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“The Long Haul” by Rachel Wingeier

Character: Police station clerk
Action: Tightening a knot
Setting: A meeting for a subversive group
Prop: Decorative songbirds made from vinyl records

***

The Long Haul

By Rachel Wingeier

Seventy-two hours. The address on the last bill of lading read Port of Long Beach and he was in Baton Rouge. He had seventy-two hours to complete the haul and arrive at the park on time. He went over the route in his mind as he did the pre-trip inspection. About 1,800 miles. He could get there and back by Sunday, even allowing for plenty of downtime. But he didn’t care about the ride back. He cared about only one thing. Being at the park at 3:30pm on Friday.

To make this unusual pit stop happen, Lou was finally going to use some of the vacation time he’d accrued over the years. He’d never taken any before. His boss thought he was a machine, but the truth was that he worked to forget. Every minute he was on the road was one minute not spent sitting in that silent apartment being reminded that there was nothing and no one to stay home for. So he had never taken the time that was owed to him. Not until now.

Lou was a long-haul trucker. An over-the-road trucker. He’d worked for the company for fifteen years, since it opened a terminal near Baton Rouge. Before that he trained with a mom-and-pop company on a dry van until his wife pressured him into taking on something that would bring in more money. She really wanted him to be an owner-operator—to own his own truck—but he didn’t want the responsibility. He wanted a secure paycheck. He decided to meet her halfway and trained for the company position that paid the most—over-the-road hauling of heavy equipment. Lou was strong and had a critical eye, but the effort and awareness that driving these special loads required was especially taxing. His wife had come to resent his new job as it meant Lou usually spent his days off sleeping, meaning he was unable to help around the house and that he continually disappointed his young son whose only wish was to play catch with his dad. “Mom can’t throw as well,” the boy told Lou one day.

But that was old news. The marriage was long over. What concerned Lou this week was an appointment he had on the West coast, and it required him to cash in on a favor. He’d asked his boss to give him a container run to Long Beach. His boss had been kind enough to not ask why, but could only give him a furniture haul that required multiple stops. No mind. Didn’t matter how it happened, as long as Lou would be sitting on that bench at 3:30pm on Friday.

Lou finished his inspection and signed the log. He pulled the rig onto the highway, as he switched the CB radio on to channel 15 and listened to the chatter, a familiar voice came on the channel.

“This is Big Dog looking for Big Rattler. Big Rattler come in. Over.”

The voice belonged to Lou’s friend, Sam. Lou smiled and picked up the mike.

“Big Dog, this is Big Rattler. What’s your twenty? Over.”

“Headed for Flagstaff. But still on I-10. How are things? Over.”

“Roger that. I can’t complain. I should be in Flagstaff about Wednesday night. Maybe dinner? Over.”

“Ten-four. Sounds like a plan. Over and out.”

 

 

San Antonio. The aging waitress set a plate of eggs and toast on the counter.

“Sure that’s all you want, Lou?” she asked with a voice that sounded like she ate—instead of smoked—cigarettes.

He was hunched over his coffee mug, clearly nursing a bad hangover. His course white hair pulled back in a ponytail, the skin on his forearms made leathery by the sun where the fingerless gloves left off. His ice-blue eyes were the only beautiful thing left, but this morning they were hidden beneath lids heavy with shame.

He nodded. “Thanks, Mary,” he said softly, the appreciation muffled by his overgrown mustache. She patted his arm and walked back into the galley kitchen. She knew his gruffness did not stem from meanness. It was from loneliness.

Shafts of morning light pierced thru the blinds. Lou watched the steam rise from the coffee. He’d had a hard night quenching his anxiety with whiskey. All the things he’d let slip from him floated in front of his face. He’d long forgotten how to make friends, how to be a friend, how to keep friends. But he never forgot how dangerous it is to trust people.

He was a truck driver. He delivered things. He knew how to do this and it didn’t require much human contact. No emotional give-and-take. No answering to anyone, save for a boss. But his outcast persona belied his sentimentality. His Acadian heritage rooted him to a deep love of family and it wouldn’t let him give up entirely on the idea. He was never any good at it in person, but in his dreams, he was the husband and father he wanted to be.

He missed his wife. She was it for him. After their divorce, whenever anyone would ask if he planned to remarry, he’d tell them, “I have a wife. No need for another.” It didn’t matter that she was now married to another man.

