One Step Forward and Two Steps Back
(the truckers Waltz)

Chapter 13

One Last Ride

One day, just before Christmas, Steve phoned Bill and asked him, “Bill I have a couple of Doctors appointments next week, I was wondering if you could pull a trip for me next week, it’s a short on?”

“I would love to Steve, I would like to try out that new truck of yours, but I will have to try and slid it past Jeanne. I’ll call you back.”

He hung up the phone and turned around to find Jeanne standing there with a suspicious look on her face, “Just what is it. that you are going to try and slid past Jeanne?” she asked in the tone of voice that made Bill know he was going to have some trouble.

“That was Steve and he has a couple of Doctors appointments one day next week and he wanted to know if I could pull a trip for him, it’s only a short one.”

“Bill you promised me that you wouldn’t go back on the road again.”

“I know Sweetie, its only one trip and don’t you think it’s inhumane to ask a man to quite Cold Turkey?”

“Well maybe your right, but don’t expect to think your going to do it on a regular basis.”

Bill picked her up around the waist and swung her around, stopped and gave her a big kiss.

“Billy Ivors put me down, you big ape and stop acting like a teenager, what if some one sees us?”

“They would probably think, just because there is snow on the roof doesn’t mean there is no fire in the furnace.” And reached for the phone to phone Steve and tell him he would go for him.

Bill went to bed late the afternoon he was going out for Steve, his load would be in around midnight. He didn’t know if it was the excitement of going on a trip, or just the fact that he wasn’t use to going to bed that early, but after about 4 hours he was wide a wake. He got up and went to the bathroom and wandered into the kitchen. “What do you think your doing up, Mr. Ivors, get back to bed.”

“I can’t sleep anymore,” he said.

“You just get back into that bed and get some sleep or this will be the last time you go out at this time in the morning.”

He went back to bed and finally fell into a fitful sleep, but when the phone rang at midnight telling him his load would be in, in an hour, he seemed to be sleeping soundly. He got up, got dressed and got his lunch out of the fridge and headed down to the truck.

Steve had told him the day before that he would check it out for him before he left, but old habits die-hard, so before he fired it up, he checked the oil and water, the tires and every thing else. He got in behind the wheel, found the switch for the dash lights, put in the key and cranked it over. The truck had been plugged in so it fired right up, ‘Boy this feels good,’ he said to himself, ‘you can feel the power even with the truck sitting here idling, this truck fits me like a glove and it’s spotless.’

As he walked in to the dispatch office, Roy, the night dispatcher laughed and said, “So much for retirement, hey Bill.”

“Just tapering off Roy, just tapering off, say you wouldn’t have a recent Tachometer card of Steve’s would you, I would like to see how Steve has been running his out fit?”

“Sure there is one from his last trip, in his cubby hole above the desk there.” Roy said as he pointed to the desk a crossed the office and I made a fresh put of coffee for you just after I phoned you. I heard how cranky you can get if you don’t have a cup of coffee before a trip.”

Bill laughed as he walked over and got Steve’s tack-card out of his cubbyhole, got a coffee and sat down at the desk to study the card. He looked up and seen Roy looking at him a little puzzled, “I’m just checking to see how he has been driving his outfit, you know what R.P.M.’s he shifts at and how far down he lugs it. It makes a diffence on the engine if a stranger drives an engine differently than it normal driver, it makes a differce on fuel mileage to.”

“I guess your right, but I’m not use to having a driver that interested in some one else’s outfit, hell we’re lucky if they check the oil on the company trucks.”

When Bill got his load he hooked up, checked it over and got his paper work and headed out through town. ‘It’s too bad its night time,’ Bill was thinking, ‘no one can see me driving this pretty truck.’

Bill thought his old truck was a nice driver, but in all fairness it had over a million miles on it when he sold it, but this one was a beauty, everything was just where he liked it. The seat position behind the wheel was perfect, it shifted like a dream and the power was excellent, it’s going to be hard to not drive this truck again.

