Saturday, November 16, 2013

Four-Eyed Angel

by Robert

Most people laugh when they first hear the story then sometime later they hear it again and it takes on the trappings of truth. The big rig drivers in the northwest will tell you that they know someone who actually knows one of the drivers who have met her. She is blond, brunette, tall, short, good build, kind of chubby, quiet, bubbly etc. but all the time the story is the same. Sam Jennings who has driven for Walters Transport since he was sixteen told me the story one night some years ago while we sat outside Billings at the Grange Truck Stop. It was snowing a full blizzard and both of us thought better of making miles. I asked Sam about the 'Angel', and he said, "My cousin knew a guy who had seen her, darndest thing I ever heard."

The story starts the same way every time. Usually it involves a good guy who has been driving for years and something happens to really change his life. A child dies, his wife leaves or kicks him out, and you know that stuff. Pretty soon he starts missing pickups and taking too long to make deliveries. His rig starts to break down usually close to a bar or far away from anything. He gets let go from the good company he has worked for and starts doing trash hauls for some two-bit outfit. Just about this time he begins to realize that he has lost everything so why bother. The guy ends up sitting in a roadside bar trying to drink enough to make the end of his run and still blow legal. He turns as someone sits beside him. She looks good.

"Hi yourself guy, what's good for lunch?"
"All on the board," he mutters. Nice body, tight jeans, nice hair. She looks towards the menu board and he sees her glasses are pretty thick. She squints a little. "The chili is good."
"Thanks, that what you ordered?"
"No, I'm not hungry."

He wished he had shaved that morning and had three less drinks the night before. 
They talk while she eats but don't really have a conversation, finally she asks, "That your rig outside, the red one?"
"You mean the rust one, that's me 'King of the Rust'."
"You going' upstate, I need a lift real bad."
"Look honey, wait here an hour and ten guy’s line up to take you in style. The 'Rust Bucket' is damn short on comfort."
"I don't need style mister I need a ride."
"Your loss, come on." Now why had he said that? Women were one problem he didn't need right now, or ever again!

She picked up her backpack and slung it over her shoulder, it looked heavy and a spark of memory kicked in, he offered to carry it. She accepted. They got out to the old rig and he threw her pack into the sleeper and helped her up onto the step. She missed the handhold and the step but he helped her again. She settled into the seat reaching out to touch things. By the time he got in she was settled back waiting. He ground the gears and worked his way up both sticks.
They traveled making some small talk and passing time. She sat staring out at the road rarely turning her head. She made no comments about the scenery, even when they drove past three deer standing close to the road. Two hours later she asked if there was a toilet in the back. There was a port a potty but it was filthy. 
He spotted a rest area ahead and they pulled in. "You go ahead I'll use the one here."
She put her hand on his arm and looked towards him. "Please, would you come in with me, just to show me where it is inside? Please."
"Sure, let's go." Her touch was something he had been missing for a long time.

She waited and he helped her down. She walked close to him not touching but close. They got inside and went their separate ways. He bought a little shaving kit and by the time she came out, he looked and felt cleaner.

She walked up to him then took a second look her eyes squinting a little as she noticed something different, "Hello, have you seen a guy wearing a shirt like yours but kind of grubby looking?"
"He left, asked me to take his run."
She looked up at him. "You should eat too."
Not hungry."
"Your stomach has been making noises for fifty miles. Come on my treat."
"Look what do you care? You want the ride or not?" 

He stopped short and looked at her hurt face. A tear ran from beneath her glasses. 
"Geez that was pretty bad, can we wipe it out and maybe have some food? Please?" 
The last word seemed to get her, and she agreed.
They sat across from each other and he looked at the menu. She just stared at him.
"What looks good?" she asked still quiet from his hurtful outburst.
"Sorry here you go." He passed the menu over.
"I'm sorry too," pushing it back "could you?"
"Oh, ya." 