He’d known that he wasn’t fit to be a husband – Em deserved better. But his heart broke the day he realized he wasn’t fit to be a dad. He’d always intended on being a better father to his son than his father had been to him. That would’ve been easy. All it really required was sticking around when things got tough and finding another outlet for his anger than his fist on the cheekbone of his son.

Lou knew it was time to go the moment he recognized the shock and fear in the little boy’s eyes and watched him recoil from his apologetic touch. And so, he disappeared, save for his number listed in the phone book. Whenever the phone company called asking if he wanted to unlist it, he declined. The number was the only way his son could reach him, if he ever decided to. A decade-and-a-half passed and the number went unused. A few months after his son’s 21st birthday, he decided his son was never going to call and discontinued the service.

A few more years passed, and the boy found a way back to him. He said he wanted closure. Lou had 9/11 to thank for the boy’s change of heart. So they agreed to meet. Lou would go to him, in Los Angeles where he lived.

“Thanks, Mary. You take care,” he said, and walked through the double doors.

Lou hopped into the cab. He knew he needed to step into reality. The “boy” was now a man of twenty-nine with a fiancée and a mortgage. But Lou only knew him as a child. He’d been given no school photos or Christmas cards over the years. The last photo he had was of him with the boy on a camping trip. So the term was an endearment, the only way of referencing his son because saying his name was too painful.

But Lou knew it was time for him to get over that and grow up, too.

 

 

Lou heard home terminal dispatch come on the radio. “Dispatch to Big Rattler. Come in Big Rattler.”

Lou pulled down the mike from above his head. “Morning, Irene. This is Big Rattler. Over.”

“Big Rattler, what’s your twenty? Over.”

“I’m in San Antonio about to roll out. Over.”

“Roger. Change of plans. Need you to do a pick-up in San Antonio with a flip-flop to Austin. Over.”

“Roger. What am I picking up? Over.”

“A stranded friendly. Bob Kingston. He needs a ride to pick up a part. Over.”

“Ten-four. Out.”

Lou hung up the mike. He was pissed. He didn’t have time for a double-back. It would mean he’d be stuck in west Texas Nowhere Land in the middle of the night tomorrow, and he’d probably reach the L.A. Basin just in time for morning rush hour.

But he knew Bob. Nice guy. Not sure why a smaller truck couldn’t be called to help, but racking up owed favors was never a bad idea. He had had to cash in on them more than once over the years.

“It is what it is,” he mumbled to himself, reaching for his coke but finding it empty. He took a deep breath.

A station wagon pulled up on his left and he saw a little boy in the backseat trying to get his attention. When Lou made eye contact, the boy yanked down an imaginary handle from the car’s ceiling, signaling that he wanted Lou to pull the truck’s air horn. Lou was happy to do it. He remembered how excited his son had been whenever a trucker obliged him and blasted the horn.  The little boy smiled.

Fifteen minutes later, Lou pulled into the gas station parking lot. It was fairly busy but there was enough room for the trailer. He stepped down from the cab and walked toward the mini-mart.

“Lou?”

“Yep,” Lou replied, turning to see Bob walking toward him.

“It’s been awhile, man. How you doing?” Bob is one of those super-friendly guys and offered his hand eagerly. Lou took it.

“Been alright. Just need a pit stop real quick.”

“Yeah, okay. I got us some eats already, though. Save your money.” He held up a bag stuffed with chips and bottled cokes.

Lou nodded. “Be right back.”

When Lou returned to his truck, Bob was waiting outside of the passenger door. He held up a lottery ticket and smiled. “You never know, right?”

“Nope,” Lou said, and climbed up into his seat.

“Listen, Lou,” Bob started as he put on his seatbelt. “Thanks again for picking me up. I know this will set you back and I appreciate the help. I don’t know why dispatch couldn’t get a day-runner to get me.”

“That’s alright. You’ll owe me one,” Lou said wryly, consulting the driver’s mirror as he pulled out of the lot.

It was only eighty miles from San Antonio to Austin, straight up the thirty-five, a short distance Lou was grateful for because Bob was a talker. Before being a trucker, he was the founder of a tech start-up that went under during the dotcom bust. He never failed to see the bright side of things, and decided to give trucking a try just to see what it was like.

But Bob’s chatter was unavoidable and demanded attention. This required participation irritated Lou—he didn’t respond well when required to do something—but he understood Bob’s loneliness and so did his best to keep his irritation under wraps.