When Bill got out on the Highway the moon was shining so bright, he could have driven with out head lights. The highway was black as were the trunks of the trees, the temperature was hovering around minus twenty degrees, making the snow sparkle like some fairy had sprinkled fairy dust on it. The contrast between white and black painted a beautiful picture, made up of these non-colors. ‘I had better keep my mind on the road, ’Bill thought, ‘these are the kind of nights the Swamp Donkeys come out to play.’

‘I think of all the things I’m going to miss, with being retired, is going to be nights like this. People working in offices or just on a nine-to-five job, never see this kind of beauty. I can understand why some artists prefer to work in the Black and White medium, including my Grand Daughter, no colors to confuse the subject matter, simple yet breath takenly beautiful.’

Bill had the cruise control set at 95 kilometers per hour when about 80 kilometers out of the city, he seen head lights coming up behind him at a fast rate of speed, ‘Holy cow, some one is in a big hurry,’ he thought to him self. It wasn’t long before a big 4x4 pick up, passed him at a great rate of speed. ‘I hope nothing steps out in front of him.’ Moose blend into the scenery on nights like this, being Dark brown and white.’

Bill had only gone about 5 kilometers down the road when he seen some tail lights on the road, ‘It looks like he’s stopped,’ he said to himself, ‘I had better slow down and see if he needs a hand, it’s a little to cold to be broke down on a lonely piece of road.’

As Bill approached the pick-up he could see what the problem was, the pick-up that went screaming past him had hit a moose. He could see the dead moose laying on the centerline and steam coming from under the hood of the pick-up, ‘people just never learn, ‘he thought to him self.

Bill pulled onto the shoulder with his four-way flashers going and grabbed the mike for his radio, “Any North or South bounds, I have just stop at an accident about 20 kilometers south of the junction, I see a woman getting out of the passenger side, but I haven’t seen the driver yet, if anyone is near the junction, could you stop and phone the R.C.M.P in Mackenzie and tell them to get an ambulance out here. The pick-up not quite off the highway and the moose is lying on the center line.”

The radio crackled to life, “I got you there buddy, I’m just about to the junction, northbound. I’ll phone the cops and get back to you.”

“Just hang around this channel, I’m climbing out to have a look at this situation and I’ll get back to you in a minute.” Bill called back, grabbed his coat and got out of the truck.

As Bill started walking towards the pick-up the woman who had been in the front passenger seat came running back to him, excitedly waving her arms, “My husband is sitting in there with his head on the wheel, moaning.” She was crying, “Do you think he’s dead?”

“Not yet, not if he’s moaning, I’ll check him, you go back to your pick-up and get your coat, “

Bill ran up to the drivers side door and opened it and reached inside putting his hand on the drivers back, “Hey are you OK there?”

The driver, who still had his head resting on the steering wheel, tried to move and moaned some thing to Bill, “Don’t try to move, just sit there and let me have a look.” Bill looked around and seen the windshield had been broken, it looked like the impact was from the inside. He reached down and felt that the driver’s seat belt was undone. Bill mumbled to him self, “The damn fool was driving like that at night, on this road, with out his seatbelt on.”

“What was that?” the woman who was now standing behind Bill, asked.

“Nothing-- just mumbling to my self.” He answered. The driver’s head was facing him and he could see that he was bleeding from the top of his head, but the scary thing was, the blood was trickling from his nose and out the side of his mouth.

Bill turned to the woman and said, “I want you to stand here and watch him while I get some stuff from my truck and don’t let him move. If he tries to move, hold him, do you understand?”

“Yes.” said the woman

“Do you have a blanket or a sleeping bag, or some thing we can put around him to keep him warm?”

“No, Just his coat,” Bill headed back to Steve’s truck to get what he though he might need, thinking, ‘stupid damn people traveling this road at this time of year with no survival gear, he had noticed that the driver only had loafers on his feet.’

