Truckstop Girl

Truck Stop Girl

“I’ve worked at this watering hole for going on fifteen years now.  No, you’re correct, I’m not originally from Texas, I guess my accent gives it away, right?  Des Allemands, Louisiana, actually.  Little shithole of a place about forty miles west of New Orleans.  Born and raised there, married there, got the hell out of the place when my husband lost his job and took to drinking instead.  No sir, didn’t have time to have kids, you have to have sex for that, don’t you?  The times that man was sober enough to fuck after our first year together you could count on one hand and even then, he wasn’t exactly an attractive prospect if you catch my drift.  Please, no, I see now it was a blessing.  If there’d been children I’d have been stuck there, not that here is much better, the trailer park and all, but at least the misery was limited to just us two.

         So, I guess we’re talking about what I saw that night, right?  Well, I thought there might have been a problem with his truck because the taillights sorta flickered as he pulled up.  I don’t know, went on and off and on again.  How did I know it was Danny’s rig?  I know them all, these truckers all have their rigs personalised.  Some have their handle, yes, nickname, across the top of the windshield, but you get to know the designs painted along the sides too.  After a while you get to recognise them.  Sometimes I’d hear them on the CB saying they was coming in here, but not everyone uses that anymore.  His handle was LoverBoy, given him by one of the regulars here on account of him being all gooey-eyed over that lot-lizard.  Less said about her, the better.

Anyway, Danny’s was this blue Kenworth 18-wheeler pulling a skateboard, that’s a flatbed trailer to you.  He’d carry all kinds of loads on his run, stuff that didn’t need to be kept dry, construction plant and materials, even houses.  That night he had a load of steel pipe it looked like, each pipe about two-foot across, there was these straps over the top of the load holding it down.  Yes, being honest, I guess I did specially notice him.  Danny was different to the other regulars that come into this choke-and-puke.  How? Well, younger than most any of them was the thing you’d notice first on meeting him.  Looked too young to be living this life, almost too young to be driving.  Real polite too, well-spoken and quiet, sorry, can I take a minute, talking about him is kinda upsetting.  You’ll probably find that anyone you talk to around this place will be the same, everybody liked or at least respected that boy.  Even the older truckers used to talk about how he kept his rig, always tinkering with it, checking stuff.  He loved that truck.  Don’t know much about his life, where he was from, but I’m thinking he couldn’t have had much of a life away from the road.

         He’d been stopping here for about two years on his way west to San Antonio.  It was a regular run he did out of Houston, the same stops to pick up or drop off whatever he was carrying.  His regular route went out to El Paso on the border and on into New Mexico, but he always stopped here.  Guess I don’t need to explain why, but safe to say it wasn’t on account of the food being good.

         Anyhow, that night he stopped at the pump and I went out to see what he needed.  He seemed a bit excited, more than you’d expect if he was just getting some gas and chow, I knew why, and it wasn’t because he was seeing me.  Anyway, I said hi, and before he even answered he pulled something out of his pocket.  I could see what it was straight away, a little black box with a kind of ribbon design in gold, there was a terrible feeling in my chest, like when there’s a big dip on the rollercoaster, you know?  In that moment I wanted to be his mom, to protect him, if you follow me, I knew something real bad was going to happen to him that night.  But what could I have said?  You know how many times I’ve thought about it since, and still I don’t have an answer to that question. 

         Well, he opened the box and showed me what was inside.  Yes, that’s right, it was the ring they found on him later.  Seeing it confirmed my fears, it was only a little stone, not big enough to buy that little whore for even a weekend, leave alone a lifetime.  But you could see how much it meant to him, he’d been mustering his nerve to do this thing, and there weren’t nothing anyone coulda said would change his mind about it.

         He looked me in the eyes, like he was searching for something, and said, “I’m gonna do it, Jesse, tonight I’m asking Rosa to be my wife.  She’s gonna leave here with me”.  All I could do was look back at him thinking, damn, you’re so young.  I wanted to holler at him, grab him and shake him, yell, “Don’t do it”.  But I couldn’t.  Instead I just smiled kinda weak like and said, “That’s nice, Danny, she’s a lucky girl to have a guy like you care for her so much, I wish you well”.

