mark looked over at Johnny and noticed the man looked pained. Obviously Johnny had made a few costly mistakes that could have been easily avoided – just like every new driver starting out. “You bet, I’d be happy to, Rachel.”
“Thank you,” she said, and then left the room.
“My wife,” said Johnny.
“She loves you is all,” said Mark.
Around eight o’clock, Mark realized he didn’t have a clue what he was doing in the morning and he decided to give his dispatcher, Bud, a call.
“Okay, if I use your phone?”
He dialed the number and waited. It rang six times with no answer. Mark was about to hang up when Bud finally answered.
“What, now you’re not even saying, ‘Yellow!'”
“What do you want?”
“Uh, let me see… How about a load, like every other time I call you.”
“Haven’t got one for you.”
“But it’s been a couple of days since I called you last. You must’ve got something by now.”
“Sure, I got some loads.”
“One’s going to Halifax tomorrow morning–“
“I’ll take it.”
“Well, you can have it, but I don’t have anything in Halifax for the rest of this week, so you’ll be driving back empty, which shouldn’t be so bad considering the price of fuel out on the east coast right now.”
Mark could feel the sarcasm in Bud’s voice getting under his skin.
“But there’s got to be something in Halifax, I’ve taken plenty of loads out of there before. It’s a port city for cryin’ out loud!”
“I’ve got a couple of company’s out there, but none of them have a load for me at the moment.”
“When will they?” Mark knew he was pushing Bud a little, but the man had had three days to work something out. He should have come up with something by now…
“I don’t know, Dalton. But maybe I should spend my entire day cold-calling shippers long-distance and asking them if they want to try somebody new.”
Mark knew Bud was getting angry with him, but he couldn’t resist the temptation to give Bud back a little of what he was dishing out. “You mean you don’t already do that?”
“Listen, Dalton!” Bud was getting really pissed now. Mark could hear his labored breath between words. “You’re just worried about your next load, but I’ve got to worry about your next three, or you’ll be complaining to me about how you can’t make any money…”
Bud was really on a roll. Mark held the phone away from his ear and let the man rant.
“…Or too many miles, or not enough miles… fuel prices or ‘I haven’t made love to my wife in weeks.’ It never ends with you drivers, does it?”
Bud was almost screaming into the phone now, but Mark wasn’t about to let him off easy. “C’mon, Bud,” he said, “it doesn’t seem like all that tough a job. You get a load, you send a driver, how hard can it be?”
Bud didn’t say anything for several seconds.
Mark let out a little laugh.
“All right, Dalton,” said Bud, his voice suddenly warm and friendly. “As you probably noticed, I’m a little stressed out at the moment and I could use a couple days off. If you think dispatching is such a walk in the park, why don’t you take over for me for the next, say … two days.”
“Are you serious?” This was very unlike Bud, but he did sound as if he desperately needed time off.
“Of course I’m serious, Dalton. Two hundred a day serious enough for you?”
Mark was impressed. Two hundred dollars a day was pretty good pay for dispatching, especially when there wouldn’t be any miles going on “Mother Load” while he was doing it. And, it didn’t sound like there were all that many loads to be keeping track of these days. “Two days, and you’ll be back.”
It was a good deal, especially since Mark could use that time to set himself up with a sweet series of loads that would take him to all his favorite cities – maybe even somewhere hot by the ocean. And it might even do him some good to see how the other half live.. “Sure, I’ll do it. Why not?” he said.
“Okay, you’ll need to be here by six tomorrow morning. I’ll let you in and take an hour or so to explain a few things, then I’ll be gone.”
“Can I call you if I have any problems while you’re away?”
“No,” Bud said quickly, and then, “Besides, what kind of problems are you going to have?” Bud’s voice was strangely soft and friendly again.
It gave Mark the creeps.
“I guess so,” said Mark.
“See you in the morning, then.”
Mark hung up the phone.
“What was that all about?” asked Johnny.
“That was Bud, my dispatcher,” Mark said. “I’ll be taking over for him for the next two days.”
“Yeah, as dispatcher.”
“Good luck, man.”
“Why do you say that?” Mark asked, suddenly feeling a little less sure of himself. “I mean, how hard can it be?” n