Wednesday October 19th, 2011

The exercise:

Write something which takes place at: the truck stop.

We've got the fireplace going for the first time this fall. It's quite cozy and warm in here at the moment.

Mine:

I sit staring out the dusty window at the parking lot, the laminated menu resting on the table before me. Beneath a cloudless sky are two fully loaded logging trucks, three rigs without their trailers, eight pickups, and my four door sedan.

I should've parked around back.

What am I doing out here? I should be safe behind my desk on the tenth floor of the Bellick Building, reading reports and firing failures.

Why my brother moved to this God forsaken wilderness I'll never even begin to understand. He could've at least had the decency to hold his funeral in the city.

"What'll ya have, honey?"

The waitress is wearing more makeup in one go than Beth puts on over the course of an entire week. It's impressive, in a freak show kind of way.

"Just a salad and a diet coke."

"Oh." Her pen hovers over her pad while confusion clouds her eyes. "You want fries with that?"

"No."

"Saving room for dessert, huh? Smart move, honey, cuz our pies are just out of this world."

This trip is going to be the death of me.

9 Comments:

David said...

Marc - this seems like just the beginning .... what will befall our fish out of water (especially, since I imagine his brother is a fish out of water too).


The anticipation of the trip made her heart pound. Or maybe it made her lose her breath. She was confused. Maybe that is what he did, scrambled her brain. Now they were on their way. The car skipped along the highway. She stared at his legs, moving up and down as he shifted and braked, expertly weaving his way through the late afternoon traffic. The sun’s angle forced her to look down and shy away from the light, focusing her gaze on the muscle above his right knee. Watching it engage and slacken. They raced along at eighty. Faster, my dear, get us there. She held in a girlish squeal when they hit 85. The back of her legs stuck to the leather seat. She shifted, trying to rip her skin from the seat as if it was a tightly bound Band-Aid. Then he slowed.

“What are you doing,” she asked.

“Need a break”

“Let’s just get there and then we can have all the break we need.”

“I need a break. You can stay in the car.”

And she did. She sat with the motor running. She turned the air conditioning on, trying to cool her overheated skin. A minute went by. She turned on the radio. It was old, like everything else in the car. Vintage he said. She moved the little red line across the numbers, found some vintage music. She could never remember which songs were performed by the Beatles and which were by knock offs. This sounded authentic. The song ended. Where was he? She pressed a button and changed it to AM, ran the dial across the display.

“Last night in Tuscaloosa ….”

“Partly cloudy with a chance of …”

“…. Thought to be armed and dangerous”

Where was he? She heard yelling in the distance, a mother berating a child. If she had children, she would love them unconditionally. She looked out the rear window. Saw a hand come down, but did not see the impact. She wondered what the kid had done.

Ten minutes, she got out of the car. She started to make her way to the entrance of the McDonald’s. The door opened and he jogged out holding a coke and a big goofy smile.

“I thought you were waiting in the car.”

“I thought you …”

He touched her shoulder. She melted.

“Let’s go, we want to be there before sundown.”

He revved the motor and she felt her skin prickle as they resumed their adventure.

Greg said...

The fire sounds nice – does this mean that you'll be out chopping wood soon to make sure you've got enough to last through those vicious Canadian winters then?
I don't know what your narrator's complaining about! His brother's got him to see a part of the world it sounds like he'd never see otherwise, and I like the idea of fries with salad. It's the diet Coke that bothers me.... There's some lovely detailing in your story too, especially the touches about the make-up and the waitress's attitude.

By the way, this prompt and your story reminds me very much of this little oddity.

The truck stop
We're down on our knees,
Praying at the truck stop,
Hoping for a big rig,
Pursued by an acid-addled cop.

Hear the screech of the tyres,
Hear the roar of the road.

We're down on our knees,
Praying at the truck stop,
Hitch-hiking naked,
Hoping for a lift to the Ihop.

Harken to the words of the liars,
Break their inscrutable code.

We're down on knees,
Praying at the truck stop,
Bad words for a bad world,
Bad people for an unrepentant God.

world of experience said...

The Truck Stop

In the Australian outback, the truck stops are few and far between, a hundred kilometres from one to the next. Semi-desert stretches for thousands of kilometres either side of the black top, if you are lucky enough to have bitumen beneath your eighteen wheeler. The road is usually straight, flat, and a sure cure for insomnia. Sage-coloured scrub struggles to attain a small height out of the sandy, red, sunbaked ground, apparently devoid of life, although the local Indigenous caretakers of this land know better.
The truck stop is the oasis, the centre of town. The only town hereabouts. It harbours the only shower, if you're lucky, and always has the best steak and eggs this side of the black stump. If the truckers stop here to eat, it's the best recommendation. People travel four hours just to go out for dinner. It's true!
You might find a motel room or two round the back, a bit fly-ridden I've heard, or space aplenty to park the caravan overnight, which you might have to, after that eight hundred K journey today.
The truck stop is the centre of business - the post office, the grocer, the butcher, the fuel stop, the restaurant, the pharmacy pickup, the radio contact to civilisation, including the Flying Doctor in a medical emergency. The truck stop is your life line and it's usually run by a fifth generation fifty something ex barmaid who will take no nonsense and have many a story to tell if you have the time.
The truck stop - a multitude of happenings here.

Heather said...