He took the menu and read her the things he thought she might like.
"Thanks," followed by a small smile. "I'm not too good with small print." 
They ate quietly but gradually started talking and by the time they headed back to the truck the tension had passed. He watched her reach for the handle and helped her a little. She was close and she got the step first time.

The miles went slowly in the old rig and twice he stopped to check oil and hydraulic fluids. The good outfits had mechanics he remembered fondly. Just south of the state line he pulled into a truck park close to a roadhouse. He was looking forward to one of his usual sessions, drinking with the other losers. She asked if she could go farther with him.
"You said upstate, this is as 'up' as you can get. Where are you really going anyway?"
"I'm just going. I need to go farther. Can I ride with you?"
"Lady go find a straight shooter, I can't help you."
"Yes you can, you took me into the truck stop, you shaved for me, you had lunch with me, golly fella we are practically engaged!" He laughed out loud for the first time in many months. She grabbed his hand and held it. "You go have a couple of beers then come and get me and we can have supper."

He walked towards the familiar bar ready to down a half dozen quick ones then relax and get serious. After three he got to thinking about her waiting in the truck. She seemed so friendly, why had she picked him? He paid his tab and went back. He opened the door to the sleeper and the smell of cleaning fluid hit him. She looked towards him, "Is that you?"
"Yes." He said, surprised.
"If I have to use this it needed a little work. Okay?"
"Lady you are okay by me, come on I'll buy you a steak, you sure as hell earned it."

They had dinner, the first he had eaten in three days and he began to feel shabby sitting across from this woman. He watched her eat, she didn't seem to have any trouble so maybe it was just the small print. You'd think with glasses that thick the letters would be two inches high! She caught him staring, trying to see her eyes, they were so small.
He excused himself and she relaxed, "I'm used to it."
They finished dinner and she offered to pay her share. "This ones on me, you bought lunch."
"Thanks, I don't have much money, could I sleep in the front seat tonight?"

He agreed before giving it any thought and they walked out towards the truck.
The stars shone clearly in the cold western air and he commented that you never saw them through the sun visor. She said she never saw them period. He asked her if she needed new glasses but she answered that this was as good as she could get. "That's the way I am, I accept it."

It was still early and she asked if he was going back to the bar. He said yes, and then changed his mind, he was a little tired. He took her back in with her toilet kit and they used the showers provided for drivers who were in a hurry or couldn't afford rooms. They were back in the truck by ten and he fell into a troubled sleep. He woke up once and had a good drink from the bottle under his bed. He slept a lot better after that.

The next morning he woke to the smell of coffee.
"Hi sleepy, let's get going."
"What time is it?"
"Five thirty!"
"FIVE THIRTY!" He threw the dirty covers off forgetting there was nothing on underneath and quickly covered himself.
"I've probably seen worse somewhere." Was her only response as she left.

Ten minutes later he met her inside for breakfast. He was actually hungry and had not had his morning jolt from the bottle. When he went to sit down she motioned him to sit beside her.
"You can tell me what's on the menu without everyone hearing." She said quietly with a smile.
 He sat down careful not to get too close but she moved over to him. It had been a long time. Some old feelings started to climb higher in his memory. After breakfast she asked how long it would take to get the rig moving and he said about an hour. 
"Good, I'll be ready." 
She put some money on the table then got up and left. He watched her but she found her way on her own. Through the window he saw her grab the handhold like a pro.

He finished breakfast and started on the morning routine of bringing the badly tuned old diesel to life. She came out of the truck stop about an hour later with two large green garbage bags and a smaller one from the store.

"Throw these up for me." And she disappeared into the sleeper. He found all his bedding and his few spare clothes newly laundered in the bags.
"Thanks lady."
"Don't get too thankful, I had to use both short cycles, it's not all that clean. Next time will be better." Next time?

They drove until well after noon and as he filled out his log he smiled. It was the most miles he had driven in twenty-four hours for months. His body was screaming for a drink but his mind was doing a little screaming of its own.

