The story so far...Out of the blue, Mark gets a call from his ex-wife Jenny, who he left years ago when, while working as a private investigator, he videotaped her in a motel room sleeping with anothe...
Out of the blue, Mark gets a call from his ex-wife Jenny, who he left years ago when, while working as a private investigator, he videotaped her in a motel room sleeping with another woman. She wants to get back together again and seems to be sincere about it. Against his better judgement, Mark agrees to pick her up the next day and give reconciliation a try.
After delivering his load early in the morning, Mark called Bud around 10 a.m. and managed to get a truckload of bottled water headed for a grocery distributor in Winnipeg. Best of all, the delivery date was three days away so he had enough breathing room to spend some time getting re-acquainted with his ex-wife Jenny.
He hadn’t meant to mention it to Bud, but somehow he’d let it slip about Jenny during their conversation.
“Are you crazy?” were the first words out of Bud’s mouth.
“It could work,” Mark answered, feeling the uncertainty in his voice and knowing Bud had recognized it too. “There are plenty of husband and wife driving teams out there.”
“And you’re never going to be part of one, not with Jenny, and not with any other woman either. You’re a loner, Mark.”
“Awe, c’mon, Bud. The least you could do is give it a chance before you stomp all over it.”
Bud sighed. “Alright, but the next time you call, you have to let me say ‘I told you so,’ as much as I want.”
Mark hesitated. It was a harsh penalty, but he’d deal with it later. Right now he needed to hear words of support and encouragement, especially from guys like Bud. “Okay, sure.”
“Best of luck, Mark.” A pause. “You’re going to need it.”
He picked her up in front of her apartment building at Annette and Runnymede in the southwest end of Toronto – not exactly the best place in the world to be driving an 18-wheeler. When he’d suggested he meet her somewhere nearby that was more accommodating, say like Scarlett Road and Eglinton, Jenny refused, unable to understand why he couldn’t just pick her up where she lived.
Maybe now she’d get it.
Mark was trying to make the turn onto Runnymede from Jane and his trailer was about a foot away from taking down a traffic light. He backed it up and moved forward twice before he rounded the turn safely, only to see signs for “No Heavy Trucks” all over the place. Mark hoped Jenny was out in front of her building waiting for him since there was no way he’d be able to park his rig and knock on her door.
Luckily she was there waiting.
He stopped out front and waved to her. She ran down to the curb with a backpack bobbing rhythmically on her back. “Hi,” she said.
“Hey,” he answered. “Hop in!”
She opened the door, tossed her backpack onto the seat and said, “Right after I get my suitcases.”
“I’ve only got three of them. I wanted to be prepared.”
“For what?” Mark wanted to say, but before he got the words out she was gone, heading back into the building for the rest of her stuff.
When she came back out she was struggling with three large pieces of luggage. Mark didn’t want to help her, didn’t want any of that stuff in his truck, but he’d agreed to take her along, so maybe it would be okay to indulge her this time. He got out of the truck and carried her bags for her. Five minutes later, Mark had her stuff packed away as best he could. There was still some room left, but the three pieces of luggage had put a dent in their living space.
“There’s not much room in here, is there?” she said after he’d helped her up into the cab.
‘Geez,’ thought Mark. She’s not in the truck five minutes and she’s already grating on my nerves like a squealing brake pad. He didn’t want to say anything sharp or cutting, but he couldn’t help himself. “Suits me, just fine,” he said.
She stared at him strangely for a moment, then smiled. “I’m sorry,” she said. “This is your home, isn’t it?” She took a look around the cab as if she were being polite. “It’s fine. I guess it’ll just take me a little getting used to.”
Mark nodded, put the Peterbilt in gear and let out the clutch.
“So, where are we going?” she asked.
“Winnipeg?” she said. “Why Winnipeg? Why not Florida or California? Couldn’t we go there instead?”
“We could go to those places,” Mark said. “But they want the stuff that’s on my truck in Winnipeg.”
She sighed and said, “Alright.”
“Look at it this way…there’s not a lot on the highway between here and there so we’ll have plenty of time to talk.”
She smiled, but said nothing, probably doing her best to be a trooper.
Mark headed south to the Lakeshore then decided to head west for Highway 427. As he drove, Jenny dialed a few numbers on her cell phone, then listened as if she were picking up her messages. Mark drove on in silence, heading north on the 427 to the 401, which he would take eastbound to the 400 where he would finally get headed north and on their way to Winnipeg.
She finished picking up her messages, but didn’t say a word. Instead, she stared out the window as if something were on her mind. They were coming up on the 400 when the silence between them was too awkward for Mark to let continue.
“You’re looking good, Jenny,” he said.
