While recovering from a near-death experience in a blizzard on the way to Timmins, Mark’s dispatcher Bud gives Mark a ticket to an all-inclusive resort on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. After his luggage is temporarily lost, Mark looks for a ride to the resort. He balks at the forty dollars US a cabbie asks for the trip, then hitches a ride with a truck driver for ten dollars Canadian. However, the truck driver — Jose Hernandez — doesn’t take the money for himself, but rather as a “toll” for the bandits who demand it in exchange for passage along the road. Mark thinks this is wrong and offers to help remedy the situation.
On Mark’s first full day at the resort, he meets up with a gorgeous woman named Lana DeAngelis. Even though she works in the political arena and is a far cry from the type of women Mark usually meets, they hit it off and spend the day and night together. In the morning, Lana is gone and Mark thinks she’s left him, but before he can contemplate the thought, Jose is pounding on Mark’s door. He’s been badly beaten because he hadn’t paid enough toll to drive Mark to the resort, and now he’s turned to Mark for help. As Mark vows to come up with a plan, Lana returns from her morning jog, and hadn’t left Mark after all.
Mark disguises himself as a local and goes for a ride with Jose. They are pulled over by the bandits and when the bandits are told there are televisions and computers in the truck, they can’t help take a look. The moment the bandits are in the trailer, Mark closes the doors and locks them in. Then he lets backs the trailer down a boat launch to give the bandits a scare before taking the truck and the bandits to the local police department. The police chief is corrupt and has been allowing the bandits work in the area for months. Mark and Lana are about to be arrested when Lana’s contact from the Canadian Consulate arrives with a Mexican tourism official in tow. Suddenly the chief is in trouble and the bandits are out of business…
With the truck pirate episode behind them, Mark and Lana spent the rest of the week sunning themselves on the beach or making love to each other in bed. Not surprisingly the week at the resort passed in a blink of an eye.
On their last morning together, Mark contemplated what his life would be like now with a woman like Lana in it. Although it didn’t matter where she lived in the country since Mark was so mobile, Lana owned a home in the Greater Toronto Area and Mark would be able to spend plenty of time with her between loads. Lana was such a special woman that Mark knew that over time the loads he’d be taking would get shorter and shorter until he’d be taking nothing more than day trips out of the city. The money wouldn’t be as good – he’d already tried that once with a woman…with disastrous results – but Lana was different, and any sacrifice he’d have to make to stay with her would be well rewarded in time.
Who knew, thought Mark, if things worked out maybe he’d even take on a “real job” as a shipper or, God forbid, a dispatcher. After all, it would be nice seeing Lana on a daily basis, not just for the sex, but to talk and share each others’ lives.
So with all of these thoughts swirling around in his head, Mark rolled over in bed, put an arm on Lana’s shoulder and said, “You still haven’t given me your number so I can call you when we get back to Toronto. Can you give it to me now?”
Lana shook her head and laughed. “No, I don’t think so.”
Mark was taken aback. Instinctively, his hand came off her shoulder and he rolled away, putting a few inches of space between them. She had to be kidding, he thought. She just had to be. “You’re joking, right?”
“No,” she answered without a hint of emotion.
Mark’s heart began racing and he was beginning to feel hot under the covers. What Lana was saying and her whole attitude wasn’t making any sense. They’d spent five great days together. Five whole days full of walks on the beach, discussions about everything from sliced bread to the NHL lockout, and plenty of intimate moments – very intimate moments. Yet she was brushing him off like a piece of lint she’d found on her skirt. “Why not?”
“We had some fun,” she said. “Especially that thing we did with the truck driver. The sex was great too…” She paused to roll over and face him. “But that’s all I came down here for. I’m not interested in a relationship. When I’m working, I don’t have time for a man…any man.”
Mark wanted to say something, but the words weren’t coming to him. Instead he just looked at Lana with a partially opened mouth and an expression he knew was blank, stunned and confused.
“You see, I work very hard. Fourteen to 16 hour days are normal for me…So every couple of months I come down here to unwind and have some fun, you know, a lot of sex without any of the usual emotional entanglements.”
Mark couldn’t believe what he was hearing. It was as if he’d suddenly awakened next to a different person. He felt hurt and used, almost like a condom…an apt comparison considering what they’d been doing the past week.
“You’re not hurt, are you? I thought that was what all guys wanted.”
“It might have been what I wanted at first, but over the last week, I…”
“What? Don’t tell me you fell in love?”
“I don’t know. Maybe, a little.”
“Oh, that’s so sweet,” she said with a charitable smile, her voice tainted with pity. She shook her head slightly. “But it’s impossible to continue this back home. It would never work out and you’d only end up getting hurt.”
End up getting hurt, Mark thought. What the hell is happening to me right now!
Mark didn’t want to say it, didn’t want to sound small and petty, but he couldn’t help thinking it and there seemed little chance of them spending any more time together, so…what could it hurt?
“It’s because I’m a truck driver, isn’t it? I’m good enough for a roll in the hay on vacation, but too low brow for your life back in the real world.” The words had slid easily off his tongue, leaving a bitter taste at the back of his mouth. Saying them was supposed to have made him feel better, but that wasn’t the case, not by a longshot.
“It’s too bad you think that way,” she said, caressing his cheek with the back of her hand. “Because it’s not that way at all. You could be a millionaire and I’d still tell you the same thing. The thing is, I’m basically a selfish person and there’s no room for a man – any man – in my regular day-to-day life.” She gave a little shrug. “I’m sorry, but that’s just the way it is.”
“So I guess that’s it, then,” Mark sighed. “Slam, bam, thank you, man!”
“Not necessary. We could arrange to meet up here again in say, three months…” She arched her eyebrows in an attempt at sincerity. She was making him an offer, he knew, but it felt more like charity.
“Nah, I don’t think so.” Being able to turn her down made Mark feel a bit better, like he could get out of the situation with some of his dignity in tact.
She leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “You’re a good man, and a great lover… I’m sure you’ll find the right woman sooner or later.”
Lana got out of bed, got dressed and left Mark’s room without looking back at him once. Mark did his best to stay strong. He rolled onto his back and stared at the ceiling for the longest time, telling himself that Lana was right. There was a woman out there who was right for him – no, more than just right, she was perfect. Her name was Mother Lode and Mark couldn’t wait to get home to her.
Just after noon, Mark packed his bags and made one final check of his room to make sure he wasn’t leaving anything behind other than a generous tip for the cleaning lady. Outside, Jose was waiting to give him a ride to the airport. Mark could have easily jumped on the shuttle bus provided by the resort, but Jose had insisted that he give Mark one last ride in the 1968 Dodge.
Even though they’d gotten rid of the ban
dits, both Mark and Jose knew that it was only a matter of time before some other hombres arrived on the scene to take their place. Jose wanted out anyway, and had been looking to buy a new truck so he could work for a company that offered better routes and higher pay. Mark had given the man Bud’s number and when Jose said that Mark Dalton had told him to call, Bud had put a good word in for him with a few companies he did business with. And so, starting next week, Jose would be driving a produce truck on a regular route out of Mexico City into the northern United States and Canada.
“What’s the matter, Senor?” Jose asked when they were well underway and Mark still hadn’t said a word. “What’s wrong?”
Mark looked out the cracked windshield and contemplated the road that stretched out before him like a path that was best not deviated from. “Nothing’s wrong, my friend,” he said. “Nothing a few thousand miles behind the wheel won’t fix, anyway.”