Chapter 17 ~ A Lesson From an Unlikely Source
Sam swished the trucker stop coffee in his mouth the way most people swish mouth rinse. He swallowed and said, “The trucker’s name was Johnny Mack. We drove about sixty miles and he didn’t say a word. I pulled my ball cap down over my eyes like I’m trying to sleep. Somewhere east of Saint Louis, he says to me, “Something I got to tell you.”
“I says, ‘What’s that?’ I don’t like the sound of his words. I move my right hand close to the door handle and I’m ready to roll out of the truck, I don’t care if he’s doing seventy miles an hour. He says, ‘Well there are two thing actually. The first is I’m going to kill my no good, woman beating, excuse for a human being who by accident of my birth is my father.'”
“I turned and looked at him. I said the only thing that came to mind, ‘You gonna kill him before we git to Denver or on the way?’ Johnny doesn’t look at me, he’s got his two hands gripped so tight on the steering wheel you think he was choking a chicken. He didn’t say anything for a minute or two, then he says, ‘The other thing is, the trailer we’re pulling, it’s stolen. I own the cab your riding in, but that’s all I own. We could get stopped by the state police and you could get arrested for being an accessary to a crime I committed but you didn’t commit. I’d tell the cops you didn’t commit a crime, but they won’t believe me. You ever done time?'”
“It didn’t take me more than ten seconds to figure I made a bad decision taking a ride with Johnny Mack. But I always been a good judge of character and there was something I liked about Johnny Mack. Don’t git your hopes up, Joe. The jury is still out on you. I haven’t quite made up my mind if you’re the sort of person I want to associate with. I let you know when we git to Quincy or beyond. I said to Johnny, “Thank for telling me.” He half turns to me and said, ‘You not asking to get out?’ I said, ‘Hell no. I got a hunch you’re an okay guy and life hasn’t been kind to you.'”
Joe took a sip of coffee, set the cruise control on seventy, and settled back to hear the rest of the story.
Sam took a bite of donut, chewed on it, then washed it down with his coffee. He said, “Johnny turned to me and said, ‘You got that one right. I did time in juvenile when I was sixteen for assault with intent to kill. I saw my daddy hitting my mother and I grabbed my baseball bat and hit him as hard as I could on his right arm. I broke it. My mom, who had a bloody nose and black eye starts screaming at me that I’m crazy and she’s going to call the police. The police arrested me for assault and battery and my mom and dad both testified against me. When I took the stand I told the truth. But my mom and dad lied and said none of what I said was true. I got two years in juvenile prison and was put on parole when I turned eighteen. Nobody come to visit me, not once during the two years I’m in prison. Not my mama and not the good for nothing excuse I had as a father. When I was released, I went home, why I did this, I have no answer. But I went home. My mom and dad weren’t living there. I went to a neighbor’s house and asked them where they moved. They said, my daddy divorced my mama and took every cent that was in the bank and the car. He run off with a truck stop tramp if you know what I mean. My mama committed suicide a month later. Right then, I made a vow I’m gonna kill him and do the world a favor. He don’t deserve to live.'”
Joe couldn’t help himself, he said, “Did he find his father and kill him? What about the stolen trailer?”
Sam turned and looked at Joe and pushed his ball cap back a bit on his head, “I said not to interrupt me. Let me think where I was. Okay, I got it. That’s what I couldn’t figure. Why he had to steal a trailer loaded with whatever is in the truck, he didn’t tell me at that moment, but I know this road and I knew pretty soon he’s going to have to pull into a weigh station and the state police are going to arrest him. He don’t have any bill of laden. He don’t have any papers of what is in the truck. Johnny looks at me and says, ‘The part about the stolen trailer is good news and bad news. The bad news is that if we’re caught we’re in real big trouble. The trailer is loaded with drugs. The good news is the guy I stole it from will never report it stolen.’ I looked at Johnny and said, ‘You are lot younger than me and you may be a lot smarter than me. I’m gonna give you my best advice. You can take it or leave it. I says, ‘I agree with you your father deserves killing, but that isn’t for you to do. All you’re going to do is give him the last laugh. Right before he dies he knows you’re going to go to prison for the rest of your life or you might even get the death penalty. They still got that in Colorado. Do you want to do the time for somebody else’s crime? I’m talking about the drugs. You look like you grown up hard. You don’t look like a druggie to me. Why don’t you unhitch the trailer and let it sit on the side of the road.”
“What happened?” asked Joe.
“We drove in silence for thirty miles. I was scared I’d hear a police siren any second. Johnny was speeding. He was doing at least eighty in a seventy mile an hour zone. Just this side of Saint Louis, there’s rest area on our side. He pulls in. He parks the truck. He turns to me and says, ‘Sam, you the first person who ever been straight with me. I been thinking. Will you help me unhitch the trailer from my cab? I’ll abandon it here and let the police find it. The other thing I been think about was since I was eighteen, that was almost ten years ago, all I thought about was killing my father and revenging my mother. I realize I wasted ten years of my life on that worthless bum. I’m going to drop you off at the next trucker stop so you can get a ride. As for me, I’m turning around and going home. I’m going to try to make something out of the rest of my life.”
Sam twisted and hit Joe in the bicep with a closed fist.
“Owe. Why did you do that?” said Joe.
“Johnny Mack wasted ten years of his life. You’ve already wasted a couple of weeks.”