Bill found the first aid kit in the truck and grabbed a sleeping bag off the top bunk, all the time mumbling to himself, ‘Stupid, stupid people.’ He grabbed the mike and called the truck that was at the junction, “Are you still at the, junction, did you get a hold of the RCMP?”

“Yes I did, they are on their way, when they asked me, I told them we needed an ambulance, okay?”

“You bet, buddy, from the looks of the driver he is in pretty bad shape, he could even have a broken neck, at the very least he has a bad concussion and will probably have one hell of a head ache to-morrow. I have to get back out there, you might as well carry on, and there is nothing else you can do from there.”

When Bill got back to the driver the woman was trying to hold him. “Don’t move him; get out of the way and I’ll try to put this sleeping bag around him to keep him warm and then I’ll clean up his face a bit. The police and an ambulance are coming they should be here in a half an hour.”

Bill took the woman by the arm and gently moved her away from her husband. She was still crying and was shivering from the cold; he noticed the coat she was wearing would have been better suited for a prom dance than a night like this. “Look, you go sit in my truck on the passenger side and get warm, there is nothing you can do out here. You won’t be any good to him if you are in bed with pneumonia.”

By this time a southbound truck had stopped and came over to give Bill a hand and he had a first aid ticket. He helped Bill clean up the pick-up driver’s face. “I think you done the best thing when you didn’t try to move him, he might just have a broken neck, and at least he is going to have a sore one. I think you should go back to your truck and get warmed up, at least put some boots on.”

Bill looked down at his feet; he still had his driving slippers on, and in the confusion of the past 15 or 20 minuets he had forgotten to put his boots on.

The woman from the pick-up was huddled in the passenger seat when he got in, she looked over at him and said, “I’m sure glad you came along when you did, I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t. Will my Husband be alright?”

“I think so, but I’m not a doctor, but he got banged up pretty good. How come he wasn’t wearing his seat belt? That’s pretty stupid you know.”

“Yes I know, but George always said he didn’t like wearing it. He didn’t think it should be the law to wear it, it should be his choose.”

“Well maybe to-morrow he will change his mind, by the way my mane is Bill Ivors. He said as he reached a crossed the cab and offered her his hand.

She took it and said, “Mine is Jean Graham and you will never know how pleased I am to meet you.”

“Jean, hey my wife is named Jean, only I call her Jeanne.”

“Well I had better see if I can do anything out there, you sit here were its warm, the police and medics should be here soon.” He said as he pulled on his boots.

He was just going to step out when Jean put her hand on his sleeve and said, “Bill the next person I hear mean mouthing a trucker will have a fight on their hand and I mean it.” Bill stepped down from the truck and walked towards the pick-up with a warm feeling and thought’ ‘It almost makes it all worth while.’

He walked up to the other driver and asked, “How is it going?”

“He is coming around now and I’m having a hell of a time keeping him still. Would you believe, he’s only seems interested in how his pick-up is, he hasn’t even asked about his wife.”

“Ass hole,” Bill said under his breath.

“What was that?”

“Nothing, just talking to my self, you do a lot of that when you get to be my age,” Bill said.

“Say, aren’t you Bill Ivors, I had breakfast a couple of years ago, up at Bucking Horse, I’m Johnny Macintyre, but I heard you retired.”

“I did, I’m just pulling this trip for a friend of mine. I think after this morning, I defiantly will be retired, permanently.”

About 15 minutes later the police arrived with the ambulance and he was busy with the police giving his statement so he never seen when they pulled George out of his pick-up, but as they were loading him into the ambulance, Jean turned and when she caught Bills eye, she smiled and waved to him.

“Yes it almost makes it worth while” Bill said quietly to him self.

“What was that?” the investigating Officer who was sitting in the police cruiser with him, asked.

