January 12, 2010

Down the Upward Staircase

By George Tate © 2009

Everybody knew Jules "Bebop" Martin from coast to coast. You knew him by the faded gray fenders on that bright red old '86 Kenworth he drove. It had a center punched front bumper with the multicolored gang tagged reefer in tow? The trailer was forever a testament to the love and adoration that some gangbanger named ABLE had for MARTINA, an affection covering 360 degrees of its lower half. That happened two years ago in March. The rig was parked on Washington Street in L.A. waiting for a chilled load of berries to hit the dock. Bebop was asleep inside, "never heard a thang," was his testimony to the dispatcher in Fort Worth. A glance at the trailer, anybody could figure out there was a shitpot load of spray can artists working like piss ants on those amorous graphics.

The shoe prints left in paint on the truck's catwalk sealed it with the safety people. They had a gaggle of 8X10 color glossies with circles and arrows, complete with detailed descriptions of the crime, typed on the back of each picture. All the evidence was placed in a beautiful green folder with a yellow tag on top containing Bebop's name and driver number. On the back of one picture there was a line in bold letters, "Does he take sleeping pills?" "Had he been drinking?"

"Great, I'm guilty and there ain't no jury present", was his response to the petite girl behind the safety counter. She was indifferent and spun on her heal to re-file the damaging evidence.

Because the company leased him the trailer, he had to bite the bullet on the incident and pay the $4500 insurance deductible. As he told DaddyO, "Sonsabitches never cleaned up the trailer."

He also never got a new one to pull. The Big Boss told him if he saw him in his office for anything before the deductible was satisfied Bebop was hist-O-ry.

Indentured to the company for $200, taken from every other two week settlement check is where this tale of woe begins. Bebop was born in Falfurrias, Texas. His family had been trucking refrigerated stuff for years. Fruit, vegetables and butter from the Rio Grande valley to both coasts and everything under the sun for the return to Texas. Bebop had graduated from high school directly into the local garbage hauler. That got him driving experience in a six wheel truck. When he was twenty-one, DaddyO had moved him into his truck to double up on West Coast runs.

DaddyO's rig was the road's envy. It was the old style Pete classic with the long nose. Bebop had died and gone to heaven. Driving that truck into a truck stop was the joy of his life. It was shiny and bright, the chrome was everywhere. DaddyO let him drive it but they always switched just before the scales. After a few months, Bebop had his A-CDL and bought a truck with DaddyO as the co-signer. At driving he was a natural, but of course that was a few years back, 34 years to be exact.

The last nineteen months had been filled up with trouble. The company, Department of Transportation, and the insurance companies have a never ending file of information that makes driving a truck and getting ahead money-wise extremely hard. Running hard in the "truckin' bidness" will put scars on your butt and Bebop now had his share. Lately, he'd managed to stay ahead of safety by hiding several dings and scrapes on both the tractor and trailer. Bebop paid a driver $100 to not call his company safety department when he backed into his bumper at the Petro in West Memphis. Bebop got shed of two speeding tickets, paying Flossie the ticket lady $400, pleading guilty and accepting an adjudicated verdict. That woman's mouth was made of silk and she could talk judges and their court staff into anything. He still had the weight ticket in his hip pocket after getting stopped a week ago at the Port of entry in Arizona. He tipped the scale five hundred pound's over on his back axle. He figured on Flossie for that fix as well. The money to do it was another matter. He had made it for this long and in only two months the deductible was going to be satisfied and the incident would slide quietly off his company record.

Just before the first of the year Bebop took a load from the West Coast to a Navy Depot north of Memphis, Tennessee. He had run right up to Christmas and stopped at the house to exchange presents with DaddyO and his girlfriend Prissy. The old man took on Prissy after Bebop's Mother died of cancer a few years back. He'd found her hitching rides, she came home with him and never left. That was 15 years ago. DaddyO loved her, told his friends, he'd robbed the cradle. They were all jealous of the old fart. At the time he found her he was 56 and she was 23. A love made in heaven according to him.

Bebop had left the house on Christmas Day and got to the Navy yard the next evening. The chief on duty was a sight to behold. Bebop was impressed by her looks and special features and when she mounted the forklift he was extra impressed. They had a nice conversation. Talked about the load and driving to the coast. She was easy to talk to. She said she was about to leave the service and if she weren't married with children she said she would drive a truck.

"Too bad," he thought. "Woulda loved you on my team."

Bebop was one of those guys kind of handicapped in the girl department. He had been shy all his life and never a ladies man. He wasn't strange or picky. He always looked at the girls and when he couldn't go anymore would find his pick in a massage parlor or on his running board. He always had his hands on the steering wheel. He knew the road girls were useful, but not the kind you spend a lifetime with.