         There was a moment then, when I thought I saw like a flash of doubt in his eyes.  Almost like he could read my true thoughts, but it was gone so quick, I guess it coulda been my imagination.   Well, he said thanks, and then, “Fill up the tank for me, Jesse, I have to check these straps, feels like there’s something not quite right.  Should never have let anyone else secure my load.  Those guys in the yard don’t understand how to tighten down properly for the road.”  Then he took off, but I didn’t see him attend to his truck like he normally would have done.  That boy was so conscientious usually, guess he was distracted with his other business.

         That was it then, nothing more I can tell you.  He went off to the diner, I filled his tank and hoped I was wrong about the bad feeling that was bothering me.  But I have learned to trust it over the years, I’m not so old but time’s made me wise.  Hey, I thought, maybe she ain’t here tonight, but I knew that was no more than wishful thinking, that troublemaker was always here.  I’d seen all the regulars arrive that night, promising an interesting time over there.  There isn’t one Friday night without a fight or three she’s been in the middle of.  There’s been shootings here too since I’ve worked here.  They come and drink whiskey, play pool, and fight.  It’s like the only entertainment there is round here, I mean, there’s no proper town for miles, where else can they go?  The truckers stop here bringing money and life from outside, that girl has no life beyond here.  Probably has no idea what she caused that night.

         You go and talk to some others, they’ll tell you better what happened later.  Yes, you have a nice day too.”

         “Howdy Sir, what can I get you?  Too early for whiskey, beer then?  Yeah, I can get you coffee.  What’s that you say.  You’ll have to speak up a bit on account of my hearing not being so good these days.  That doctor fella got me a thing, goes in this ear, supposed to help me, but busy nights here gets too loud so I’m not in the habit of using it.  You want to talk to me?  Probably ain’t nothing I can tell you ‘bout nothing’d interest a young man like you.  Wait, I’ll get that damn device.

         There, that’s better.  Now, what d’you think you can learn from an old man like me?  Oh, it’s about that boy is it?  Danny?   Yes, of course I remember him.  Look here, I’m better’n seventy years old now son, my ears might not be working so good, but ain’t nothing wrong with the rest of me if you take my meaning.  Fit as a fiddle, I’m called on to break up fights most weekends when these young fools get to testing theirselves in the parking lot.  Yes sir, nothing wrong with this old body.

          Rosa?  She’s around here all the time because she works in the kitchen and waits tables too.  Her father’s Mexican, mother was from around here somewhere.  Mother died, must be five years ago now, she worked here too at the motel across the highway.  Cleaning rooms and such.  Got herself involved with drugs, they found her in one of the rooms dead from doing too much.  They both took it hard.  He works the oil fields in East Texas, so wasn’t around much.  Rosa’s mother looked after her, so after she died and all. Rosa was left on her own.  No more than fourteen she was, started working here then.

         Guess you’ve got your reasons for asking about her, but I thought you was interested in talking about that young trucker, can’t see what she has to do with him.  What’s that? Married to him, no I don’t think that was in her plans.  Can’t say I follow what she does too close, but I never saw her serious about any of the fellas that comes in here.  She’s a real pretty girl, got those Mexican eyes, long black hair she wears kinda piled up on top of her head.  Shows off that long neck of hers to any wants to look, not that I waste much time looking.  Guess it gets her better tips from the truckers, not supposed to say it these days, but a pretty girl brings the boys in, ain’t nothing complicated about that.  Nope, with her it was always about keeping them interested, not about getting married or even anything in that direction, if you get my meaning.

         What happened to her ma really hit her hard, but she was always a serious kid.  Spends all her spare time in one book or another, studying for something with her education.  My guess’d be she wants out of here, and not hanging on to some trucker’s hand, neither.  If you want to talk to her, that’s where you’ll find her.

