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 they 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 they 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 hardcore Christian woman and her constant talk of God can get annoying. Mark decides to let Cindy drive. After first saying a prayer, she drives as if she’s on glass. Mark is strangely at ease and immediately falls asleep. Later, she stops at a Habitat for Humanity build, convincing Mark to donate a bit of his time, giving his life balance…
• Mark spent the bulk of his day cutting, sanding and painting gingerbread molding that would be going on the outside eaves of the house. It was tedious work, but the time went by quickly for him, talking to people from walks of life he’d never encounter on the road. There were housewives, students, tradesmen and even another truck driver who had a day off and was dragged out to the job by his wife.
At one point in the day, the landscapers needed to remove a tree stump from the front yard and Mother Load was called in to get hooked up to a chain and pull it from the ground. After that, Mark was a hero and it was even easier to go back to sanding and painting wood. At day’s end a coffee truck stopped by and donated what was left on the truck to everyone working on the house. Mark had a salami sandwich, a sugar donut and a hot coffee. All things considered, it was a pretty satisfying meal.
“Well, how did you like it?” Cindy asked as they made their way to Mother Load after the job site was all cleaned up for the day.
“Not as bad as I thought it would be.”
Cindy smiled. “That’s a sense of fulfillment for having helped someone less fortunate than yourself.”
Mark knew she was right on some level, but he wasn’t about to give her the satisfaction of knowing it. “No, I thought I’d be a lot more sore.”
“And you’re not?”
“No, I’m exhausted.”
• A day later they were halfway through the Rockies when a thunderstorm broke through the valley and was pounding the highway with raindrops as big as black flies. Mark slowed Mother Load to a crawl and set the wipers to their fastest setting. Still, the rain kept coming down harder, looking at times as if someone was standing on top of the cab emptying buckets of water onto the windshield.
“Never seen it this bad,” Mark said.
“It is coming down pretty hard,” Cindy agreed.
“I imagine this is what Noah saw in the days before the ark set sail.” He looked over at Cindy thinking the joke would ease some of the tension, but she had her eyes closed and seemed off in another world. Mark pressed on, but the driving conditions weren’t getting any better. He could feel his rig hyrdoplaning over the water and the steering wheel often went light in his hands as the wheels became separated from the pavement by a thin layer of water.
“We might have to stop,” he said at last. “It’s getting dangerous and I don’t want to wreck my truck…or get both of us killed.” But Cindy was silent, eyes shut and lips moving every so slightly.
“I said, it’s getting dangerous…”
And just then, there was a break in the clouds. Light poured into the cab and the drumming of the rain on the roof eased up until it was just a slight tapping sound. And then, moments later, even that was gone and sunshine beamed down into the cab.
“Wow,” Mark said, taking a peek at the suddenly blue sky, “that was weird. I thought for sure we were going to have to stop, or be stopped.”
At last Cindy turned to face him. “It was God,” she said.
“He answered my prayers for safe passage through troubled times.”
Mark had to admit that the weather cleared up all of a sudden, but then again the forecast had been for clearer skies. “It had to be a coincidence,” he said. “God can’t be concerned with the plight of every person on the planet.”
“He’s not,” she said with conviction. “Only with those who believe in him and serve him with their lives.” Mark nodded, knowing better than to disagree. However it happened, the roads were dry now and the driving was easy.
• Mark dropped Cindy off at a truck yard on the outskirts of Vancouver. He stuck around long enough to make sure she did indeed have a rig and a load waiting for her and used the time to figure out her pay for the trip west. Then he counted out a bunch of twenties equal to what she was owed.
“Thank you,” she said as she took her pay.
“No need to thank me,” Mark said. “You earned it.”
“I’ll keep you in my prayers.”
Mark sighed and shook his head a little. It was nice to be in someone’s prayers, but he doubted it would make any difference in his life. “Maybe I’ll see you on the road sometime,” he said pragmatically.
“God willing,” she said, closing the door to the cab and waving goodbye. “Yeah, sure” he muttered. “God willing.”
• It wasn’t until a day later and he was well on his way into Northern British Columbia to pick up his next load that he noticed a drop off in power. Mother Load had been chugging up a steep incline and her speed kept slowing until she was moving along at a crawl…and the engine finally gave out. He pulled to the side of the road with what little momentum he had and came to a stop. He tried restarting the engine. It would turn over, but wouldn’t catch. Mark had a feeling the problem wasn’t serious – a bad switch, or a clogged fuel line – but he knew he wouldn’t be going anywhere without the help of a mechanic. He pulled out his cell phone to call Bud and ask him to send someone, but when he flipped open his phone the graphic on the screen told him it was “Searching for a network connection.”
“Dammit!” he said.
He looked up and down the highway and there was no one in sight. And when he thought about it, he realized that while he’d been driving, he hadn’t seen anyone going north or south for a very long time. On top of that, he was thirsty and hungry, and there was nothing in the truck to eat or drink. All of a sudden, the situation looked dire. If he didn’t pick up his load soon – cedar shakes for a distributor in Ontario – that sweetheart load would go to someone else and he’d have to bobtail back across the country. What to do? He could start walking, but there were thick woods on either side of the road and who knew what kind of animals lurked within? Or he could set up some reflectors, get some rest and hope a fellow trucker stopped to see if he needed any help. But neither option held a lot of promise.
“How the hell am I going to get myself out of this mess?” he said aloud.
He thought about it a moment, then looked skyward.
“Why not?” he said. Then, “God, I know I’m not a religious man, but I’ve always tried to do the right thing and that’s got to count for something…I know Cindy’s praying for me, so I was wondering if you could take my good deeds and add them to Cindy’s prayers and maybe help me get out of this.”
Mark took a deep breath, and waited. Nothing but silence all around.
“Well, it was worth a try.”
But then there was a sound of an approaching car coming from the south. At first he saw the glow of headlights off the trees, then the headlights themselves. Mark stepped out onto the road and waved his arms. The car stopped, pulled over. Inside was a pretty blonde-haired woman wearing a white top and pants.
“Broke down,” Mark said. “And my cell phone doesn’t work out here.”
She smiled. “You have to have the right provider. Here, use mine.” She handed him her ce
Mark took it and called Bud. A mechanic would be on the way.
“Do you need anything?”
“Water, maybe…if you have some.”
“You’re in luck. I’ve just been shopping.” She handed him a two-litre bottle of water, a couple of granola bars and some apples. “Best I can do,” she said.
“No, that’s fantastic,” Mark said. “Just what I needed.”
“Do you need a cigarette?”
“Thanks, but I don’t smoke.”
“Okay, then. I’ll be on my way.”
And just as quickly as she’d arrived, she was gone. Mark stood dumbfounded staring down the road thinking it had been like a miracle. He’d needed help and there she was, giving him all the help he’d needed. He paused a moment as the realization hit him like some flying alligator. Then he looked up into the night sky and thought about God.