“Nothing Officer, just talking to myself, you do a lot of that when you get to be my age,” and he smiled.

When Bill got rolling again there was a lot of chatter on the radio about the accident, Johnny and himself with the help of the Officer, had pulled the moose off into the ditch and had to let everyone know that the road was clear. “Is that you Bill?” someone asked.

“I sure hope so, because if I’m not he is going to be mad as hell when he finds out I’m sleeping with his wife.”

“It’s Paul on the courier truck. I thought you retired?”

“I did, but I just had to try out this new truck of Steve’s and save a life so you rookies wouldn’t have to.”

The chatter went on until Bill was well into the pass as old friends keep calling him. He almost relished the silent, but these were the people he realized he missed the most in his retirement.

The weather was still clear and cold as he drove through Pass only now with the mountains and a whisper of clouds hanging above them and the moon glistening on the snow, it made the memory of the accident behind him disappear.

‘This is why we do it,’ he though as the big yellow Kenworth carried him effortlessly through the early morning.

When he got to the store and while they were unloading him he had a power nap, but it was a restless one, so on his way out of town, heading home he phoned Jeanne and told her what had happened, she was very concerned about the people in the pick-up and when he told her he had no idea how they were doing, “But I’m alright,” he said.

“I knew you would be, you always land on your feet its other poor people I’m worried about.” That my Jeanne, the dear soul worries about every one.

He had told her on the phone that he would probably be stopping in the Pass to have a power nap, on the way home, “Your just want to try out Steve’s sleeper,” she said and laughed as she hung up.

Bill started the trip home, the truck was running excellent, and the highway was good so he was making good time. The accident that morning was still in his mind, did I do the right thing’s, could I have done something different these things were bothering him and then he thought, ‘I think I did every thing I could have done, it’s to late now to worry about it. That Jean was a nice young lady, it too bad she was married to such a jerk. Oh well there is no accounting for taste.’

The sun was shinning when he started into the pass and it was beautiful. ‘I don’t know why I retired,’ he thought, ‘I could do this for a lot of years yet, but on the other hand I guess I owed it to Jeanne, she has put up with a lot with me over the last 50 years. She has been a good woman for me.’

A round 2.30 in the after noon his eyes were getting a little heavy and he had lots of time so he pulled into a little turnout and parked. The truck had a Wabasco heater in it, that would keep the engine temperature up and keep heat in the cab, so he shut it down and turned on the Wabasco and laid down on the bunk and fell, almost immediately to sleep.

When Bill woke up it was dark, the silence was almost deafening, and all he could hear was the soft humming of the heater fans. He looked at the illuminated clock in the sleeper, “My God, look at the time, I must have died.” He said out loud to no one. He turned on the sleeper light and looked around, clearing his head and marveling at the room there was in the sleeper. ‘It’s a far cry from the outfits we had 20 years ago.’ He got up and put on his driving slippers and walked to the front of the cab, started the engine turned off the Wabasco heater, then turned on the park lights.

When he got rolling again, the moon was shining again, ‘I sure hope no one runs into any swamp donkeys on the way home to-night.’ Everything on the way home went good, he stopped at the junction and filled his coffee cup, ‘This should get me home,’ He thought.

When he pulled into the yard, he checked out the trailer and unhooked it and parked the tractor. Then he went into the dispatch office and done up his paper work, Roy the night dispatcher hadn’t come to work yet.

Then he phoned Jeanne to let her know he was in and then Steve. “Hey Steve, we’re back all in one piece except for your sleeping bag.”

“What do you mean, except for my sleeping bag, did you have to sell it for a meal?”

“No not quiet, a pilgrim smoked a swamp donkey just south of the junction after passing me at astronomical kilometers an hour and mess up him self and his pick-up truck. It looked like he might have had a broken neck, so I didn’t want to move him until the ambulance got there. It was a little cold so I used it to wrap him up and the medics took it with them. I’ll phone the RCMP, up there to-morrow and see if I can get it back”

“Don’t worry about the sleeping bag, Bill, it was an old one, how did the truck run.”