Late that day they pulled in at the outskirts of the city. His load was due after six so they had an hour to have dinner. She asked him if he had another load.
"Nah, same back haul as always big fat zero and no payment. Guess this is where we part company."
"I owe you for the ride."
"Lady you owe me nothing." 

He took out his wallet and gave her two twenties saying that was for the cleaning work the laundry and maybe for her lunch tomorrow. She took the money and tucked it into her jeans. He stole a quick look at her figure as she raised her shoulder and thought about… .
"Let's get it done," she said cutting off any further ideas.
"Ya." Had she noticed, well free country.

The terminal was crowded and he drove past rigs he had once been familiar with, driven by good men who now looked the other way. At the back of the building he put the trailer two inches off the bumper and hit the air. After dropping the dollies and opening the 'glad hands' he pulled his cab to the other side of the lot. The small office at the back was full of cigarette smoke and general dirt. The old guy behind the counter gave him his cheque and joked that he was on time.
"Are the bars all closed?" He let the slur go, he deserved it.
"Hey you want a load back? Full rate and eight hundred bonus for on time. It's ready."
"Ya, I want it! Which one?" They did the paper; he got the bills of lading and walked out looking for the trailer.

She was still in the cab, he half expected her to be looking for a better rig, as there were two dozen at the front dock. 
"Guess what?" he said to her, "I got a back haul, good money too." His smile spoke volumes.
"When do we leave?" She looked as happy as he felt.
"We? Look, go pick one of those guys, they're all going someplace better." His hand waved towards the front dock.
"Please?" She asked softly looking through the rings in her glasses and reaching a hand out towards him. 

"Okay." Why could he not say 'no,' to her?
"Great I'll help, show me how to help you hook up! I want to learn." 

He found another pair of gloves and laughed as she put both hands in one. In the dark he had to place her hands on the connections and show her where the safety loops went. He made her walk around the trailer to check the lights. She kept one hand on the frame all the way. Back at the cab she felt for the holds and climbed in.
"Let's go!" She peered out the window almost bouncing on the seat.

They pulled away in record time; he didn't want to run into any old problems. He had put some money on the credit card to make a small dent in the balance owing, and drew out some cash for living expenses. An hour south on the dual highway they came to a large truck stop. He had driven far enough for one day. They pulled in and set up for the night.

She sat on the seat brushing out her hair. It was the first time he had seen her without her glasses. 
He watched for a moment then, "You look real good with your hair back."
"You think so?" she stared off into the night. 
He reached out and picked up the heavy glasses. 
"Ya, turn this way, your eyes are much bigger without … them."
"They might be bigger but they don't see much, I wish I could wear it back, I kind of use it to hide the glasses."
"I don't like to advertise the fact that I can't see." Her voice was low and hurt.

That ended that and he felt a little awkward but her problem was not his. Unknown to her he had been looking through her powerful glasses; he saw nothing through the little circles in the middle. She reached for them and he got them back just in time. She put them on blinking several times to focus.

"You look real good with them on too." He said softly.
"Thanks, that's nice for a girl to hear now and then." She looked towards him, smiled then turned and put her stuff away.
"Sometime, could you wear it back, in the truck I mean, just so I could see you?"
She smiled again taking his hand and touching it to her hair, "Maybe, lets see what happens."
God he wanted to take those things off and …maybe.
"I'm going' for a beer, want to come along?" she had never joined him for a drink and he was almost afraid of her answer, "All right," she replied "but we have an early start." They both stopped, and then nodded to each other, the pact was made.

They entered the warm dark bar and she stayed very close to him. They took seats alone, away from the other truckers. She asked why and he said he was afraid to start drinking with them, he knew he couldn't stop. He took his wallet out and put two tens on the table and gave her the wallet. 
"Just in case. If I do go over there they sure as hell won't buy for me."
"You trust me with this?"
"Ya, after all you trusted me. How did you know I wouldn't, you know?"
"Just lucky." 

