Fiction: "Jake Brake"

by Mike Woodson

17 November 2004

What was Jake doing on route 66, he wondered? He was supposed to be on I-40 eastbound out of California, with a load of Lentils with Spinach so the New York and Massachusetts crowd could enjoy a fresh ADAS BE SABANEKH salad, courtesy of cheap imported farm labor and bleary-eyed truckdrivers.

Instead the shipper told Jake that the crop wouldn't be in for 2 to 3 days so just "hang loose." Hang loose the man says. Jake had just spent 3 weeks away from home and family, living out of a duffel bag at crowded truck stops, showering in seedy stalls the size of broom closets and waking in the middle of the night with prostitutes banging on the door.

Jake couldn't afford to wait, independent truckers never can. His third wife Sandra had told him that if he wasn't home that weekend she would leave him. He had to make it back to Jenkin, North Carolina, where he lived, normally a quick stopover before he headed northeast toward New York and Boston with the precious roughage cargo, but not this time. Jake was going to deadhead home. No load, no pay, just make it home one way or another.

At the Flying J Travel Plaza truck stop in Barstow, Jake backed his rig into one of the few open parking spots, then crawled directly into his sleeper berth in the back of the cab, so exhausted that he forgot to shut off his left-turn signal.

Inside the truck stop, several haggard drivers stood in line at the fuel desk, duffels in tow, waiting to get a coupon for a shower. In the trucker's lounge nearby, one driver stared blankly at the TV screen while another was sprawled across two seats, out like a light.

Over in the restaurant, two truckers filled their plates with sticky pancakes and home-fried potatoes at the breakfast buffet, then shuffled back to their tables to eat in silence, their circadian rhythms in chaos.

Two hours later, the red turn signal was still blinking on the white Peterbilt truck out in the parking lot and Jake climbed out and headed inside the Flying J thinking he had to have a load somewhere, anywhere to get him close to home to wife and family.

Jake peered up at the shipper monitor screen inside the Flying J lounge that advertizd truck loads for independents. Nothing! Loads going north to Utah. Loads going south to New Mexico. Loads going northwest to Vancouver, Canada. Loads going southeast to Miami. Only one of interest.

A pickup in Barstow and a drop in Klienfelter, Calif., 24 pallets of bagged chemical fertilizer. No loading dock, hand unloading, immediate delivery required, paid on delivery per Rockwell industries.

So Jake took the bagged, chemical fertilizer load and headed out Route 666. Nothing! The Mojave desert is empty. Boarded up businesses and gas stations, no cars or trucks, pitch black at night with no lights anywhere and a beat up 2 lane road to drive on and not a soul in sight. Nothing on the FM radio except an erie Art Bell and the planet Nibiru. No CB trucker chatter to make Jake feel like he wasn't alone. The future of the Kwa, Jake thought.

From Amboy to Bristol to Cadiz to Danby to Essex to Fenner to Goffs to Homer to Ibex to Java. All named in alphabetical order and all dead. But Jake didn't feel dead. That 400 big cam 4 Cummings motor always made Jake feel alive. The roar and power took away all the feelings of apprehension.

A lone car up ahead. Older model Chevy Bel air, moving slowly, Jake passed it. The car sped up and passed Jake and slowed down. Jake murmered to himself, fuckin dickhead! Jake passed the car a second time. This time the Bel air moved up along side the Peterbilt with the window rolled down and dome light on and Jake reconized a mestizo face with a gun in his hand.

The big trucks left front tire hit the automobile like a bolt of lightning. Jake looked in his side window rear mirror and all he saw was headlights-tail lights, a cloud of dust and a lot of end over end.

Jake thought to himself that this chem fertilizer delivery might be interesting.


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