         You heard what?  That’d be Jesse told you that I guess, jealousy’d be why she’d say them kinda things.  Rosa’s younger, prettier, smarter, gets all the attention, Jesse’s here just as much, but don’t get nothing for it.  You know, she had a job in the diner before, Jesse did.  I had to fire her on account of her getting mixed up with customers too much, I’d say she’s the one looking for a husband more’n Rosa.  Yup, she’s already got one, never stuck around long enough to get a divorce is what I heard.  Listen, I ain’t here to judge no one, been around long enough to know we’re all sinners, but that woman hasn’t learned that lesson yet, she’d do well to keep her gossip to herself.

         They found what?  A ring you say?  Well, if he had them intentions that was his business, all I’m saying is that Rosa wasn’t about to leave here with no trucker, don’t matter how good he looked or acted.  That girl has seen enough of what life can do already, she’s gonna take care of herself.  Selfish? Mister, you can call it what you want, if you had her life you wouldn’t do half as well as she’s managed.

         Now, that night I was busy doing what I do around here, so I don’t know nothing much bout nothing.  You’d best talk to one of the regulars that hang out here, there’s plenty of them was here.  You stay around long enough they’ll be here.  You want more coffee while you’re waiting?  I’ve got things to do.  Anything you want other’n more talk, just holler.

         Not sure I want to talk to you really.  Why not?  I like to keep myself to myself, mind my own business, I come in here to hang out and relax not to get interrogated.  Well, if you’re buying that might change things, never like to say no to a free drink.  Beer will be fine thanks, can’t understand these boys drinking whiskey for lunch, but you can keep those beers coming.  Not likely to get drunk on it, American beer’s like sex in a canoe, it’s fucking close to water.  One of the things I miss most about home, decent beer.  Can’t say I miss the cold weather, but this place is a bit dry.  That’s better, clears the dust that first one, doesn’t it?  Might not get you pissed, but it is served properly cold, and that’s what I need from a beer in this desert. 

         Can’t you guess from my accent?  I’m English, Londoner more or less.  No, not a cockney, why does everyone around here ask that?  I’m from a few miles outside the centre, not that it makes much difference from this distance.  You want to know?  A place called Barnet, like a suburb I suppose you’d call it, but before I came over here, I lived for years in Scotland.  Aberdeen, why there?  Work, I had a job on the offshore rigs, which is why I came to be here.  Heard that the money was good working the Texas oilfields, working hours are better too.  Used to do month on, month off on the rigs, that’s no kind of a life.  Dangerous too, choppers crash taking crews out to sea.  That’s some risky commute.  Yeah, the pay was good, but I never saved any, soon as I was back on dry land it was like getting out of jail.  Party for a while then settle for a bit then it all happens again.  No chance of a relationship, it’s no life for the women either, rig workers are not the stable type, it goes with the job.  No, here is not much better, but seven days on seven off is less brutal on the system.  Manage to have a kind of thing with a lady too, local girl, seems they understand the life of a driller.

         Yes, I’ll have another.  So, I suppose you’re not interested in me really, are you?  What is it you want to know?  Oh, Danny is it?  Yes, I knew him, probably as well as anyone here, which is to say not particularly well.  Tragic what happened to him.  Driving the kind of hours those boys do there’s always going to be risks.  But what surprised me, they say it was a problem with his load that caused it.  All that kid ever talked about was his truck and what he was carrying, if you talked to him for two minutes he’d be telling you the rules and regulations on every type of cargo he’d carried.  That’s why I say that no one knew him really, he never mentioned his home life, parents, past, nothing except his truck and where he was going next.  Wait, I’m lying, he’d talk about young Rosa, too. 

         Rosa, she’s the waitress that works here.  Nice girl, very polite and really clever.  She always has an answer for the guys that try to pick her up, not that many try that these days.  No, she’s really attractive, that’s not why they leave her alone, it’s because everyone knows her, and the regulars are very protective.  Like family to her they are, she has more older brothers than any girl could want.  Which is cool because her life has been harder than anyone deserves, and she is making more of what she’s got than anyone has the right to expect.  All I know is that her mum died, her dad was never there, before or after, but there’s rumours of stuff happening.  Well, pretty young girl left alone, you work it out.  She was living and working at the motel when she was fourteen, her dad was away working.  I know him, he’s one of my crew, actually, not a bad bloke, just doing all he can really.  Works hard, never said a word to anyone about what happened to his wife, or about Rosa either, couldn’t say if he knows something happened to her while he was away.  Rumour goes that someone was giving too much attention to the girl, and not the right kind.  I heard there was a fight, and someone got shot here one night, happened while I was up in East Texas working, and when I got back no one was talking.  Cops were around for a while, but it seems that no one saw anything, security cameras weren’t working either.  Eventually they gave up and went away. 

