Brian W. Porter
Damn, it's good to come home. I hadn't done roadwork for years, since the first few years I drove. I forgot how hard it is to stay out for weeks at a time, live in the truck, eat in truck stops. They've changed over the years, become more commercial, less the mom and pop restaurant with a shower out back. That was an adventure. Now they're more the franchise where you know what to expect. Driving's different, too, less friendly, less a club of peers and more like a competition. After six weeks in the new world of long-haul trucking, six weeks away from home, even an old house in need of work feels like a mansion. Home. A location full of good memories and bad, and possibilities for the future. I would have been home earlier, but the damn DOT at the chicken house put me out of service for ten hours. I took a leak in the middle of my ten hour break at the rest area, he saw me and said not only didn't I have a full ten hour break, but I lied on my log because I didn't log it as on duty not driving. I took a leak! That's Off Duty at the worst. But he gave me a ticket for it and now I pay or I go to court. The last aggravation before I came home. As I drove up the street, I looked at the three-bedroom ranch, a low red brick square with symmetrical windows and white trim, and noticed the trim needed a coat of paint. The house looked boring, actually, and the asphalt drive had ruts deeper than New Jersey roads. Only the yard truly looked good as the car bumped up the curb into the drive. The neighborhood kid I'd hired to cut the grass had trimmed better than I expected. I did not expect the care he obviously took from a kid still in high school. He'd even edged the sidewalk. He deserved a bit extra. I had stayed on the road for the past six weeks to get away from my recent problems, straighten out my head with a bit of normality

instead of the family court battles and neighborhood gossip I'd endured for more than a year. If I painted the house, that would help me relax and alleviate some of the boredom, and give me a chance to kill some rumors. Now I had a day and a half of work to stretch out over six days off, a chore I didn't have to hurry through, an instant weapon against boredom. I looked forward to an easy, though short, vacation. All I had to do was fend off dispatcher calls and catch up on bills, and paint. The back door of the car stuck slightly as it always did when I opened it, but I used it so little I didn't see the need to fix it. I pulled out my gym bags, the one I used for dirty clothes almost full, the clean clothes necessary for after my shower, and looked across the street. The house was like mine, but the yard was landscaped, and the garden that curved around the brick walk blazed with red and gold. Cheryl, the woman who lived in that house directly across from mine, opened her door and yelled, "I've already called. They'll be here shortly." Who did she call, and who would be here shortly, and why, I wondered as I quickly took in her very short and thin body under a revealing bathing suit. She, too, had recently gone through a divorce, though for other reasons. She'd caught her husband in bed with his boyfriend. Surely we could take care of each other's needs later, after I'd showered and eaten. Showered. Hot water and soap to float away all the road grime and warehouse dirt, and the stress from the amateurs in cars and their god awful driving. Three people even cut me off on the short five-mile hop from where I park my big rig to the house. After fifteen years, I still wondered why there were so few accidents. All the stress would go away with a shower. I unlocked the door and stepped into the living room. I dropped the bags next to the wall to the left as I closed the door. Everything else could wait for later, but I needed my clothes. Before I looked up, I started for the bathroom. "It's about damn time!" I heard as I slammed back into the door. The back of my head hit hard. It shook my brain and started a massive headache. The world was fuzzy for a moment. I knew that voice. I heard, "You know damn well you're home every night! Where have you been? Out whoring! You filthy beast!" My left cheek stung from a slap, then my right cheek. I felt liquid trickle from my nose.

My eyes began to clear and finally focused again. I saw a specter I thought I'd never see again, my ex-wife. She stood over me, hands on hips, face red, ready to explode with rage. She was as massive as ever, and not in the State Psyche Ward where she belonged. The message Cheryl had called to me finally registered. She'd already called the cops. Stealthily I unlatched the door and slid off to the side. "You're not supposed to be here, you know," I said quietly when my knees again supported me. I didn't know where the next blow would come, but I could stand anything except the solar plexus. She read my mind. Her fist came hard into me just above the stomach. She screamed at me as I doubled over, "What do you mean! This is my house! You have no right to say I don't live here! I did not give you permission to divorce me. Don't hand me that drivel you low life. Where have you been? Out bar hopping with that slut from across the street, I'll bet!" The door opened. A strange male voice yelled, "Freeze!" Doubled up on the floor, I saw two cops enter, one male and one female, both in uniform with caps and shined shoes, and with handcuffs easily available. The male held his weapon pointed at the ceiling, the female held her nightstick as she followed. The male yelled, "I said freeze!" I didn't move. I'd heard that too many times as I grew up, but always from Mom or Dad. Then I'd be the one punished, even if one of my sisters started the fight. This was not one of my sisters, however. Psycho on a rampage was unstoppable. I just hoped blood wouldn't get on the carpet. She screamed at the cop, "Who the hell do you think you are coming into my house like that? You fucking bastard! That gun don't scare me. I'll beat you to the ground for trying to break in like that!" My ex started for the cop with the gun, but the female cop quickly moved around the table and subdued her, got her on the floor with her arm pulled behind her back. As she went down, my ex managed a hard kick into my ribs. She yelled, "You fucking bastard! I know you called them!" Finally, after a good bit of struggle, they cuffed her. She ranted on, though, a never ending slew of filth and degradation. "Are you all right, Sir?" the male cop asked loudly as he holstered his weapon. He squatted closer to me and said, "That was a nasty kick you took, and you're bleeding. You'll have to go to the hospital to have these injuries verified."