Lou always welcomed the sound of Bob’s cheerful voice over the CB. But now, with so much on his mind and with Bob sitting two feet from his ear, Lou found the download of information relentless. He didn’t appreciate the expectation that he should contribute to the conversation, either. Lou didn’t do well when required to do something. He prayed for Bob to take a breath. Bob had no such plans. He was excited to have a captive live audience and he had a lot to share.

Bob’s new favorite topic was the paranormal. He’d been listening to podcasts, reading tomes checked out from the library, and watching scores of documentaries he’d rented. While most drivers used their downtime to rest their eyes, Bob used it to learn. He was insatiable.

“You’ve heard about the black-eyed children, haven’t you?”

“The what?”

“The black-eyed children,” Bob repeated.

“No.” Lou replied.

“No?”

“No,” Lou replied more forcefully. He found it annoying that Bob made him repeat himself.

“Well, supposedly they’re some sort of alien—or maybe they’re demons—and they appear to people on their porches or at gas stations or along rural roads. Probably more places than that, but you get the idea.”

Lou nodded with raised eyebrows.

“They have black eyes and monotone voices and claim they need to make a phone call or have some other reason they need your help. They ask you to let them in or to take them somewhere, but you shouldn’t.”

“Shouldn’t what?” Lou asked, letting on that he was only half-listening.

“Let them in. Take them with you.”

Lou stared at the road ahead. He knew that Bob wanted him to ask for the reason. He could tell that Bob had been aching to talk about this with a real person.

“Ah, hell,” he mumbled to himself. “Okay, so why not?” Lou asked.

A warning came over the radio. “Brush your teeth and comb your hair, boys. We got a blue light special hiding in the grass at mile marker 53.”

Lou started to slow down but remembered he had diverted off the I-10 and so the radar warning didn’t apply to him.

Bob kept talking, oblivious to the radio voices competing for attention, until Lou pulled into the weigh station and the officer approached the cab.

“Papers please,” he requested. Lou handed a binder to the officer. He kept all of his paperwork in a binder so it didn’t blow away when he rolled the windows down. Got that tip from a fellow driver a few years back.

Bob looked around. He glanced in the side mirror and noticed the drug-sniffing dog being walked around the perimeter of the trailer. “What a pretty coat he has.”

Lou closed his eyes and sighed.

After a few minutes, the first officer returned to the cab door and handed the binder back to Lou.

“Everything looks good, but you’re getting low on tread,” he said.

“Is that so?” Lou asked. “I’ll be sure to fix that before the next station, officer,” he lied.

“Alright then,” the officer nodded. “Have a good day.”

Lou waved and pulled the rig onto the highway again.

 

 

A few hours later, having picked up the part Bob needed, the two were having an early lunch. Lou was reading his map and adjusting his pit stops to accommodate the side trip to-and-from Austin. Most truckers would be furious about being forced into taking such a task. If they’re contracted to deliver a trailer on time and they’re late, they’re fined. If a driver works for a good company, they’ll pay the fine provided the driver has good reason for being late. But most of the time, the driver has to eat the cost.

This wasn’t Lou’s concern. He never cared about making the most of time to boost his hourly rate. Getting home quickly didn’t matter to him, which is why he was one of the few truckers who wasn’t addicted to speed. It was the journey he was after. It was freedom on his own terms. Being off schedule, to Lou, meant only that he was not in control.

Even so, Lou was tired. He was hungover. He was anxious about Friday. And his patience with Bob was wearing thin. He hadn’t entertained company this long in half a decade.

Bob was still talking while eating a grilled tuna sandwich. This time he was sharing newfound knowledge about knots and how to tie them. Apparently, there were knots for all sorts of things—weddings, sailing, scouting, fishing, farming—and he was bent on mastering each of them.

Lou took a swig of his coke and realized he was having a hard time hearing Bob over the din. He turned around and saw what he’d failed to notice on arrival. The room was full of hippies, and semi-hippies, and hipsters and wannabes of all of the above. They were holding a meeting to vocalize their disgust for the Bush administration. Handmade signs were leaning against a wall next to a rack of bikes playing host to dogs on leashes.

Suddenly, a girl with dreadlocks stood up and yelled, “It’s an inside job! There was no plane! What happened to all those poor people?” The group raised their hands and shouted, “Conspiracy!”

Lou leaned toward Bob. “I’m too old for this shit. Let’s go.” Lou dropped a ten on the table and walked outside. He remembered that he wanted to give his son a gift. There was an artsy-looking store down the way and he headed toward it.

