Write On!

All I Do Is Drive, Drive, Drive

In Uncategorized on November 17, 2011 at 4:26 pm

by: Jen Gregory

The sky sagged like a mini-van mom’s bottom, a tad heavy. The silver shadowed clouds stretched tight like grey velour pants over the bloated autumn sky. Amber Lewter looked up through the windshield and decided against the grocery run. She looked at the clock and wondered if the storm would interfere with tonight’s soccer game an hour away.
She tapped her short naked fingernails against the steering wheel to some anonymous beat, her mind in a thousand places at once.

What about dinner? Could she get another load of laundry done? Was Tristan’s uniform clean? She turned a couple of corners, hopped out of the car and sprinted into her house. After taking her three year old Lily to a friend’s house from preschool she had exactly one hour to prepare for the rest of her day and the first of tomorrow.

She grabbed some beans and poured them in a pot, added some water and plopped the ceramic pot into the heater and turned on the croc pot. She ran into the kid’s bathroom and dug carelessly for the baseball uniform. She found his shirt, pants and one sock. Hopefully the other would turn up or she would have to stop and buy new ones on the way out of town. She needed to make three phone calls and pay 5 bills but first she had to go to the restroom.

That taken care of she ran the dirty clothes to the laundry room, applied stain-treater to the knee of the uniform pants and turned on the washing machine, threw in the clothes and added detergent. She looked at the clock. She had forty-five minutes left. She spent that time calling a doctor, a dentist and a good friend who had just lost her mom. The latter took the rest of her thirty minutes in which she consumed a bowl of cereal, fixed her makeup, changed her shoes and folded two loads of laundry and cleaned the kitchen counters while listening to Christy tell about the way her brother was ruining her mother’s last wishes.

Back to the car she thought, “All I do is drive, drive, drive!”

She had an hour’s drive, in fact. Her husband had picked up their oldest so that she could pick up snacks for the team and run by the hospital and visit his aunt in the little town between theirs and the ballparks. She flipped channels and applied some lip-gloss. She finally found a country station she was fond of and remembered she needed gas. She saw a truck stop ahead and pulled over. She would get snacks here too even if it did cost and extra ten dollars it was worth it not to have to make yet another stop.

She ran in and grabbed fifteen small bags of chips crinkling in their slick plastic bags and then she got fifteen large purple Gatorades. Her arms were loaded. She made two trips to the counter before she had it all ready. The woman at the counter was maybe ten years her senior but had obviously seen a lot more of life than Amber had in her 34 years. Virgie must have called her honey at least five times before she finished ringing it all up. Each item was placed in a large paper bag. After Amber paid she grabbed the two full sacks and headed back out to the van.

As she walked up to her car she lost her grip on both bags and the sports drinks went skittering off like roller derby girls. She sighed, cursed under her breath and started after the bottles. She grabbed two and went to the hatch on the back of her car to open it so that she could chase down the rest of the bottles and get them inside the car. As she turned around to go grab more bottles a large eighteen wheeler pulled up. It was massive and red. It was running over at least ten of the bottles of Gatorade. She could hear the pop and see the spurt of liquid squelch out from underneath the large rubber tires. She groaned, her shoulders slumped and ducked out of the way as the large red machine pulled up to parallel her van on the pump just the other side of hers.

Amber was able to save two bottles. She reached down staring at the gasoline and oil stains of the concrete. If she could just get the fuel and go she might still have time to make it to the hospital she thought. As she was grabbing her purse to go in and buy more sport’s drinks the truck driver stepped down. Amber wasn’t the close minded or uptight sort but she had a certain notion about truck drivers and she supposed as she looked this one up and down she painted in some details with her presumptions.

The old guy that stepped out of the big fire engine red rig was a character. From head to toe he had all the jolly of St. Nick and the swagger of Toby Keith. He hollered at her, “Ma’m. ma’m let me pay you for the drinks. I’m sure sorry I couldn’t keep from running them over.”

Amber shrugged and pretended it was no big deal. She said, “Don’t worry about it I’m fine.”
“Well ma’m,” he said, “if you were fine I suspect you wouldn’t have just locked your keys in the car. Your engines on but I saw you lock the doors. I reckon you are in a hurry and I just put a kink in your day. Let me fix it a little.”

“Oh no, no, I’m good” she said as she glanced back and realized the old cowboy was right. “Crap!” she blurted out in frustration tugging on the door handle. The cowboy walked up behind her, his short and stocky build about eye level to her five foot six frame. He placed a hand on the tip of his dirt rimmed felt cowboy hat and grinned with yellow edged teeth. He said, “Miss, I got a phone and I keep the Pop-a-lock number in here just for instances like this.”

“You rescue a lot of soccer mom’s this way?” she said looking into his eyes for the first time. Amber was a people person in the way that she liked people but never trusted them. Something about his blue eyes shone. Maybe it was the contrast of dark, heavy skin and white hair but his eyes were alarming, stunning, even captivating. The old guy had oomph. Amber liked him but couldn’t say just why.