The storm door closed with a bang. "Charlie, are you hurt? What did she do?" Cheryl asked as she pushed her way inside. She knelt next to me and helped me sit, a small angel with long brown hair who wore a transparent top over her swim suite. I held my stomach, the greater of the pains for the moment, but I knew the fire in my ribs would grow. The male cop leaned down and gently grasped Cheryl's arm. "Madam, back away, please. We have paramedics on the way." My ex struggled as she was led out the door by the female and another cop who had just arrived. "Sir, it's obvious you're not the aggressor, but I have a few questions, please." "Yeah. Sure. Take it easy, on her. She's not herself. Or maybe she is." I sat against the wall. My knees pulled up to my chest, my arms hugged my chest. My breath returned, but slowly. My ribs hurt too much for a deep breath. "Can you give me some background what happened?" Here we go again, I thought. Why couldn't people just drop it? This wasn't his fault; he just had a job to do. It wasn't like the DOT who always hounded a truck driver. I answered, "Yeah, sure. She's abusive. I got a divorce. Judge put her in the funny farm, and gave me a restraining order." He made a note and asked, "May I see the restraining order, please?" "Sure. Cheryl, out in the car you'll find my briefcase, in the back seat. It should be in the back pocket." To the officer, I said, "Anyway, that happened about two months ago. I changed jobs. My old job was LTLing for Holmes." He looked up from his notebook. "Holmes? That's a delivery service, isn't it?" "Yeah. That's what I did, pick up and deliver less than loads or LTL. It was good. Paid by the hour, sixty hours a week, no overtime of course, but then almost no one pays truck drivers overtime. I was even home nights. Then she started getting crazy." "How so, Sir?" "Well, after five years of marriage, a damned good marriage by the way, it started with just yelling and accusations, then grew into minor physical abuse. When I wound up in the hospital, I decided it was enough." "The third time you went in the hospital," Cheryl said from the door. She handed the officer the restraining order. "She's crazy, she

is. Broke his arm even. We could hear her across the street some nights, with the windows closed. Why he stuck with her, I'll never understand. He's good people." "I see. I'll check the records." He noted the case number in his notebook. "Your name, Mam?" "Cheryl Holmsinger. I live across the street." "A friend?" "For now. Yes." Now what did she mean by that? The cop said, "Very good. Continue please, Sir." "Well, the divorce went through, and the judge sent her to the State Psycho Ward. I changed jobs to a long haul company to get away." "I understand. What company, Sir?" "Oh, Boyles, over in Newark. They sent me out about six weeks ago and had me bouncing around the country. They had me in Brooklyn this morning. Drop and pickup in Hell, fight northern New Jersey traffic, and I get home to this." "You weren't expecting your wife to be here?" He must be a lawyer. I'd already said we were divorced and she was put away, but I held my tongue. "Ex-wife, please. She was in the hospital, and I have that restraining order." "I understand. Sir, I always get a different answer, but I'm required to ask, so, why didn't you fight back, or at least try to stop her?" "I grew up with five sisters, all younger than me. Anytime we had an argument, I was blamed. If it looked like I hit one of them, I got beat by my Dad, and he could really deliver a licking. I got used to shutting up and rolling in a ball." The cop made a note in his notebook. "I understand. Who called us?" "I did," Cheryl quickly answered. I'd forgotten she was here. The far wall began to flash with a faint red and blue light. "Why?" The cop asked. "I saw her come back a few days ago, but I thought she'd leave. When Charlie pulled in I knew there was going to be trouble, so I called." The paramedics came in, equipment piled on a stretcher, almost a whole hospital I thought. The cop motioned them to me.

He asked Cheryl, "Now, Madam, why didn't you call us earlier?" "I hoped she would just go away, you know?" "All right. I have enough for now. Let me verify this order and you shouldn't have any more problems." No more problems? My problems were just starting. If you drove a truck, you were either in perfect health or out of a job. There was no in between, light duty, anything like that. No partial days, either. A part timer usually put in eight hours or more, and full time was like you had two jobs. I started to laugh, but it hurt too much. One of the Paramedics told me to hold still. I said, "Officer, this is plenty of trouble. I'll have to take time off to go to court, several times. That's money out of my pocket, let alone the expense of court. Ow! Take it easy, will ya? I won't be able to unload, so I'll have to hire a lumper. That's a couple hundred dollars or more each time. I'll be losing money. How can you guys let this happen?" The cop made a note. "I understand. Well, I have enough for now. Let me call in this information. I doubt you'll have any more trouble from her." He didn't answer the question. "You drive a truck?" the Paramedic asked as the officer left. "Yeah." "Not for a while, I'll bet. I think you have broken ribs, possibly some internal injuries. You'll probably be on disability for a while." "Oh, great." That would make dispatch happy. I'd busted ass for them and as soon as I got home, I'd have to call in sick. Great. Really great. The phone rang. Cheryl answered it, and then handed it to me. "Dave, he said his name is." I rolled my eyes and explained, "Dispatch. I'm off for two hours and they're already bothering me." I listened, then quickly explained to Dave what happened since I got home, and then handed the phone to Cheryl to cradle. "What did your dispatcher say?" she asked. "Oh, to take the time off I needed, and I did such a good job they're raising me a penny." "That's all?" She sounded upset, a small package of fury directed at those who slighted her friend. I explained, "A penny a mile. I average thirty-five hundred miles a week." "That's only thirty-five dollars a week."

