|Truck Full of Happiness
Author: twistedICYjunk PM
This has been in the works for a long time, is still in progress and is very close to my heart. An examination of life, truckers, leprechauns and gumdrops.Rated: Fiction T - English - Humor - Words: 3,409 - Published: 05-16-10 - id: 2807531
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Bob was really not happy. Of all the things to cart across a couple states it had to be Happiness brand gumdrops?
Now, normally Bob didn't mind. He transported what was necessary and didn't ask questions. But hauling a truck full of gumdrops of happiness from Reality, South Dakota to Dublin, Ohio (it's greener there!) was just pushing his irony tolerance a little too far.
Especially when he had spent the morning being hassled by his hairsprayed-to-insanity wife while trying to get his screw up of a son (who ironically used more hair spray than his wife) to school and fending off his promiscuous daughter's requests for money. Okay, fine. His life was in the crapper. But did he really need to be reminded of that by hauling two tons of irony across several states? No.
When he tried to explain this to his boss, Mikey, however, things did not go as planned. "Now, Bob. I need you to take things places. I don't need you to think about what you're taking where. That's my job. Maybe someday, if you get a promotion, then you can think. But now? Just drive. Capisce?"
"No buts." Mikey poked Bob in the chest twice to emphasize his words. This made Bob feel bad for Mikey's keyboard, Mikey's wife, Mikey's kids, Mikey's light switches, Mikey's remote…anything his boss ever had call to poke.
Following his pint-sized boss down the hall (at 5'11" Bob towered over the diminutive Mikey), Bob decided to try being forceful. All the self-help books his wife had left conveniently scattered around the house that Bob only read late at night—only to help him sleep, of course—had told him that this was the way to get things done. "Really, boss. I won't take that truck to Ohio."
An hour later, Bob was on the road.
He really didn't mind his job. Not at all. In fact, he usually enjoyed the hours on the road, long and occasionally boring as they were. They gave him a chance to sort out his problems, to relieve his stress. Now, Bob wasn't the smartest guy out there, he'd be the first to admit that. But he did think a lot. Heck, sometimes his wife would get frustrated with him on account of all the thinking he did because he couldn't answer her questions fast enough for her liking. Being on the road gave him a chance to be alone with all his thoughts, to sort them all out into nice, neat little boxes.
As he drove the long miles it took to get from Reality to Dublin, Bob noticed a change in the scenery. Okay, so things were bound to change between South Dakota and Ohio, that was a given. But this was different somehow. It wasn't just the scenery that was changing…it was his attitude, how he felt. The miles rolled by and Bob felt less real. He felt lighter with every mile marker that rolled by. And that didn't usually happen. Sure, he usually spent his time thinking, compartmentalizing, but most of the time it just made him feel more organized, more prepared. Not lighter. After a while he just stopped noticing it, and if he had really stopped to think about that it might have been even scarier than the light feeling. Because once he stopped noticing it meant he was getting used to it, maybe even liking it a little.
The trip was largely uneventful. The only incident worth mentioning in the whole thing happened at a truck stop on the outskirts of Nowhere, Indiana. Bob had stopped for the night, pulling his truck alongside all the others, and then gone inside the rest stop to use the bathroom and get a sticky bun. When he came out he found a family from Wisconsin snapping pictures in front of his trailer. While their mother cooed, "ohh, that's so darling sweetie!" and her children smiled cheesily while pointing at his trailer, another trucker stood to the side and laughed behind his hand while waiting for the family to finish so that he could get back to his own rig. After the family cleared out, the trucker nodded at Bob's trailer.
"Cute." Was all he said. Bob went back to the vending machine and bought a pack of pop tarts to go with his sticky bun. Might as well go for broke, right?
Despite this, Bob still delivered his trailer about two hours ahead of schedule. Randy, the guy who worked this particular drop-off point, squinted at Bob when he went to the office to find out what his next trailer would be.
Looking alternately at Bob then at a clipboard Randy cleared his throat. "We, uh, actually don't have, uh, your next shipment yet…" here he peered intently at the clipboard, "uh, Bob?"
