THE FOLLOWING SPRING I get my CDL, enroll in a three-week training course, and take a job with a trucking company called Dahl Transport. It’s a desperate measure, one to keep myself out of the eyes of the law and spread myself so thinly across America that I wont be able to hunt humans. I am one of three women who drive rigs for Larry Dahl, and, by anyone’s standards, the most attractive. The men outnumber us twenty-to-one. Linda Eubanks, Dodo Philbrooks, and, of course me.
Linda and Dodo are what the company calls old-schoolers. They wear their rigs just as well as they do their ‘Fuck you, you fucking fuck’ T-shirts. Linda still has a mullet—gray at the roots and bright red the rest of the way down. She lumbers into a room on barrel-sized thighs, her hacking laughter always preceding her. Her counterpart, and sometimes nemesis, Dodo, is the opposite. All bones and wrinkles, her face looks like an old piece of leather with too much hot pink lipstick and blue eye shadow. Dodo always smells like she’s been rolling around in an ashtray. When she’s angry, she throws things around and calls everyone a pansy bitch. I am the youngest hire in the company in twenty years, and the only reason I got the job was because I served Mr. Dahl coffee at the diner and asked him to make me a big, bad trucker. At first he laughed, but when I stayed glued to the spot, staring at him with the half empty coffee pot in my hand, he’d handed me his personal card and told me to come into his office.
I’d made an appointment to see him, and the following week I’d walked to his office on Madison, dressed in ripped blue jeans, my steel-toed boots, and a T-shirt that said: “Born to be a trucker.” Before I’d left my apartment, I’d tied a blue bandana around my head. It gave me the air of toughness. Mr. Dahl’s receptionist had looked me over like I had maggots dripping from my nose. But I knew a little bit about the shrewd Larry Dahl. He was an avid lover of the theater, a Star Wars groupie, and every spring he attended Comic Con, where if you scrolled back far enough on his personal Twitter page, you could see pictures of him dressed up as Obi Wan Kenobi. His fleet of trailers was painted bright colors, works of art according to their owner. Mr. Dahl was a flamboyant artist and nerd, and I was going to give him a show if it would get me the job.
When I walked into his office, he stood to greet me, laughing loudly at my ensemble and pausing to take a picture of me with his iPhone.
“Why do you want to drive a truck?” he asked, after he settled down behind his desk. “Why no college? Fashion school? Career waitressing?”
I pulled a face at all three of his suggestions.
“Because I like to do things that women shouldn’t be doing.”
“It’s a lifestyle, Margo. One that affects your family and friends. Don’t you have anyone to stick around for?”
I think of Judah, then shake my head. “No, no one.”
Mr. Dahl sat back, stroking his chin. It was a baby’s ass chin—not even the slightest bit of stubble there. “I see,” he said.
I took that as my cue to convince him. “Mr. Dahl. I am not like other girls. I don’t desire for silly, frivolous things. I like to drive. I like to see things. I like to be alone. I’m tough. You won’t have to worry about me. I handle high stress like I was born for it.”
He didn’t look convinced.
“My dad was a trucker,” I lied. “He died before I was born. It’s a profession I respect and believe in.”
The gavel of decision was struck. Mr. Dahl offered me a job, saying they’d train me themselves. I left his office with my new hire package clutched under my arm, marveling at my good fortune. I’d have to keep convincing him, of course. He’d be watching me carefully, making sure I had what it took to keep in time with the boys. But I didn’t care. I’d found that I was perfectly adaptable and good at most things I tried.
I got my first rig nine weeks after my training began. It was a Detroit Diesel DD15—beautiful and powerful. The smell of newness lingered around the cab when I climbed in for the first time. I was not as large or commanding as Dodo Philbrooks or Linda Eubanks, but I wasn’t a small, frail girl either. I fit in with these people the same way an ostrich fit in with the rest of the birds: classified as, but slightly off. And so began my new life as a trucker.
I’ve found Leroy Ashley. Tracked him down to a small beach house in the Florida Keys. I had to call his favorite lingerie catalog, a small company based out of Raleigh, North Carolina that specialized in crotch-less panties. At first I called pretending to be his wife, calling to confirm that they had the catalog shipped to my new address.
“Can you tell me what the new address is?” the girl said. “And I’ll let you know if it’s what we have on file.”
“No,” I snapped. “I already made this call, and you people messed up. You tell me what you have so I can see how incompetent your people are.”
“Ma’am…” she said.
“Look, I say. I lied. My boyfriend broke up with me and took our dog. I’m not sure where he is, but I need to find her. This was the only thing I could think to do.” I wasn’t sure why she believed my lie, or chose to have pity on me, but I hung up the phone with Leroy’s address scribbled on the back of an old power bill. A larger company would never have released that type of information. I lucked out.
I haven’t spoken to Judah since the day I left him at the airport. He’s tried to call, but I’m not ready. His e-mails say that he’s moved back to the Bone and has taken a teaching job at my old middle school. I think about Mo having him as a teacher one day, and I smile.
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