"It's better than usual. Most places only give you half a cent raises." "That's disgusting." Like most people who first learned how many truck drivers are treated by their companies, she overreacted. "That's trucking," I said with a shrug and a wince. I told Cheryl, "These guys are going to want to take me to the hospital. Tag along, will ya? I'll need a ride home, and I'd enjoy the company." "I can do that. You go ahead and I'll be along in a few minutes." I couldn't help but grimace as I moved to the stretcher with two people guiding me. I lay back and tried to ignore the aches that overloaded my brain. I just wanted to get this over with, down some painkillers and lay in my bed. I said, "Let's go. Lock the door please, Cheryl? I have my keys." *** "You look awful," Cheryl said as a nurse escorted her to my curtain-surrounded cubbyhole. Monitors and tubes ran from my body into strange machines. I'm sure I looked worse than I felt. Cheryl had changed into a white T-shirt and jeans. Her nipples danced under her shirt so deliciously I didn't think she wore much else. She leaned over and kissed me on the forehead, an unexpected move that helped. She apologized, "I'm sorry. I should have called her in when she first arrived, but I didn't know where you kept the papers, and didn't want her to make me out as an interfering fool." She could have called me, but no, she didn't know how to contact me. I said, "You did OK. Cops probably would have taken longer the second time." "That's what I thought. Have they looked at you yet?" "A glance. They're waiting for my blood pressure to go down, so they say. It's probably just that I'll live and someone else might not. No problem. I'm used to waiting." I looked around at the small, windowless room. "I've been in worse places. At least here it's clean." "How long are they going to keep you here? You'd do better at home. You can relax there." "Probably all I'll do for a while." I tried to grin, but I don't think it worked. "Charles Bosworth?" a deep voice, lower than a baritone, asked. I looked that direction and saw another officer standing at the door.

"Yeah?" "I'm working a case down the hall and was asked to tell you that your ex-wife is now in the maximum security ward for the criminally insane. You shouldn't have any more problems from her. A judge will make it official within a week. Court will notify you when to show." Progress. "OK. Hey, thanks." "No problem, sir. Good luck." "Excuse me officer, is there a problem here?" My new visitor wore a white coat and a stethoscope. "No, Doctor. Just delivering a message." The brown uniform left. The man in the white coat walked over to the end of the bed. He lifted a clipboard from a holder and studied it for a moment. "You've been here before. Ribs and face this time. Same predicament?" "How do you know I've been here before?" I was a bit perturbed. I don't appreciate people who spy on me. "Your record says you were here three times over the past two years for injuries sustained from abuse. I assume this is another case because of the documentation requested by the County. Why don't you get out of the situation?" This prying idiot didn't deserve an answer, but I didn't feel up to an argument so I just said, "I did. She escaped." "They can't hold onto anyone it seems. Three prison guards are down the hall hurt when a couple inmates escaped. Idiots. Well, let's see what we can do for you." He poked and prodded, and sent me to get x-rays. Six hours later Cheryl drove me home and relaxed me in a very pleasant way that did not cause any pain. *** Three days later, I sat next to a judge's bench in the witness chair, surrounded by a stainless steel rail, and hurt. My wife, who wore a straight jacket, sat next to her lawyer with two large orderlies just behind her. Her lawyer asked, "You're a big man, obviously strong, much stronger than Matilda. You couldn't defend yourself?" "Objection! Council is defaming the witness. We've already covered this, your honor. We've shown evidence those injuries--." The judge said, "Sustained. Let's not comment about your perception of the witness's character." "Sorry, your Honor. Why didn't you defend yourself?" I knew how to answer this one. With the truth. I asked the lawyer, "Do you love your wife? I love my wife. I could not hit her if I wanted

to." "But you're divorced." Yep, lawyers are stupid. We'd already gone over this several times. I answered, "After she put me in the hospital for the third time I got a divorce." "No more questions, your honor." Half an hour later, the Judge rendered his verdict. Matilda would be in maximum security for a long time. *** Other short stories, essays, and poetry from this author are available at *** Copyright 2010 Attribution Non-commercial No-derivs You may share this work with anyone in any way with the following provisions. You must share the complete work, including the title and this notice. You may not make any changes. You may not use this work commercially or accept payment without the written permission of the Author. Any and all rights and credit are held by Brian W. Porter.

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