TruckSuds: a truckin’ soap opera
Hey, everbody, let’s kinda catch up with what’s been goin’ on at Mamie’s. You’ll recall Clarissa fainted onto the floor in a heap when she saw Trooper Snakes waitin’ to talk to her.
B.A. set down his coffee mug an’ said, “Well, now, that’s the reaction a lot of truckers nearly have when they see you standin’ by their window, Officer.”
“Not funny, B.A.,” Snake growled. “Is she sick, or hasn’t eaten lately?”
Well, we got Clarissa conscious agin but she wouldn’t look at Snake, still patiently waitin’ to talk to her. But she whispered to Nadine what the problem was, an’ Nadine had Urlene walk Clarissa back to the kitchen for a minute. My wife cleared her throat and looked up at Snake.
“Officer, her junkyard dog boyfriend threatened to kill her if she ever told the cops even half of what he’s been doin’ while he acts like a trucker. An’ she says he means it.”
“That so,” Snake said, an’ his eyes got real bright. “Somethin’ else I can charge him with. B.A.!” he barked, an’ B.A. almost fell off his stool, he jumped so hard. “What was your nephew’s name?”
B.A. quit choking on his coffee long enough to gasp out, “Dexter. My sister’s boy, the boy scout. His grandfather, my sister’s father-in-law, is Judge Thurman Truman.”
Snake positively beamed. “That’s right, now I remember. He’s known to have a soft spot for truckers. And he’s going to be really hard on some abusive no-good, low-life, so-called trucker when he gets him in front of his court.” Snake got out his writing pad and took some notes. “All right. Try to reassure Miss Clarissa that she’ll be safe, especially if she stays in this area –”
“She will,” Nadine piped up. “She’s got her a job an’ a place to stay right here.”
“Good.” Snakes nodded briskly and headed for the door. “Tell her I’ve never failed to bring a miscreant to justice yet. And I have no intention of doing so now.”
I swear I heard the theme music from ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly’ playin’ as the door swung closed behind Snakes. B.A. mopped his brow with a bandanna. “Whew. I’d hate to be that scum, even if the dirty dog deserves to be shot. Snake’s relentless. Wonder what a ‘miscreant’ is?”
One of the other truckers at the counter said, “B.A., what was he talkin’ about? How does he know your nephew?”
B.A.’s face brightened. “Let me order a plate of schweinenbraten and sauerkraut first, an’ then I’ll tell you the story. You tried Mamie’s special yet, Frank? It’s addictive. It’s got a wild gamey flavor on account of she makes it from feral pigs that she hunts with a crossbow an’ special license.”
“I’ll tell the rest of it, B.A.,” T-Dawg had slipped into Mamie’s unnoticed, sittin’ on his third stool by the door. “You go ahead an’ eat. Pay attention to your food an’ enjoy it.”
T-Dawg got his mug of coffee an’ a huge gulp, then started to reminisce. “I shook hands with a bright-eyed boy about twelve years old with glasses and a mop of brown hair, wearing a short-sleeved khaki shirt and red neckerchief.”
“Dexter’s a Boy Scout,” explained B.A. “He’s spending the day with me.”
“I’m getting a merit badge in Trucking,” said Dexter. He wore a sash with more than two dozen badges. “My aunt said Mr. Grouseman is a one-of-a-kind trucker.”
“Who’s your aunt?”
“Al,” said B.A. Alicia-Marie is B.A.’s dispatcher but everyone calls her “Al.”
“Well, I’m sure you’ll get a real education,” I said. “B.A.’s been a trucker for thirty years.”
“Thirty-two, as of February, Dawg. Got my first job with Hunt in 1988.” He tipped his battered old Hunt Trucking bill cap. “Got the hat to prove it.” He asked if I was working and when I told him I had the day off, he invited me along.
We climbed into B.A.’s truck and he pulled out. We’d been on the road about ten minutes when his radio crackled. “B.A.,” trilled Al, “you haven’t called in lately. Are you on schedule? You’ve got a lot of ground to cover today.”
“Doing fine, Al honey,” said B.A. “Making good time.”
“I promised Acme they’ve have delivery by three o’clock at the latest. Where are you?”
“Just outside of Hooverville,” B.A. told her. As a matter of fact, we were at least thirty miles from Hooverville but I said nothing. This wasn’t my truck or my run. “I’ll be on time,” B.A. said heartily. “No worries.”
“Well, I hope so. How’s my nephew doing?”
“I’m doing fine, Aunt Al,” said the boy, leaning on the sleeper boot.
Al signed off. “Mr. Grouseman,” said Dexter quietly. “What you said wasn’t the truth.” He fastened his seat belt again.
“What counts, Dexter, is that we make delivery on time.”
“But you lied.”
“No I didn’t. I just told the truth from a different angle. Dexter, are you familiar with a Japanese film called Rashomon?”
“Neither am I but T-Dawg has seen it and I think it has a bearing here.”
Dexter turned his idealistic young eyes on me. I sighed. “Rashomon is the story of a robbery told by different people. Each person tells the story differently because each has a different point of view. It’s about the elusive nature of truth.”
Dexter fretted his eyebrows, trying to get his mind around the concept. “The truth is elusive?”
“It is where B.A. is concerned,” I said.
“You see, Dexter,” said B.A, “so long as we make our delivery on time, then as far as Al is concerned, I told the truth.”
“Certainly. What we need to be concerned with right now is how to cover a hundred miles in an hour.”
“Like this,” said B.A., mashing the pedal. The truck leaped forward. We tore up the road, doing twenty to thirty miles over the speed limit. Forty minutes later, we were on our way to making our delivery deadline. “Going to be close, B.A.,” I said. “But I think we’ll make it.”
“I think so too,” he agreed. Just then we passed a car on the side of the road. Two women, one of them pregnant, were staring unhappily at a flat tire.
“Uh-oh,” said B.A. as he braked. “Looks like those ladies have a problem. Better stop and see if we can help.”
We got out of the truck and changed the tire. “You gentlemen are true knights of the road,” said the older of the two women. Ten minutes later we’d done our good deed and were on our way again.
“That delay cost us,” I said to B.A.
“’Fraid so, Dawg, but we couldn’t just drive past.” He hit the pedal again. Another ten minutes and it began to look as if we’d make delivery on time when we heard a siren behind us.
Flashing red lights in the mirror told me a state trooper was on our tail. B.A. sighed and pulled to the side of the road. The trooper parked his motorcycle behind us. A minute later, Officer Chester Snakes, the meanest highway cop on either side of the Mississippi, was staring at us through the driver’s side window, his usually grim face lit by the smile of a man who loves to write tickets. He took off his sunglasses, beady eyes filled with triumph.
“Grouseman, you were easily doing eighty when you passed me. ‘Fess up and I’ll reduce your violation to only seventy-five.”
“What?” B.A. said with confusion. “Are you offering me a deal, Officer Snakes?”
“I am. Admit you’re guilty and I’ll give you a break.”
“Why? You’ve never given me a break before? You’ve never offered any trucker a deal.”
“Let’s just say I feel generous today.”
T-Dawg drained his coffee mug, grinned real big an’ said, “Gotta run, gear jammers. I’ll catch you on the flip side an’ finish the story.”
An’ I have to go see how my sister Flora Fora’s doin’, an’ the poor cat too. ‘Til next time, truckers.