"All right then, how long do I have before it comes in?" Bob was familiar with delays. Due to the economic recession, fewer truck drivers were being employed and that meant longer trips with longer waits in between loads for those who were employed. Sometimes you could be stuck in a given place for days before a company needed you again.
Poor, skinny, greasy Randy scratched his un-showered head underneath his twenty year old trucker hat. Bob could smell him sweating under his grotty, red, white and blue bubble vest and tried not to wince when Randy exhaled deeply into his face. "uh, well…Bob. It could be…that is…" Randy sighed again. "I don't have you down here on my list, see. So…ya know it could be a coupla weeks before we have anything for you to do, uh…Bob."
Bob made helpless motions in the air, "well, what am I supposed to do until then? Just sit around here and wait?"
Here for the first time, Randy looked Bob in the eye. "Look, buddy. Ya want my advice? Go down the street to the Red Roof, get yourself a room and relax. Hey, there's some big ethnic festival happening this weekend, see? Go check it out. Ya look like ya could use a vacation." With this, Randy turned and exited the room, muttering under his breath about incompetent know-nothings.
Bob stood flabbergasted for a minute. Then to himself, "ethnic festival?" and at Randy's distant back, "I hate Chinese food!" But he really didn't have much choice other than to take Randy's advice. Without his trailer, there wasn't much for Bob to do but sit and wait. So, to save the money it would take to get a cab (and he wasn't at all sure that they even had cabs here, and if they did they would probably be green, anyway, and Bob didn't hold with that kind of nonsense) Bob shrugged his overnight duffel over his shoulder and set off down the road toward the Red Roof Inn.
The walk was a revelation for Bob. Along the way he saw high school kids shelling out seven dollars for a drink that resembled coffee, middle-aged women impersonating high-school kids, people that looked (and dressed!) like their dogs and two-hundred and seventeen signs telling him that "It's greener in Dublin!" On his arrival, he was more than ready to just talk to someone sane in order to get himself a room, dump his duffel, have a beer or seven and pass out for a few hours. When he saw the guy working the front desk, he nearly groaned aloud. Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.
"Hi, yeah. I need a room." The seven foot tall, alabaster pale redheaded guy working the front desk peered down at him.
"Hmmm." He looked at his computer. "Hmmmmmmmm." He looked at Bob then at his computer again.
"Look, if you don't have any rooms, that's fine. I'll just go sleep in my truck…" Bob peered at his nametag, "Zachary. It's really not a problem." Bob told him, trying to expedite the process.
Zachary jumped, then looked down at Bob again. "Oh, no, we have an overabundance of rooms. What kind would you like?" He deadpanned, motioning at the placemat on the counter in front of him with pictures of the types of rooms they had available on it.
Bob jammed his finger at the cheapest room, "that one," he told Zachary.
"Aaaallllll right. Here we go. Just…one more minute." Zachary punched some things into the computer, squinted at the screen, then punched a little harder on the keyboard. "Damnit…stupid…ughhffrrr..." he muttered under his breath, squinting at the screen again. After a few minutes of this, he smacked the machine on the side of the monitor and yelled, "you stupid machine!" He punched at the keyboard again, his face turning a strange shade of purple. Then, abruptly, he gave up. "You know what? Your room is on the house. Here you go. Nicest one we got. It's just down there," Zachary said as he stretched one long arm out in the direction of Bob's room.
"Hey, thanks…can I call you Zach?" Bob started to leave, and then turned back around, thinking of the one thing he really wanted most. "Say, Zach. Is there anywhere around here I could get a beer? Maybe a burger?"
Half an hour later Bob was seated across from Zach in the very authentic, local pub the Brazenhead.
"So, you probably get this a lot but…are you Irish?" Bob asked as their beers arrived.
"Well, actually. This may be hard to believe because I'm broke as the United States government and the unluckiest bastard that ever lived, not to mention I'm legally considered a giant (and I could get a handicapped parking place if I wanted, but that's irrelevant), but I'm actually a leprechaun."
Bob laughed. "No, really. Are you Irish? Because I've never seen hair as red as yours before."
Zach looked mildly annoyed, "no, really, I am. I am one-hundred-three percent leprechaun. There's not much I can do to prove it, I guess. But there you go. Sometimes you just have to believe the truth, there ain't nothing about it to be proved. You believe in God, don'tcha?"
