It’s about time to shut her down, Joe thought as he leaned forward to peer through the rain. The rhythm of the windshield wipers slapped the water away. His crow’s feet became more pronounced as his green eyes stared into the night. The storm intensified. He knew after 3 million accident free miles, that sometimes it was just safer to get off the road. He would be in a truck stop by now, but this gale came on so fast he was in a bad situation before he had time to realize it.
Suddenly, a four-wheeler came up on his blind side from the right on the on ramp, cut in front of him and started spinning out. There was no time to react. His horn blared through the dark as Joe slammed on his brakes. He tried to veer to the right to miss the car, but the trailer was coming around on the left…faster than the truck. All his skills from years of driving could not stop the trailer or miss the four-wheeler. He desperately tried all the tricks he could summon but nothing could avert the pending disaster. “Stop!” he screamed, but the wheel would not respond as the load of 40,000 pounds of lead shifted and the force of the careening trailer took over. Headlights swirled in crazy directions making a light show in the driving rain.
As he accepted the grim fact that he was no longer was in control of his rig, time seemed to slow to a crawl. “God, let this be a dream,” he prayed out loud as the semi skidded sideways down the interstate. He could see the wide eyed look of the driver of the SUV out his left window as the rig unwillingly closed the small gap. He thought of missed love, he thought about Lisa. Then it happened. The side of the trailer slammed into the SUV, exploding it in a ball of fire. The tractor detached, flew off a bridge and rolled down into Turtle creek below with a loud splash. The tractor lay on its side in the creek, while smoke rose ominously from the hood and the wheels span slower and slower.
Then, all was quiet. When Joe regained consciousness, all he heard was the trickle of the creek and the rain banging on the passenger side door of the broken truck. Glass had shattered all around him and he felt a pain deep within the back of his neck. He couldn’t move. His legs were limp despite the commands his brain gave them.
The years of loneliness on the road engulfed him in the darkness as he lay bleeding in the cab of his broken truck. Being alone was not new. Thirty years on the road as a bachelor. No wife, no kids, no one to hold him at night or take care of him when he was sick.
It could have been different. His mind drifted back to Lisa. He thought about the long walk along the river that crisp fall day years ago. Lisa was the love of his life. He could picture her as if it was yesterday, her blonde hair, sky blue eyes and funny smile. He knew from the minute he saw her, that he could never be in love with another woman. Their conversations were so easy, so natural. Time ceased when they were together. She lit up his world when she would kiss him and laughingly say, “To the world you may be one person…but to one person you may be the world.”
Fate had dealt them a bad hand. Joe ended up in the motor pool in the Army and Lisa ended up in a fancy house in Tampa. He refused to think about the circumstances for years and wasn’t going to think about it now. As the rain began to subside to a drizzle, he realized that he was given a second chance at life. There was only one thing left to do. He decided that come what may, he was getting off the road and was going to find Lisa. Nothing else was important; nothing else was worth living for. He suddenly felt very warm as the feeling slowly came back into his battered body. He climbed out of the truck and stood up in the rain. The sounds of sirens wailed. The red lights from the ambulance lit up the night. Yes, Joe was certain he and Lisa would be reunited again. He smiled. Joe couldn’t remember being this happy in years.
It was a closed casket funeral. Only a few people from the truck line and an army honor guard were there. The old preacher stood at the head of the flag draped casket. “I didn’t know Joe. But Joe was a humble man and few people knew him. Joe spent his time on earth quietly helping others delivering goods throughout the country without ever seeking praise or thanks. He did his job safely and professionally. Joe never complained. The accident was not his fault. I pray that people learn how to drive around trucks. They just don’t stop like cars because they’re heavy. They have large blind spots. In God’s kindness, Joe had died on impact. He felt no pain. He is now in a better place. The meek shall inherit the earth. Amen.”
After the service, only the grave digger and a well dressed 50 year old lady with blonde hair and striking blue eyes remained. The sad, quiet grave digger approached her by the grave and asked, “Did you know him?” She looked up with moist eyes and a curious smile and replied softly, “My name is Lisa. To the world Joe may have been one person…but to one person he was the world.”
Copyright 2011, Happy Trucking! Tom Kretsinger, Jr.