Two things today: a free version of Hard Roads, a story that’s never been independently published (though it is included in my September collection), and…
Were you enjoying the excerpts from Pagan Sex? Did you want them to continue? Well, here’s a treat: the entire novel should be free for five days, starting today, on all Amazon sites. Here are the links:
If you can tell your friends about this without feeling embarrassed, please do so. If you can’t, just remember I’m laughing maniacally somewhere offstage. Just sayin’.
On with the show! Here’s today’s Wacky Wednesday freebie (if I got the timezone settings right, ’cause I’m actually posting this on Saturday):
(Author’s note: The “voice” in this mostly comes from a little town called Bonham, TX. I spent a lot of time there when I was a kid. And then I lived there for a couple of years recently.)
Up on the expressway, the trucks roared through my dreams.
I don’t know. It might have turned out different if we’d had air conditioning back then. The way it was, most summers starting when I was nine, after dark I’d lie there in my room upstairs and sweat and hear the cicadas a-chorusing out the window and sometimes there’d be a cricket inside but I hardly ever found one of them. I’d feel the night all itchy on my arms and sides and I even tried sleeping naked but just couldn’t get arranged, and the air was so darn still but I knew the trucks were moving. If they weren’t moving any particular moment it was because they were getting ready to go, getting loaded up or fueled, and if it wasn’t that it was because the drivers were weak or the laws interfered.
But my Daddy wasn’t weak. Nobody ever tried to say that.
Anyway, that was life in Georgia for us. Mother did the best she could, nobody could fault her for cleaning and cooking and stretching three nickels’ worth out of a dime. Well, one time she went and showed little Dustin about how to read when he was just eight, even though Daddy said it was the school’s job, and Daddy had to teach her a lesson but it took pretty good and there wasn’t no more of that. Hell I couldn’t read then when I was twelve and I don’t do so well now either but I can get by on the roads and that’s enough for me.
Dustin was a good kid mostly. Not big like me, and sometimes he talked funny and Daddy tried to teach him to act right, like a man. Dustin left when he was fourteen. Said he’d go to Hollywood and send me a postcard when he was famous, but you know he never did. He could write real good too. I was sad I never got it.
I always knew I’d drive a truck like Daddy. Always knew I’d find little Dustin somewheres too, but I guess not just yet. Boy, you should have heard Daddy the day I got my commercial license, that was in Texas by then though and Mother was gone two years already because of the cancer.
“Hey boy,” he said. “You gonna support me in my old age?”
“Heck no,” I told him like he wanted. “You ain’t old, and if you was I’d just drive over you. Be a mercy for the sake of the Lord.”
He nodded. “Don’t forget, now.”
Well I didn’t.
So I drove a truck and me and Daddy helped feed the whole world, and bring gas so other people could drive to work and mow their lawns and use chainsaws for firewood. There was no end to the good we did. We carried everything everywhere, and half the time I think somebody or other needed it. If you ask me that’s a better percentage than a doctor or a lawyer gets for what he does. It was good being partners for as long as we were.
Then last year I got a new partner, a guy who owned his own rig but had two other guys driving it and paying him for the privilege. Well that was a darn good idea and a lot of drivers worked it just that way if they could and some of them figured they would eventually get rich but I wasn’t made for that. My truck was my home, and also I didn’t know if anyone else could keep it running like Daddy taught me.
I didn’t name the truck, though, like Lucy or Amber or one guy named his Madonna but we all thought that was dumb. My new partner, who his name was Dave, he started in wanting me to name it at first but I think he was just trying to find something to talk about because he got bored from time to time. I had to tell him you couldn’t count on seeing what was going on around you if you didn’t hold your mouth right, like Daddy told me only once but I understood him just fine. So Dave got some books to read and some music and some audio books. I thought maybe listening to the audio books might be as bad as talking, but he’d been so understanding I figured I sort of owed it to him to let him alone about that. Also it made the days go by better, because they was some good stories.
Some days were easy and some just stretched out forever like they’d end just as soon as the interstate did and not one bit before, with nothing going right, but the important part was the truck kept moving pretty good as a usual thing. Even when the laws made us hole up someplace because of too much driving all at once I could hear the other rigs going by and know I was part of something big and powerful. Besides, we kept more than one log book to show at weigh stations and lied a little too, which is easier for independents like us but anyway it was in a good cause because what we did was important.
Then Dave’s truck got stolen by California, which was something I never heard tell of before.
These two drivers who had his truck, I disremember their names, anyway they pulled off to sleep at a place they shouldn’t ought to have, and parked Dave’s truck next to a warehouse with a guard they knew. But a bunch of kids was using the place for some kind of dance thing that night, and the police raided it, and the drivers had an underage girl with them in the truck.