Bob considered the man across from him for a minute. "Sure I do. Don't hold with the church no more, not with all the money they ask for. But, yeah, I'm a God-fearing man."
"Well, why do you believe in God? What has He ever done to make you believe in Him?"
"Well, now that you say something and I think about it, nothing, I guess. I just know He's there, is all."
"There you go, then. Same as you know God's there, I know I'm a leprechaun."
"Alright. If you believe it, and it's yourself you're talking about, what right have I to tell you different?" Bob raised his glass, "to luck."
Zach raised his glass and clinked it against Bob's, "to luck."
Three hours and five beers each later, Zach was explaining (loudly) the problems with his love live. "SEE, SHE'S A SCIENCE TEACHER, RIGHT? SO WHEN I TOLD HER I'M A LEPRECHAUN SHE JUST UP AND LEFT. SAID SHE COULDN'T BE WITH SOMEONE WHO DIDN'T TAKE HISSELF SERIOUSLY. SAID HOW'M I SUPPOSED TO TAKE OUR RELATIONSHIP SERIOUS IF I CAN'T EVEN TAKE MYSELF…SERIOUS?" here he paused to let out a large belch and then two smaller hiccups. "WHEW. SO SHE'S GONE. AND I CAN'T FIGGER OUT HOW I'M GONNA GET HER BACK. 'CAUSE SHE'S A SCIENCE TEACHER, RIGHT? SO SHE WANTS SOMEONE WHO TAKES HIMSELF REAL…" Zach trailed off, having apparently lost his train of thought.
"Serious," Bob finished for him. "I hate to say this, Zach, but for such a big guy, and for being someone who claims to be from the island that has a saint that drinks beer, you really are a lightweight."
"'SA MAGIC." Zach told Bob authoritatively (and loudly), "SHOULDA NEVER MIXED ALCOHOL AND MAGIC. MAKES EVERYTHING SORT OF SLIDE…" here he started to tip to his left, "RIGHT…"
"Whooaaa," Bob told Zach, catching his arm. For a big guy, Zach was surprisingly light.
"Magic..makshme…wighter," Zach said, as though reading Bob's mind.
"Yeah, okay, big guy, let's get you out of here." Since he really had no clue where Zach might live, and thanks to the shoddy operating system at the Red Roof he had a room with two double beds, Bob walked Zach back to the Inn and let him slump over onto the spare bed in his room. "Here ya go…just pass out now, like a good leprechaun."
Rolling his eyes, Bob took off his shoes and shuffled out of his jeans, crawling into his own bed and flipping off the lamp. He was a long way from passing out due to inebriation, but he would take it. He needed some time to sort through his thoughts, anyway.
Bob woke suddenly, as though he hadn't even slept at all to the sound of Zachary singing loudly in the shower at 5:30 in the morning. Not wanting to be rude, but feeling he had some right to a little bit of bad temper, Bob knocked loudly on the bathroom door. "What are you doing?" he asked loudly.
"WHAT?" screamed Zachary through the door.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING??" Bob yelled at the top of his lungs. Then opened his eyes to find a dripping Zachary wincing at him, face half covered in shaving cream. "Well, you don't have to yell, geez," Zachary told him, looking a little hurt. "I was just showering. You let me pass out in here last night (thanks for that, by the way) so I figured you wouldn't mind if I freshened up a bit before I headed off to the Irish Festival."
"Okay, first of all it's FIVE THIRTY in the MORNING. What kind of festival starts this early? Second of all, I don't mind, except that you were singing loud enough to be heard over my son's music and let me tell you, that's no small feat. There's a reason we don't live within ten miles of any cemeteries." Bob tempered his annoyance. But only slightly.
Zachary grinned at Bob, seemingly completely unaware of Bob's aggravation now that he had stopped yelling. "Oh, it doesn't start for…" Here Zach peered at a watch-less wrist intently for a few seconds, "about four and a half hours. But I like to be there early." With that pronouncement he grinned widely then shut the door in Bob's face.