Despite being fall, it was muggy inside the store. Lou looked around for awhile and noticed that everything the clever shopkeepers called “vintage” was really just used junk. New clutter made from old clutter. More to dust. More to keep track of. He would have walked out except for the desire to find something to give his son. He didn’t feel right showing up empty-handed.

Lou moved to the music section and found Bob holding up a vintage 45.

“Know what this is?” Bob asked, excited to be testing Lou’s pop culture trivia.

“Yep,” he replied, fingering through necklaces hanging from the twisted arm of a mannequin. The necklace tags claimed “each unique songbird was repurposed from an old vinyl record, thereby creating something beautiful out of something no longer viable.” Lou scoffed. To him, they resembled Shrinky Dinks. And ugly ones at that.

“A Captain Kangaroo name record! My son had one of these.”

“Mine, too,” Lou said absentmindedly. He had given one to Timmy for his fifth birthday. Timmy played that thing until Lou was sure the needle was going to bust through the other side of the record. It was the first time Lou felt he’d done something really right by his son—really made him happy.

Bob lowered the record. “What? I didn’t know you had a son…”

Lou waved him off with a growl and walked into the next alcove. He was beginning to get frustrated. There was nothing here that the boy would like. Nothing worthy of him. Nothing that represented physically what Lou wished he could verbalize.

He was about to give up when he came across a vintage ammunition box. The white-paint letters were worn off the olive metal so that just the suggestion of them remained, giving authenticity to the box, but not determining what it should mean to the owner. This would work.

He’d been drafted into Vietnam, but even in that conflict he was essentially useless. He’d been a radio operator stationed in Germany, not a door-gunner in country like his childhood friends. Lou told himself that avoiding the jungle allowed him to come home alive to his mother—something his friends weren’t able to do. But he still felt less than. The stupor from heavy drugs smothered the guilt and feelings of failure. Everyone did drugs while at war. That war, at least. Only, he never stopped. When he’d gotten home, his grandma got him a job at the local police station as a desk clerk. She thought that would straighten him out, being around the law all day. But by then, drugs and alcohol had become part of his identity and a way to keep people away. His reasoning was, if someone really loved him, they’d push past the obstacles he put up. Then he’d know for sure they really meant it when they said they loved him, and so he’d open his heart.

“This’ll do,” he said to himself, and took the box to the cashier. Bob was still shopping so Lou went out to the porch and waited.

It was unseasonably warm. Indian Summer. Lou leaned his head back and saw the plaster above him was painted blue. It reminded him of his childhood, sitting on the wide porch of his grandmother’s house, the ceiling painted haint blue to ward off ghosts. He’d sit in the rocking chair next to her every evening and they’d watch the moss sway down from the oaks and magnolias. He’d listen to the frogs and the sound of the ice cracking in her ever-present glass. She called it her “sippin’ tea,” but it had more than tea in it. He could smell it.

Lou spent a lot of time with his grandmother, even before his parents divorced. She was impish and enjoyed teasing him, but she also believed it her solemn duty to impart her hard-won wisdom to Lou on those long, sultry afternoons. One of her most useful pieces of advice was shared on a day when Lou’s parents were in an especially vicious argument. The breeze carried their anger through the double-hung window and onto the porch. His grandma saw his distress and pulled him up onto her lap and pressed his head onto her pillowy chest. He could hear her heart beat. A few moments later, she tilted his chin skyward and said, “Remember Louis, it’s not how much you drink, but how quickly you drink it.”

Then she clicked her tongue and said, “Now off with you. Go play!” As he skipped toward the creek and the angry voices faded, he felt like she’d shared the secret of being a real adult with him.

Bob joined Lou and they made their way back to the truck. The ride back to San Antonio seemed to go faster than the ride out. Bob relayed the details from his shopping adventure and Lou commented in all the right places. He liked Bob, but he was ready to have his solitude back.

A little more than an hour later, Lou said goodbye to Bob.

“Thanks again, buddy,” Bob said, stepping down onto the pavement. “I got this for you. Open it later.” He winked and walked away.

That night, when Lou reached Fort Worth, he parked at a rest stop, too tired to check into a motel. He climbed into the sleeper cabin and opened the gift from Bob. It was a Captain Kangaroo button. The note inside read: “I didn’t know your boy’s name, but I thought this might bring back good memories. Take care of yourself. – Bob”

He massaged the button with his thumb for a few minutes, then took a photo out of his wallet, opened the ammunition box, and locked both inside. It was the best he could do.

