The story so far...Mark is at a truck stop near Winnipeg and sees a woman talking to drivers, asking them for a ride. She's attractive, and when Mark learns she's heading to Vancouver, he offers her a ride hoping them might get intimate along...
The story so far… Mark is at a truck stop near Winnipeg and sees a woman talking to drivers, asking them for a ride. She’s attractive, and when Mark learns she’s heading to Vancouver, he offers her a ride hoping them might get intimate along the way. She stops that train of thought cold.
Cindy seems like a nice girl with a good head on her shoulders. Mark can’t figure out why someone would leave her stranded. But as they talk, Mark discovers she’s a hard-core Christian woman and her constant talk of God can get annoying…
• They had just crossed the border into Alberta when Mark let out a yawn. It was soon followed by another, and another until it was obvious that he needed some rest.
“Are you feeling up to driving for a while?” he asked Cindy, who had her nose buried deep into a book. It wasn’t the Bible – she’d probably read that a dozen times already – but an inspirational book of some kind written by a pastor.
“I was wondering when you were going to stop, or if a telephone pole was going to do it for you.”
Another yawn. “I’ve had enough.” A pause. “But to be honest, I’m not crazy about letting someone else – basically a stranger – drive my truck.”
“It’s understandable,” she said. “But, it won’t be just me driving.”
“God will be with me every mile of the way.”
“Right.” The word came out long and drawn out. “Then if God’s gonna be your co-pilot, I’d prefer you not talk to him while you’re driving. You know, so all of your attention is on the road.”
She looked at him as if he were stupid. “I don’t talk to God by speaking out loud.”
“Uh, of course not,” Mark said, slowing down so he could pull over and let her take the driver’s seat.
Soon after, as they sat idling by the roadside, Mark checked Cindy out on Mother Load, pointing out all the sweet spots in terms of speed, gearing, temperature, etc. A few minutes in, she turned to him and said, “I have driven trucks before, all kinds of them, including three different 379s.”
“Alright, then,” Mark said, realizing it would probably be alright to let go of the steering wheel, at least for a little while. “Just don’t crash.”
“Good night,” she said, strapping herself in and checking out all the gauges on her own.
Minutes later, when she was sure of herself and the truck, she took her hands off the wheel and put them together in prayer.
“Dear God above bless this truck I drive, and help me keep someone alive…” When she was finished praying, Cindy finally looked ready to drive. Without hesitation, she disengaged the parking brake, shifted into first and let the clutch out ever so slowly.
Mother Load glided forward as if she were on rails.
Mark liked how careful she was with his truck, and the prayer was definitely a nice touch. He didn’t believe God watched over individual trucks on the road, but if he did it was nice to have Him on your side. Mark closed his eyes and thought it was crazy to let a complete stranger drive Mother Load, but he was infused with peace of mind and there was a feeling of serenity throughout the truck that he’d never felt before. All of it put him at ease. He adjusted his head on his pillow and was sound asleep in minutes.
Mark could feel Mother Load glide to a stop. His eyes fluttered open, but his mind and body were still full of sleep. He’d like another couple of hours if he could get it, but something inside told him that Cindy was stopping for a while. From what he could see out the front window, they weren’t in the parking lot of some truck stop, or on the highway shoulder.
‘Where the heck are we?’ he wondered. Then he watched Cindy set the parking brake and turn off Mother Load’s engine. “What are you doing?” he asked.
“Here. We’re stopping for a while,” she said. That was news to him. As far as he knew, the purpose of having another driver on board was so you didn’t have to stop until you were low on fuel or reached your destination. This stop was definitely unscheduled. “For how long?”
“A few hours.”
“Hours?” Mark said, incredulously.
“Yeah, five or six.”
At that, Mark rose up from the sleeper and took a good look around. They were in a rural area, but there were residential developments around them that looked as if they’d be expanding outward in the next few years. Cars were parked up and down the side of the road and men and women were walking past them toward – he got up and looked out the passenger-side window – an old farmhouse. Piled up around the house were all kinds of lumber, building material and equipment. If Mark didn’t know any better, the house looked like it was being restored.
Mark turned to Cindy and said, “Where are we?”
“Just outside of Calgary,” she said. “There’s a big Habitat for Humanity build scheduled here today. I wanted to help out and it’ll probably do you some good too.”
Mark smiled in disbelief. “You want me to work on this house today?”
“With a bunch of people I don’t know?”
And if he remembered correctly about Habitat for Humanity, it was all made possible through donations…including donations of people’s time. “And I’ll be working for free?”
“For the people who are going to live in this house, who I don’t know and I’ll probably never see again after today?”
“I’m so relieved you understand.”
Mark was getting annoyed. “I understand it, but what makes you think I want to do this today?”
“From what I’ve gathered, you spend all of your time working. And from what you’ve told me, you help people out when you can, but you don’t always see people at their best. It’ll do you good to spend some time with some good people and give your life some balance.”
Life balance. Mark thought about that. He was always working and rarely took time off, but even if that were true, this was work, not time off. It would leave him tired and sore by the end of the day and that didn’t seem like much fun, no matter how good a cause it was for. He shook his head.
“I don’t think this is for me.”
“Don’t be silly, of course it is.”
“Don’t tell me,” he said. “God wants me to do it?”
“No, he wants you to want to do it. Just a bit of your time, to help give a less fortunate family a home to live in. It’s…”
He cut her off. “The Christian thing to do?”
“No, just the right thing. You make a good living, few expenses, with me driving you’ve got plenty of extra time, so why not?”
Mark looked out the window at the people heading toward the build. They looked to be from all walks of life, old and young, rich and poor. ‘Why not?’ he thought. “Okay,” he said at last. “I guess we’ve got a few hours to kill.” She put a hand on his shoulder. “Relax,” she said. “This’ll be fun. Trust me.”
Mark just shook his head. If it were fun, he thought, they wouldn’t call it work.
– Mark Dalton returns next month in the conclusion of The Good Shepherd.