Bob blinked for a second then accepted the inevitability of not getting anymore sleep when Zachary launched into a tone-deaf rendition of Beyonce's song "Single Ladies," complete with stomping that Bob was pretty sure was a side-effect of Zach dancing. Despite himself, Bob smiled.
Two showers and seven cups of coffee (one for Zach, six for Bob) later they stood at the edge of a field softened by the morning mist hanging low across the grass. The sun peeked sleepily over the horizon at them and the birds were just beginning to hum their morning warm-up. It was the kind of morning Bob never saw at home. Hell, it was the kind of morning Bob never saw at all. He was always on the road by this time, and if he wasn't driving down a freeway he was laying in bed at home trying to block out the sounds of his daughter sneaking back in after a night out. Strange, that he had always felt so badly about that. With this beautiful morning in front of him it didn't even really seem to matter.
Bob blinked out of his momentary reverie to find Zachary capering madly across the field. With his gangly, dangling limbs and awkwardly earnest movements Zach looked like some kind of deranged antelope performing a mating dance to the morning. Bob couldn't help it, he laughed out loud. And then, hearing the sound of his own laughter, he couldn't remember the last time he had done so. So he did it again, and then followed Zach across the field in his own awkward parody of the insane dance.
About halfway across the field Bob ran out of breath (being a trucker he didn't really do much cavorting, and you really need to be in shape for that kind of thing). Conveniently, he ran out of breath right as Zachary came to a dead stop (breathing normally, of course).
"what'sa…matter…Zach?" Bob managed to pant out while hunched over heavily, resting his hands (and most of his bodyweight) on his knees.
Zach didn't respond, so Bob (with difficulty) lifted his head and looked at his…friend. Then followed one long, thin arm out in the direction he was pointing to see…a woman. She wasn't really a looker, just pretty plain with long, brown, wavy hair, a pair of wire-rimmed glasses perched on a slightly-too-big nose, ordinary jeans and a sweater. She was walking with an Irish wolfhound on a bike path alongside the orange plastic barriers they had apparently hopped when Bob wasn't looking.
"Is that your science teacher?" Bob asked Zach solemnly.
"Yes," Zach replied, just able to keep the voice crack out of the end of the word, and then reverently added, "isn't that the most beautiful dog you've ever seen in your life?"
Bob tried very hard to remain solemn, he really did. But when faced with a man claiming to be facing the love of his life remarking on the quality of her dog, he just couldn't manage it. The laugh started out awkwardly, as a kind of hacking sound that caused Zach to momentarily jump in alarm and stare at Bob as though he was in the process of sprouting an arm from the top of his head. As it grew though, it transformed into great, billowy guffaws that forced themselves up Bob's windpipe and into the pristine morning. Bob laughed for what felt like forty-five minutes, finally finishing up lying in the grass, occasional aftershocks rocking his body with giggles as he lay on his back, looking up at a very offended Zach and a curious-looking science teacher.
"WELL." Was all Zachary could manage to say around the indignation perched on his nose.
The science teacher was marginally more articulate. "Are you all right sir?"
Bob was about to answer when he found his face full of dog.
"No! SPRINKLES! BAD! Leave him alone!" that was the voice of the science teacher, or what he could hear of it through what felt like mounds of hair and spit. Eventually, she managed to restrain her beast of a dog, apparently named Sprinkles, and Bob got up off the ground, brushing in vain at the grass stains on his jeans and t-shirt.
Zach was still busy being offended, so Bob took the initiative. "Hello, ma'am. I'm fine. I apologize for that there scene, my friend Zach here told me a joke I'd never heard before. I'm Bob, by the way." He held out his hand and smiled toothily, still inwardly giggling at Zach's ridiculous reaction to seeing her.
She peered at him for just a second too long, apparently deciding whether he was actually alright for herself, then shook his hand with a surprisingly firm hand and introduced herself. "Mary Davies. It's nice to meet you, Bob."
"Mary Davis. Well, ma'am, I'll be darned if that doesn't sound very English. How is it that someone with a perfect American accent such as yourself has such a decidedly English name?" Zach cleared his throat unhappily and shifted from foot to foot next to Bob, but Bob ignored him.
"Oh. Well, My parents moved here from England when I was very small.