As he settled down on the thin foam mattress to sleep, he heard the lyrics he’d memorized long ago…

“Your name is quite important. / Your name belongs to you.

And since your name’s important / then you’re important, too.

We know your name is Timmy / and that’s a handsome name.

And even when you’re older / your name will be the same…”

 

 

Flagstaff. The bar was dim and it was late—maybe half-past ten. Midnight. Lou wasn’t sure. He was tired from a driving straight through from Fort Worth—breaking the rule on how many hours can be lawfully driven in a row in a twenty-four hour period. But he needed to make up time.

Since arriving in Arizona an hour before, he’d been pouring alcohol down his throat, trying to find the nerve to make the call.

“Hello?” Her voice carried him back thirty years.

He cleared his throat. “Em. It’s me.”

She met him with silence. He felt the liquid courage wearing off and took another drink to keep the adrenaline at bay. She remained silent. He wondered if she had forgotten his letter. He’d written her three weeks ago that he was going to call her to talk about their son.

“Em?”

He glanced over his shoulder at the dark room, hoping the noise didn’t make it hard for her to hear him. The sound of debauchery reverberated off the cheap tile floors and paneled walls.

“What do you want, Louis?” she finally asked.

“I want—I want to know if you think it’s a good idea for me to meet Timmy.”

A man made a lewd remark to a woman sitting on the barstool next to him and he hoped that Em hadn’t heard it. He didn’t want anything to distract her. He needed her answer. Her approval. It occurred to him as he waited for her to speak that this was one of the times a cell phone would be useful. There’s no privacy included in the fee charged for use of a payphone. But he was suspicious of technology and the way it always seemed to end up making people feel bad.

Nowadays everything is replaced so quickly, he thought. Traded in. Upgraded.

He’d been replaced so quickly.

“It’s not for me to say anymore,” she replied. “He’s a man now.”

The thoughts sloshed around inside his inebriated brain. “I mean. What I mean is…what if I didn’t show up? Maybe it’d be better for him if I didn’t show up, Em.”

“I don’t have the patience for this anymore. Do what you’re going to do.”

She hung up.

It was John Denver’s turn on the juke box, and he encouraged Lou to speak to him of the dreams that had escaped him and the hope that he’d forgotten. But all Lou could do was stumble back to his truck and climb into bed.

 

Lou woke up three hours later and began the last leg of the trip. After Barstow, he made unusually good time down through California, especially on the normally slow 710 freeway. He dropped the last of his haul at the port and made his way to the park.

Lou parked the trailer in an oversized lot a mile from the park. He felt better after some orange juice mixed with hair of the dog, of course. He was as ready as he was going to be. He looked in the rearview mirror, made sure he was presentable, then hopped down onto the pavement and made his way to the designated meeting place, gift in hand.

He was relieved to have arrived early. He wanted to scope out the best spot to wait. The place was relatively busy for a late Friday afternoon. The chamber of commerce was hosting the last movies-under-the-stars of the season.

Lou scanned the faces until one caught his eye. A young man turned the corner and approached the steps Lou was standing on. He coughed from nerves and stood a little taller. The man’s gait was confident, but slow, as if he was waiting to be beckoned. He was unaware of Lou’s location and for a moment, this gave Lou a buffer between seeing and being seen.

Soon the man locked eyes with him. The distance between them stretched out and his approach became agonizingly slow. As he came up the steps, he held out his hand, as if greeting a stranger.

“Hello,” he said.

“Hello, Timmy.” Lou said, taking the man’s hand and looking down at their embrace. Lou’s hand was jittery from nerves, too much coffee, and too little booze.

“It’s just Tim, now.”

They stared at each other for a few moments, neither sure how to get the conversation ball rolling. Lou was in a sort of trance, mesmerized by the sight in front of him. The boy he had left behind had become this well-dressed, well-educated man now standing in front of him.

Lou’s emotions flooded over into his eyes and quietly down his cheeks. “May I hug you?”

Tim hesitated. “Um…”

Lou recognized the tension in his son’s body and quickly recanted. “It’s okay,” he said. “I get it. I understand.” He fiddled with the paper bag that held the ammunition box. He was angry with himself for asking. Too much, too soon.  “I thought you might like this.” Lou handed him the bag.

Tim took it and pulled out the gift, his expression puzzled.

“It’s an ammunition box,” Lou explained. “But it can hold anything. Look inside.”