Now don’t get me wrong. Nothing happened to that girl. And she eventually admitted it too, but the cops were mad just the same because one of the guys—that’s right, his name was Andy—anyway Andy broke a cop’s arm with the truck’s door, all hurried-like, when the cop was trying to pull that little girl out of there. Well of course the cop had been undercover and wasn’t wearing no uniform, and that girl, she was screaming like to wake the dead, so how was Andy gonna know what was happening? But that made no nevermind, the cops still got riled up and decided the truck had just maybe been used to bring in drugs for the kids, so they took it. Even though it wasn’t Andy’s.
It beat all I ever heard. But Dave said there was no way to get his truck back, because he’d have to put up a chunk of its value to go to court, and then he’d have to prove it never had drugs in it, and how would he do that? So the truck was gone.
“You know what they took?” Dave asked me after he got done telling me about what his lawyer told him. “That was the tuition money for my daughters. I spent fifteen years driving to get that truck paid for, and I was about to get another rig too in a couple of years, but now I’m back to where I was, and how am I supposed to explain it to my kids?”
Well I didn’t know. But it bothered me. “Just what,” I asked him, “are the cops fixing to do with that rig anyhow? Haul prisoners around? Doughnuts maybe?”
“They’ll sell it, I guess. Hey, you know what else? I just thought of something. My oldest girl was planning to go to UCLA next year, as a non-resident of California, and it was going to cost an arm and a leg. So if she can’t do it, well hell, at least it’s partly their own money they took from me.”
That was Dave. Always thinking things out. But it still didn’t sit right with me.
Dave was hurting, and so was his family, and I had some extra money saved up. So we found that lawyer again and started us up a partnership, and went in halfsies on another truck. We thought we might buy his old rig back, because at least he knew what-all was wrong with it, but California sold it for scrap to a company that did nothing but destroy big rigs. Now who would have thought they’d have one of those? It didn’t seem decent.
We did okay with the new rig and some new drivers, I thought, but Dave was used to better money coming in, and he’d fret about it. He started talking about how he might as well carry drugs, or guns maybe, and make the money he lost back plus a little interest. But that kind of crazy talk didn’t help us one bit.
He kept up with it, though, and it got real uncomfortable riding with him. I thought about splitting up, one of the guys we’d hired riding with me and the other with him in our new truck, but it didn’t seem like a good idea.
Finally I took him to see my Daddy. Daddy lived with a younger woman he’d met just before he quit driving. I hadn’t been to see him since he told me he was quitting, but I figured he could work it all out for us if we just gave him half a chance.
The woman wasn’t home, which was probably for the best. Daddy was glad to see me, and said he was willing to talk the situation over with us. Dave didn’t pay much attention to him, though. He spoke real loud even though Daddy could hear just fine, and once we got there he wouldn’t even discuss drugs or guns.
Well, that was jim-dandy. I didn’t want to hear any more about them anyway. The next thing I did was, I took the big wrench I kept behind the seat and bashed in the back of Dave’s head real quick so he wouldn’t suffer none. I felt bad about it but he didn’t leave me no choice.
The way that boy was going, sooner or later the cops would take another truck off of him, and it might be mine they got next. And it purely looked like the truck would get broken up, too. They really hadn’t ought to do that, but things are what they are and all you can do sometimes is get by as best you can.
Daddy didn’t quite see what I was up to at first, but that was okay. I showed him where Dave had kept a little gun handy, then when it looked like Daddy was beginning to catch on to how I was fixin’ to make it all right I took the gun out and shot him. Then I got Daddy’s fingerprints on my wrench, took him out in the woods and buried him.
There was lots of fussing for a while, but in the end it looked like Daddy killed Dave and ran, just like I told the police must’ve happened. Crazy old coot probably thought he was doing me a favor, but it wasn’t like I asked him to, now was it, is what I said.
Dave and me had insurance, so I got the loan on the new truck paid off right away. Also it was the kind of deal where if one partner died, the whole thing belonged to the other one. Kind of tough on Dave’s wife and kids, but what did they know about trucks? And I was done having partners.
As for Daddy, well, if he hadn’t been so old I couldn’t have done it to him. He was a big, strong, smart man once. We used to move darn near anything all the way across the country.
The main thing is, the truck is supposed to move. And I figure that means we are too. I’d say I helped him move on in pretty much the only way he truly had left in him. It was just like we used to say, a mercy for the sake of the Lord.
But I don’t know. What am I gonna do with two trucks? I need to find a good solid driver to ride with me, some guy who knows about this world and how it’s supposed to work. I purely wish I could find little Dustin and offer him a job now he’s all growed up. I believe he would understand it all right.
Because, like Daddy always said, the work we do?
There’s people out there counting on us. And them trucks is supposed to move.
Want more stories? Try What Happens in September… for this and six others.
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