“I’m in love, it’s a beauty, if it hadn’t been for that accident I would probably out shopping for one just like it and of coarse a divorce lawyer.”

Steve laughed, “I guess your Mrs. is going to be mad at me.”

“What for, you didn’t twist my arm, I was a willing victim, as a matter of fact, taking care of that guy at the accident reminded me of the one reason I don’t like about being on the road. How about we meet for a coffee in the morning, around nine?”

“Great, I’ll see you then and I’ll pay you for the trip.”

“Well-- I’ll take the money, but not with out a guilty conscience. I enjoyed it so much, I feel like I should be paying you.”

The next morning Bill had coffee with Steve and they shot the breeze for an hour and Bill went home. He puttered around the house for a while and then he went down to his shop and worked on Jeanie’s table for an hour. Then he sat down in the old lazy boy chair and started thinking about the accident.

‘I hate accidents,’ he thought, remembering different times when he was first at the scene of an accident. It was always a mess and most of the time you don’t have the knowledge to do anything, but comfort the victims until professional help got there. It was times like this that really made him feel helpless, some of the victims would be pretty messed up and wasn’t a damn thing you could do for them.

At one accident a woman died while he was leaning through the driver’s side window, trying to comfort her. After the ambulance got there he had sat down on the side of the highway and cried like a baby. No the accidents were one aspect of the business that he wasn’t going to miss.

A couple of weeks after his trip for Steve and the incident with the pick-up and the moose, he got a phone call. “Hello is this Bill Ivors?” a ladies voice on the phone asked.

“Yes, what can I do you for,” answered Bill in his good-natured way.

“This is Jean, from the accident, two weeks ago.”

“Hi Jean, how are you feeling and how is your husband doing?”

“I’m fine; George is still in a neck brace and will be for sometime yet. He had a couple of cracked vertebrae. The doctor said that it was a good thing you didn’t let him move while we were waiting for the ambulance.”

“Well I’m glad to hear that.”

“Listen Bill we’re in town on our way south and I have your sleeping bag, they took along with George and I’ve had it cleaned, it still has a blood stain on it, but it’s clean, If you could meet me, I would like to give it back to you.”

“Okay I’ll meet you at the Husky Truck Stop in a half an hour. You know were it is?” asked Bill.

“Yes I do, I’ll be there.”

Bill turned to Jeanne and said, “I have to run out and meet another woman. Do you want to come with me?”

“You bet I do, you old wolf, I have to stop at the store and get some meat for dinner anyway.” and went to get her coat.

As Bill and Jeanne walked into the coffee shop, Bill seen Jean sitting in a booth and he steered Jeanne over to meet her.

“Jean I want you to meet my Jeanne,” Bill said as he presented his wife to the young lady.

Jean stood up and out stretched her hand to Jeanne, “I’m so pleased to meet you Mrs. Ivors and you’re just as I imagined you would be, a lovely woman. I hope you know you are married to a wonderful man.”

Bill sat down beside his wife with a funny look on his face and ordered coffee as the two women started talking. They sat there drinking their coffee and talked. “Do you have any Grand Children, Mrs. Ivors?”

“Oh yes, we have two children and four lovely Grand Children, but they live on the coast and we don’t see much of them.”

“I would love to have a family, but George thinks we should wait until we get the things we want first.”

‘That lousy jerk,’ thought Bill, ‘Doesn’t he mean what he wants, you want children.’ They talked about the things women talk about and Bill listened, finally when they finished, they said their good-byes and left.

When Bill started up the pickup, Jeanne reached over and touched Bills arm and said, “She is a very lovely young lady, it’s to bad she is married to such a jerk and you my dear are still an old phony, regardless of what she thinks, but your my old phony,” she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek, smiling at him.

Go to Chapter 14