I had every intention of actually going somewhere with this piece, but then I was distracted by a character I didn't know existed. And now I have to get some sleep.

------
I didn't even know why I had come back. Obligation. Guilt. Or maybe, a sense of curiosity. It didn't matter. I could tell that nothing had changed in the few years I had been gone. The same buildings sat empty on Main Street. The towns one light continued to blink yellow after 9pm any night of the week. Over privileged teenagers still used the Dairy Queen parking lot to turn around in.

Home was on the outskirts of the town. I smirked at the idea that anyone would call this place a town or suggest that it was large enough to have outskirts. But, that is how my mom always referred to the location of the small two bedroom stone house the six of us lived in. "Just drive past the truck stop and go another 2 or 3 miles and you'll find us there on the outskirts of town," she'd instructed more than one delivery driver.

The truck stop was just ahead. The neon light was partially burned out, but I would have known the smell of diesel and baking grease anyway. Turning into the parking lot, I decided I had better buy a soda and some snacks. The 5 of us kids may not be living at home anymore, but it was likely the cupboards would be bare. A can of corn or baked beans. Some tomato paste and a family size can of Foldger's original were all that ever seemed to inhabit those shallow spaces that the dishes did not overtake.

The glass doors were heavier than I remembered them. The customers lighter. It looked as if times had been hard in the town. I watched as their thinly disguised stares moved off the steaming cups of coffee and smudged chalk menu to follow me around. Bruce sat on his usual stool. He raised his hat with his oil blackened hand. "Well hell's bells! If it ain't little Miss College back in town." He spit into the can that always sat to the side of his stool. The habit had always disgusted me.

"Hey Bruce! How are you doing?" A genuine smile spread across my face as I crossed the black and white checkered floor to give him a hug. "Bruce. The only person I truly worry about from this town. The one person who ever showed me any kindness!" He felt small in my embrace. Times had been hard.

"Now turn 'round and let me get a good look at you darlin'." Lifting my hand just over my head, he nudged my shoulder gently. I happily spun in a circle, bowing slightly when we were face to face again.

"Well? What do you think now that I am all grown up? Am I everything you hoped for me and better?" I felt like that little kid he use to protect from the older, meaner, privileged kids that loved nothing more than to torment me. I realized his response still meant a great deal to me.

"You got some spiffy duds, that's fo' sure. You've done become a nice lookin' young lady, but you are far from grown up little Missy." A slight pink warmed my cheeks. Whether it was from pleasure or embarrassment, I couldn't say. "Now, why you back in town sweetheart?" He eyed me suspiciously, as if I'd given him reason to be doubtful. "You got some pretty boy on a string jus' waitin' to take you 'round the world or what?"

"Nothing like that. I was just feeling a little homesick and thought it was about time I came home to visit my mom. I thought I would stop in here and pick up a few things for the cupboards and refrigerator first. How is she doing?"

Bruce sat down hard on his stool. He chewed a bit before spitting and then he turned to me to answer. "You know your Mama baby. She' a well-respected, hard-workin' women who ain't never been wrong 'bout a thing in her whole life. She gonna die that way too."

Marc said...

David - hmm, I shall consider continuing it at some point. You've made me curious :)

That there is one intriguing vignette. The bit with the radio was wonderful atmosphere. Speaking of things that wouldn't mind being continued...

Greg - yup, t'is the chopping wood time of year. And that... certainly was odd. I think I liked it.

That's a beautifully bizarre poem you've got there. Pretty sure I like it too :)

World of Exp. - and now you've got me wanting to go visit a truck stop in the outback. Fantastic descriptions and details.

Marc said...

Heather - oh, you sneaked in there while I was replying to the others!

Great characterization in there. Really brought the scene to life. I'm totally okay with it not going anywhere, as I enjoyed it regardless :)

world of experience said...

Marc,
Yeah I couldn't resist getting all Aussie there.

Drake Davenport said...

The Truck Stop. This should certainly be an interesting one. Maybe not a good one, for myself at least, but an interesting one.

---
Jerry didn't feel safe here. Then again, he didn't feel safe anywhere. This giant building in the middle of nowhere with the sign that says "Al's Truck Stop" was no exception.

Sure, it had food. It would protect him from the elements. But it was just such a large building. So many rooms. How could he be certain that they weren't hiding somewhere in here, maybe even somewhere he didn't know existed.

Did this structure have a basement? He didn't know. Did it have an attic? It looked a little too tall from the outside to be one story.

Sure, he could go looking, but the further in he went, the darker it got. He started hearing weird noises from the deeper rooms. His little decrepit flashlight just couldn't fill the expanses with light.

No, he wouldn't risk it. He would stay here for the night, and be off first thing tomorrow morning. Or so he thought. From behind him, he heard growling. They were here.
---

Living in close proximity to "The World's Largest Truck Stop", I just tried to take it and imagine what it would be like exploring it in a post-apocalyptic world.

I always like the idea of exploring deserted buildings, anyway. Games like Fallout are just so intriguing. And if that really interests you, this is about the coolest related video on Youtube I've ever seen: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otIU6Py4K_A

Marc said...

Drake - I suppose I shouldn't be surprised that there's a world's largest truck stop out there somewhere... but I am anyway :P

I think you captured the feelings of fear and isolation very well there. I wouldn't go exploring in the dark either :P