It began to rain mixed with snow. Bebop drove across town to old 78 filled his tanks and pulled into a nearby warehouse for the reload. It had three drops, Phoenix, and two in the L.A area. It was a load of house paint and it was heavy. He hated these loads they weren't reefer so he got no extra money or fuel for the load plus they were heavy, real heavy. The bill weights at this place were never right, it gave him the itch. He signed off on the load even though he had full tanks and when they closed the doors before he left the dock him he knew he'd bought it. The Cat scale put him at 81000. He knew if he could get into Texas without being stopped at the scale at Hope, Arkansas he had it made. He could run partial tanks after that and adjust the load

When he crossed the Mississippi into Arkansas it was snowing and raining cats and dogs. Running in those conditions from West Memphis to Little Rock is next to suicidal. The road is very narrow with a steep ledge on both sides. Right or left trailer tires will get sucked off the pavement and after that happens a couple of whips put you in the ditch with the greasy side up. His decision to stop was not what he wanted, but a pickle park was just ahead and he thought a nap might let the storm pass.

The park was full of others with the same thought, all wanted to give the storm a break.

"Shit," Bebop said aloud, "I'm going to have to move on, but where?"

About that time a wet blonde head appeared in his window. She had jumped on his running board, rolling at about three miles an hour he nearly threw her off the truck when he set the brakes.

"I'm wet and cold could I please get in?" He heard no sound but understood her desire.

He opened the door slid out of the seat, and allowed her the right seat, then sat back down. In the same motion, he put the truck in gear, pushed in the brakes, and began to try to find a spot to park at the end of the driveway on the exit ramp. Bebop pulled to the right on the ramp as far as he could. He knew he could go no further on the right because of the very steep drainage ditch next to his truck. He didn't like being on the dirt next to a ditch filled with rain. What else was his choice right now?

Her blonde hair was wet and stringy. She was cute, very slight, not busty but well proportioned.

The first words out of her mouth, “Want a date?” Bebop didn't know what to respond with. Whores didn't usually come packaged as nice looking as the one in his right seat. "Well, I'm not sure, first of all what are you doing here and where's your second and your suitcase?"

She came back without any hesitation, "I got no second, the bastard left me here and drove off with my damn suitcase." Bebop was glad of that, pimps could be painful. "Lock your door, don't worry the handle works when you want to leave. I've got no want for anyone else's company right now including your second. Where were you headed?" She turned and slapped the lock.

"Dallas, he had a load coming out of Atlanta with a drop in Nashville and Dallas," she replied. "Where you headed?"

"Phoenix and L.A.," then he took more than a casual look at her. From the head down her features were striking. She wasn't out of proportion anywhere. She was at the most 28 years old with tight jeans and a wet cotton shirt that showed slim lines.

She squared off in his eyes with a soft look that he knew was from the heart and said, "Do you mind if I get out of these wet clothes?"

"No not at all." She rose from the seat and he knew he'd better seal the deal. "What is your plan right now, I mean besides me, WHERE you goin'?" Both of them needed help and they knew it.

"I got no place, my people live in Texas, kind all over. It's been a while since I seen any of them. Let's work all this out in a bit. Come back here." Bebop's business head joined the rain and snow in the ditch and the other head took over as he moved from the driver's seat to the bunk.

He couldn't get to that beautiful body fast enough! The heat took over where the rain and snow left off and they both lapsed into ecstasy. They were too busy to see what the weather was doing outside. The ditch began to crumble as the rain increased in volume. About the time Bebop got his boots off, the trailer shifted ever so slightly towards the ditch. He shifted his gears as the trailer began to sink to the right. The paint began to shift its weight to the trailer wall. They shifted into third gear and the trailer went into overdrive in its rapid descent. It was moving so rapidly the fifth wheel began to creak and moan. It began its flip and along came the Kenworth behind it. This ditch was 11 feet deep and when the trailer came to rest on its side all this paint came to the roof with a boom. The momentum carried both the tractor and trailer half way over. Then the displaced water returned the trailer to its original position on its side like a dying elephant in the sand.

The inside of the truck began to fill with water. The driver door's weight made opening the door difficult. Bebop managed to find pants, she found a shirt, neither had anything on as they climbed out of the cab. They drew a nice crowd, everyone was helpful. A few found something to help them cover up. They had come through without a scratch.

This occurrence turned out to be both an ending and a beginning for Bebop. They stood on the side of that ditch in the rain and snow laughing and hugging each other, not having a clue to as to each other's name. At that moment both of them didn't care what happened, they agreed they had experienced the ride of their lives.

George Tate is a former over the road driver of fourteen years that love's travel, wild wimmin', Pisano Wine, and Omaha 08. When they are a package, watch out.

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