“You too, Mark.” She smiled at him, but it didn’t seem genuine.
“How’ve you been?”
“I’ve been good.”
He waited for her to say something, but she remained silent. “You seeing anybody?”
“No!” she said. Then after a moment’s thought she shook her head slowly. “Not at the moment, anyway. But why would I be seeing anybody if I’m here with you?”
Another long stretch of silence.
“You’ve been working much?”
“I’ve been doing a bunch of odd jobs. You know, whatever it takes to make ends meet. You’ve been doing well, haven’t you?”
Mark shrugged. “I do alright, but I don’t have much living expenses since I basically live out of this truck.”
She suddenly seemed interested in what he had to say. “How much do you make a year?”
She said nothing for a moment, as if thinking before she spoke again. “I mean, this truck is so well maintained and seems to run great. You must be doing real well for yourself.”
“I’ve saved some money, but I’ll probably be needing a new truck in a little while and that’ll take care of most of it.”
He was about to continue when she put up a hand and pulled out her cell phone. But she wasn’t getting a call. Instead, she was picking up her messages again like she was some actor waiting for a call-back on the role of a lifetime.
“Expecting an important call?”
“Yeah, you could say that.”
Mark didn’t understand it. For someone looking forward and trying to make a new life for herself, she sure seemed anchored in her old one.
“Any new messages?”
Mark said nothing, waiting for her to let him in on what was going on, but she said nothing.
He drove on.
The silence between them was drawn out for miles.
It was getting late in the day. The conversation between them had improved, but not by a lot. Mark still had to ask all the questions and she broke off their talk every so often to listen to her messages. Mark was looking forward to getting out of the truck for a while, so when he saw a sign for a restaurant up ahead, he eased off on the accelerator and said, “Hungry?”
“There’s a greasy spoon a few kilometres up the road. The burgers are pretty good, and their chili…” Mark stopped himself. The last thing he wanted to eat with a passenger in his truck was chili. “Well, it’s good too, but not as good as their burgers.”
“Burgers?” she said. “Hamburgers?”
“That’s not what I had in mind for dinner.”
“Well, what did you have in mind?”
“I dunno, Swiss Chalet, at the very least. Something like that.”
Great! Mark thought, unsure if there was even a Swiss Chalet on Highway 69. There were plenty of franchise restaurants along Highway 400, but once you started heading west it was nothing but independents all the way into Manitoba.
“The burgers are really good,” he said, trying to convince her to stop at the next place on the highway.
“I can’t eat anything that’s too fattening.”
rk let out a long sigh and counted to 10, resisting the urge to say, “Well, I guess you won’t be eating anything til we reach Winnipeg, then.” But instead he said, “It’s still early. Let’s see what’s up ahead.”
That made her happy. Thank God for small miracles. Mark had seen husband and wife teams work really well together, seeming to know exactly what the other wanted, even before they did. Or else they would compromise, knowing that if one gave in this time, it would be the other’s turn the next time around. Obviously, this wasn’t the way it was working with Jenny. As he guided his rig past dozens of greasy spoons and mom and pop joints, Mark gained a newfound respect for husband and wife teams. There had to be a trust and understanding between two equals for them to work and it clearly wasn’t working here. It was almost dark by the time they reached Sudbury.
“Maybe there’s a Swiss Chalet in Sudbury?”
“I’m driving a tractor trailer. It’s not exactly the best sort of vehicle to be cruising around the city in.”
“Please?” her voice was soft and sultry. When he heard it, Mark cursed himself knowing full well he wouldn’t be able to deny her anything.
“Alright,” he said.
They ended up eating at a fancy steak restaurant in Sudbury, the bill coming in at just under $80.
“Which hotel do you usually stay at?” she asked him as she finished her after-dinner tea.
“Where else would we be sleeping?”
“Back of my truck’s usually good for me.”
“But I need a shower, and I need room to try on my nighties or else I won’t know which one I’m in the mood for.”
Mark shook his head. He was already out $80 when he could have easily eaten somewhere for $12. Now he was going to be paying another $80 – at least – for a night in a hotel. Sure, Jenny was alluding to a night of hot sex, but what about after that? In the morning they’d be getting back in the truck and all of her aggravating tendencies would be grating against his nerves again.
“Some of my outfits are really hot!” Her eyebrows arched slightly at the word “hot” and there could be no mistaking what she had in mind.
“Sure, a hotel room sounds great,” he said, being only human. Mark smiled at the irony. He had hoped it would be like this on the road with Jenny every night, but if this carried on, he’d have a smile on his face and not a penny to his name.
– Mark Dalton returns next month in Two for the road – Part 3.