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Published by Alex Miller
A Skynyrd-loving truck driver gives a young woman a lesson in slowing down to enjoy what's really important.
A Skynyrd-loving truck driver gives a young woman a lesson in slowing down to enjoy what's really important.

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Published by: Alex Miller on Jul 26, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Free BirdBy T. Alex Miller“OK,” said Bernard, with a big Pall Mall exhale, “we can get moving now.”He looked as if he’d just had sex; I almost felt I could smell the musky aftermath, feeling under myskirt along my thigh in the dazed expectation that I’d find some unwelcome slick. Hauling him in,DNA tests, him saying, “But I never touched her!” And he’d be right. He never touched me. Butthose 11 minutes and 30 seconds on the side of the road waiting for his song to end. … Now I laughat the remembrance with a mixture of knowledge and the kind of lingering longing that you almostalways associate with a pleasing sexual encounter.“So, you a college girl or something?” said the trucker whose name was Bernard.The retort, “Woman!” rose to my lips and died before it reached my Midnight Ochre lips. Seatedwith my knees super-glued together as far away from Bernard as I could possibly be without actuallyexiting the truck. A mini, a chenille top showing off my black, thirty-dollar bra. All of me, perchedatop a pile of ripped atlas pages and Jack-in-the-Box tray liners (Bernard’s suggestion, “to keep thecooties off.”) I was trying to imagine what sort of things I’d have stuck to my ass by the time Bernardlet me off. If he let me off. He’d let me off.Technically, I cannot operate a motor vehicle because my license is suspended, my 1983 AMCEagle is uninsured and unregistered, and I have this unfortunate habit of bumping into things when Idrive. I really shouldn’t drive, it overly complicates my life. I shouldn’t have driven tonight, except
that Sherry’s beater Honda wouldn’t start, which meant that I’d either drive or we’d both sit out thisblack-and-blue party. This “theme” party. But it would take some doing. The Eagle needed a jumpstart, gas, oil, you name it.Sherry lived 20 miles from me off the Interstate; the party was another 10 from me, in the oppositedirection. Fifty miles to drive to get to some stupid party in some ranch house in a suburb in a part of the country people in planes fly over remarking, “boy, can you imagine living
?”I could see everything so clearly, as clearly as the people flying over Ohiowa could see the roadsand farms laid out like some kind of monstrous board game. Go around the squares long enough andyou’ll find some guy with a pickup or a hopped-up Hummer to marry you. You can get drunk together and smoke menthol cigarettes and watch bad television. You can try to look small on thesoiled couch while the cops question your husband about the noise, the broken lamp, the bong on thecoffee table … and your black eye. I’m the protagonist in a country song, y’see; all of this willhappen. Especially showing up at parties dressed like this, like the kind of chick who wants a ride ina Hummer.I’d been in an 18-wheeler before, so when Bernard pulled up in his Freightliner, all hissing andpopping hydraulic sounds, I wasn’t that impressed. Bernard thought my flaming Eagle was the bestthing he’d ever seen; he wanted to stick around to watch the whole show. Listen, I told him, I’ve gotno insurance, no license, no insurance and this car is a complete piece of shit that’s probably worthabout a hundred bucks. I found the plates in someone’s trash and the only thing of value in there isprobably a hair brush and a half-pack of Juicy Fruit. So if you want to give me a ride, let’s get the
hell out of here NOW!I said it with a vaguely disguised hint that, were he to get me out of there, he might get a piece of this fancy brassiere. Bernard was quiet as we pulled away from the Eagle, which by this time hadvast plumes of black smoke pouring out of its windows. Ever seen a vinyl fire? I once burned asection of a naugahyde couch with an unplanned union between a Marlboro and a shooter of Jack Daniels. Later, mom kept whipping away the towel I’d put over the burn to exclaim, “I can’t
you did this!
did you do this again?” Dad’s only comment was to put his arm over my shoulderand say solemnly, “You know, Shandra, they killed a lot of naugas to make that couch.”Looking at the Eagle out of Bernard’s right-side mirror, I was kind of hoping it would explode, butI knew it probably wouldn’t. We all know where cars really explode, and it’s not in Ohiowa. My carwould just be this stinking, moldering hunk of junk some poor highway department guys would haveto haul away. Dripping wet from when the fire guys hosed it down. I know some of those guys. Theyhave not-so-great jobs, and the last thing they need … well, it couldn’t be helped. Like I said, Ishouldn’t be driving anyway. Being relieved of the Eagle was like having a bottle of booze takenaway from you when you know you shouldn’t be drinking booze. Plus, its demise gave me a goodstory to tell. I started forming some of the sentences in my mind in preparation for the party — if Iever got there.“And THEN, the DAMNED thing BURST into FLAMES, and me sitting there in my goddamnedMINI wondering what the HELL I was going to do when this TRUCKER pulls up and …”This is what I was thinking about — the silver lining of my experience — when Bernard suddenly

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