Lou couldn’t take his eyes off his son’s face. He kept his hands inside his jean pockets to prevent himself from embracing him. He wasn’t sure he’d be able to let go.

“Wow, that’s us, huh?” Tim asked.

“Yeah. Yosemite. You saw your first bear there. Your mom took this photo.”

“I assumed,” Tim nodded and bit his lip.

“Yep.”

“Well, thanks. This is nice to have,” Tim said, holding up the photo. “Are you sure you don’t want to keep it?”

“No, no. I’ve been looking at it for years. I know what it looks like. I want you to have it.”

“Okay.”

There was a long pause in the conversation. Each man looked out over the park, trying to figure out what was a safe topic to bring up.

“You know, I don’t know what to call you,” the boy said after a prolonged silence.

Lou had no answer except, “You’ll think of something…in time.” But realizing this may put pressure on Tim and scare him away, he added, “You know, if you decide you want to call me anything, that is. If you want to communicate again.”

Tim nodded thoughtfully.

Lou was eager for the afternoon he had planned. He pointed down the lane. “I thought we could walk down here to the—”

“I should go,” Tim said suddenly.

Lou turned back to the boy.

“Go? Already?”

“Yeah.”

Lou didn’t know how to respond. He was confused. He wasn’t expecting such a brief meeting. He wasn’t prepared for an ending with no middle. He wasn’t ready for the return of separation.

“It’s just…I have to go the DMV to get my license renewed. It expired and I forgot about it till today.”

“Okay,” Lou said quietly, knowing he had no right to ask him to stay.

“So give me your address and I’ll e-mail you sometime?”

“I don’t own a computer,” Lou responded, preoccupied with trying to think of a way to keep the man-child from leaving. “But you can write to me the old-fashioned way if you like. I promise I’ll respond. ”

Tim looked at him and Lou recognized a flash of resentment behind his glance. “I know. I always make it difficult for people.”

“Your home address then,” Tim said.

Lou was suddenly flustered. For all his planning, Lou had not anticipated this request and could not produce a pen or paper. But Tim pulled both out of his jacket pocket and Lou scribbled his address on the paper.

“Thanks. Well,” Tim paused, not sure what the final words should be. “Thanks for meeting me. See you around I guess.”

He held up his hand and started to walk away. Lou stood, unable to speak. He didn’t want to say too much, but he also didn’t want to walk away with avoidable regrets. He’d learned the lesson that opportunities for expressing love should not be wasted.

“Tim, listen. If we never see each other again, I want you to know that you were the best thing I ever did with my life. I love you. I’m so proud of you. And I’m so sorry for hurting you.”

As Tim lowered his head and nodded, Lou noticed that his eyes had welled up. Lou held out his hand. When Tim took it, Lou pulled him in for a hug. “See you around, son.”

“Bye.”

Lou watched his son walk away and choked back all emotion until he turned the corner and disappeared. Then Lou’s knees gave out and he sat on the bench, head in his hands, sobbing, free from all self-consciousness.

He cried for all the times he’d stood his son up for play dates, choosing to hang out with nameless women at bars while the boy sat on the porch for hours, searching for his face in every car that drove by.

He cried for the times he’d chosen the demon alcohol over helping him with his homework.

He cried from self-hatred, for proving with his fists and the pivot of his heel that he was too weak to break the cycle.

He cried for taking advantage of his son’s forgiving nature, and for being arrogant enough to believe there was always more time, always another chance.

But he also cried from a place of deep humility and gratitude. He was given a gift he did not deserve—a beautiful new memory that included just the two of them. And while he ached for the chance to make more, he knew it was too much to ask.

This had been the best and the worst hour of his life.

And for now, it was enough.

Lou walked back to his truck, taking in the scenery, cementing the moment in his mind for later. As he settled into the seat, he switched on the engine and the truck began to vibrate. He looked in the side mirror and saw the white running lights and the darkening sky behind him. It’s funny how quickly the light fades after the sun meets the horizon, he thought. He turned on the CB and heard Sam inquiring after him.

“Big Rattler, this is Big Dog. Come in. Over.”

Lou waited, making sure his voice was steady before speaking. “Big Dog this is Big Rattler. Over.”

“There you are, Big Rattler. I’ve been searching the channels for you. Over.”

“Just starting the backslide to home. Over.”

Lou adjusted the tuner and Sam’s voice came in clear. Right now it was a lifeline.

“How are things? Over.”

“I can’t complain. Over and out.”

© 2012 Rachel Wingeier

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