         No question that would happen to Danny, he wasn’t the kind of bloke to do anything nasty.  He just talked about her, a lot.  The guys made jokes about him because of it, called him LoverBoy on the CB although that wasn’t his real handle.  I’m sure she knew about that, but she didn’t say anything to anyone else.  She’d talk to him sometimes, but no more than the other regulars.  It was a one-way romance, no doubt about that in my opinion.  It must have been starting to bother her though because of what she said to him that night.  I heard it because he was sitting next to me at the bar.  He came in looking a bit flustered, yes, that was unusual for him, sat down next to me and ordered a coffee.  Never saw him drink alcohol in here, not even one of these piss-weak beers, yes, I’ll have another.  Straight away started looking over at young Rosa, kind of following her with his eyes, even more than usual I’d say.  Seemed to catch her eye then waved, he was smiling then, but it was a strange kind of expression, not a happy smile.  The place wasn’t very busy, but she found stuff to do away from where we were sitting for a while longer, before coming to see what he wanted.

         She didn’t sit down, just stood on the other side of him so he was facing away from me, I couldn’t hear what he said to her, but her voice was quite clear over the noise in the place.   She said, “Oh, Danny”. and she sounded really emotional. “No.  This is too much, you have to leave me alone.  Yes, I mean it, I’m not going to be here much longer and I’m not going to leave with a trucker.  Here, have a drink on me and get out of here.”  I could see she held out a glass to him from the tray she was carrying.  She walked away quickly, but I caught a quick look at her face and it’s possible she was about to cry, I’d never seen her look like that before.  Danny must have drunk what she gave him, because next thing he banged it down on the bar, empty. 

         That’s it, nothing more I can say about that night.  Danny ran out without saying anything more to me or anyone.  A couple of the boys at the bar laughed and made some crack about a lovers tiff, but he wouldn’t have heard them.  That’s all I saw him drink, no, he didn’t stay and drink more I’m certain of it.  He was sitting as close as you are now, I’d have seen if he had.  One more? Don’t mind if I do, hope I have been some help.  Bye.

         Last week there was an incident on State Highway 290 twenty miles west of Waller, TX, involving a single vehicle.  The truck, a Kenworth T800 driven by Danny Williams, aged 23 from Springfield, MO, left the road on a bend.  Mr Williams was driving the vehicle for a freight company based in Houston TX.

         An accident report showed that the cargo, a load of steel pipe bound for the Texas oilfields, came loose as the load restraints failed to hold.  The truck jackknifed on the bend and the flatbed trailer, known to truckers as a skateboard, flipped over taking the tractor unit over too.

         It is too early to say what caused the incident, but as there appears to be no other vehicles involved, the most likely cause would seem to be driver error.  Perhaps speed was a factor, but this is only speculation.

         Mr Williams had been driving the route for two years and would have been familiar with the road.  Preliminary reports from the autopsy revealed that alcohol was present in his blood at a BAC of 0.05, which suggests possible faculty impairment could have played a part in the crash.

         Despite his age, Danny Williams was known as a conscientious driver.  Regular patrons at the truckstop where he made his last stop say they remember him that way.  One person spoken to said that he rarely, if ever, saw Danny drink alcohol.

In my capacity as a reporter I was present at the scene of the crash, and it was a terrible thing to see. What remained of the rig that Danny was in was a mangled wreck, the sections of steel pipe came loose and rolled over the cab. There was nothing left intact.

         Paramedics found no vital signs and the driver was declared dead at the scene.

With thanks to Little Feat

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