He flipped open his out of date cell phone and pulled up the number. He called the guy by name and said, “See you in a few.” “Ma’m, my name is Walker. I’d like to be your escort to the counter where I would be honored to buy you a cup of coffee while we wait on your car to get unlocked. It is, after all, mostly my fault.” With that he held out his arm, skin sagging, the faint blue inky outlines of long ago tattoos poking out of his denim shirt sleeves.

Something in Amber relaxed. She found herself taking his arm and saying, “I’d like to find out if all those trucking songs tell about a life like yours. And I’d love a cup of coffee sir.” She blushed when Virgie the cashier gave her a big wave and said, “I see you done stole my man!” She said it with a good nature but a lingering eye. Walker tipped his hat with his free hand and told Virgie, “You know you’re my only woman. I’m just doing my gentlemanly duty Virg. Surely you can understand.”

They sat at the coffee bar and a somewhat attractive middle aged waitress came by with a cleaning rag and asked them what they would like. Walker ordered two cups of joe and some cream and sugar for his new friend. The waitress whose name was La Queta winked and said, “You bet Walker. Where ya been, leaving me lonely.” He gently took of his hat and sat it down on the counter grinning, his eyes twinkling and said, “LaLa you know I love you girl, but a man has to make a living.”

When the waitress went back into the kitchen Amber saw him stare after her a minute and then work at straightening his hair and such. He leaned his elbows onto the counter and turned his face towards Amber saying, “What you want to know about an old truck driver like me?” Amber smiled and said, “Is there a pretty waitress crying for you every hundred miles or so? Do you always get lots of love and smiles everywhere you go?”

“Darling,” he leaned in, “If you want to know the truth about it, here is the way it is. All I do is drive, drive, drive. Try to stay alive. Keep my mind on the load, eyes on the road. I got nothing in common with any man whose home every day at five. All I do is drive, drive and drive.”

“You some kind of poet?” Amber quipped. “You and I have something in common. All I do is drive. I drive from this event to that event. That school to this school. One town to the next and no man can understand what it’s like!” she said her fingers digging in her purse for some lip-gloss.

La Queta returned with two cups of hot coffee on saucers. Laid down two thin paper napkins and placed the coffee on top quick enough to slosh a couple of dark drops onto the creamy white ceramic.

“Thank you beautiful,” the white headed trucker smiled as he grabbed the coffee and took a quick sip. He took a drink with his thin pink lips, quick and numb to the heat that was causing Amber to cautiously stir her cup. “Now you little miss, you need to remember to have a little fun. Get out of that car, even if it’s just a stop along the way and make the most of it.” He leaned back in his chair, relaxed and revealed a large silver buckle. Elaborately engraved, she guessed it was a treasured possession.

“Not everybody is as fun as you I’m guessing.” Amber said with a hint of sarcasm.

“Now look, I know I’m a stranger and all but I’m right about this one thing. I wasn’t always a trucker. I was other stuff. I became a trucker to have a little fun.”

“Other stuff huh?” she replied doubtfully.

“Yep. Other stuff. It was a whole lot more impressive sounding but a lot less fun.”

“What did you do before you became a trucker?”

“Stuff. Boring stuff that made me plenty of money and cost me plenty of heartache. Trust an old cowboy. Have fun and smile a little more. Pretty young ladies are a heap prettier when they smile.” This he said with a terrific grin, his whole face lit from the inside, dimples causing his whiskers to go every which way like tiny crop circles.

They finished their coffee and the pop a lock guy showed up. Popped the lock and Walker the old truck driver insisted on paying and getting more Gatorade for Amber. He pulled out three neat twenty dollar bills from a silver money clip crammed with bills and winked at Virgie as he escorted Amber to her car. He opened her door for her and said, “It was a real pleasure. Thanks for humoring an old man. I should take your picture and show it to my buddies; they wouldn’t believe I got me a younger girlfriend.”

Amber smiled and thought. I’d love a picture with you. She reached into her purse and pulled out her iphone. She extended her arm in front of the two of them and smiled. Walker placed his arm around her shoulder and grinned. One click and she had it.

She rolled down the window as she drove away and smiled at Walker telling him thank you. He didn’t say good bye, he pointed at his mouth and did a thumbs up, “That a girl!”

She kept the picture up and turned up the radio. She wouldn’t make it by the hospital and she would be a little late to the game. She called her husband so he wouldn’t worry and made the rest of the drive without thinking about anything but the scenery. It never even crossed her mind, the science project, office dinner and school play. She was breathing and smiling. She felt a little bit in love. The green scrub of a Texas roadside gave way to tall lights and car after car lined up in an overcrowded parking lot. The heavy skies lighter than the darkening day. She hopped out, grabbed her things and headed to the field.

As she walked to the game, she smiled. Amber smiled at the officer at the front gate, the older woman taking tickets and the little girl with lopsided ponytails hanging from the bar separating two ticket lines. She smiled at nothing and no one in particular and blushed a little to think how proud Walker would be.

Maybe all she did was drive and drive and drive. Maybe no man would understand the intricate levels of benign stress she waltzed with day in and day out, but she realized in waiting to be appreciated or understood she had forgotten to appreciate a lot of little things herself. Little things like a pleasant afternoon of misadventure or a cup of coffee with a stranger. Little things like that made her smile and Walker was right, smiling was prettiest.

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