She moved her head a little closer trying to focus on his face but her eyes didn't meet his. He wanted to reach over and take them off but somehow he just couldn't. What would it be like to have to wear them? What could she really see? The moment passed when the beer arrived.

His hand was shaking as he reached for the first one. He wanted ten. He had two or three and talked about his truck, his route and some of his better times. She listened, quietly sipping her one draft and asking questions to keep him talking. 
Gradually the whole story came out. The more he talked the less he drank. By ten they were back in the truck. He noticed when they were walking back that at night or in a dark room she stayed closer to him. Maybe she had more trouble in the dark.
"You sleep in the bed tonight you earned it, I can use the seat."
"No Way! You need a good nights sleep, I'll use the seat again, it's okay with the back half way down."

Five minutes later he poked his head through, "Good night."
She turned in alarm holding her hands up blindly in self-defense, then softly, "Goodnight."

The next morning he woke up early and looked through into the cab. She was just waking up and he saw her feel along the dashboard for her glasses.
"The other way," he said quietly, embarrassed to have seen her helpless.
"Oh ya, thanks I see them," she lied and found them. 

She put them on quickly and started off to get coffee. It was pretty clear now that without them she was lost.

Things went on this way for several weeks. They became used to each other but never shared the bed. The odd time when things went really well she would kiss him on the cheek, and wherever they went she held firmly to his arm. She would joke with the other drivers and take their kidding, but if someone made a pass she made it clear whom she was with. Some of the guys he knew made cracks but most of them were good-natured and the one who made a mistake regretted it as he got up off the floor. He hadn't stopped drinking and she never mentioned it but he drank a lot less and slept a lot more. She had washed out the whole cab and sleeper and done all the 'woman' things to make it liveable. He began to act more like his old self.

He had never again seen her without her glasses. He was curious about them and wanted to look through them again. He had come to know that she could see well enough to get around in familiar places but when they went anywhere new she asked for help. He remembered a girl at school who wore real thick glasses but she could see everything with them on. Once they had dated and went to a party together. She had taken her glasses off to dance and surprised him by saying she couldn't recognize him even this close! He was sure his new friend could see even less. She didn't comment on what they were driving past, he was certain there was no way she could actually see the road.

Several times he came close to making a pass, but she always seemed to sense it coming and avoid it. She would accept his touch when he helped her, but wouldn’t invite anything further. It was pretty obvious that she had a body to go with her good looks and it was getting hard for him to keep his hands where they should be. She seemed to sense this, and did nothing to tease or excite him. Several times she had tied her hair in a pony-tail for an hour or two. “Just to show you okay”, but never outside the cab. He would look over at her while she stared at the road. The edges of her glasses had to be almost an inch thick. As soon as they slowed for a stop her hair was loose, and brushed into place.

He started making his deliveries on time, and started getting better hauls. His credit card was looking a lot better and the warning letters had stopped. Someone from his old company noticed the change. He was clean, on time, and even the old truck seemed to run better, no more breakdowns near bars. No one seemed to know who the woman was, but they all liked what she had done to him. Whenever someone asked him about her he just replied that she was a friend from upstate. They watched him for another month, and made him an offer. Not his old job, but a steady run, with a decent rig, and a few days off every couple of weeks.

“Are you going to take it?” she asked as she held his arm as they walked back to his truck. She had been sitting with him when the offer was made, she seemed almost happier than he was.
"Yes I am, and you're coming with me! You are the best thing that's happened to me in years."
She smiled and squeezed his arm tighter and reached up to kiss his cheek. "Let's celebrate."
"The bar or the restaurant?" he said.
"The truck! I'll be back in twenty minutes, I want to see you dressed up and waiting for your date." 

She took off towards the shower building carrying her backpack, and he went into the sleeper and found some clothes he had not worn in months. They felt good and the sweater fit his now somewhat thinner waistline.
She came back half an hour later and banged on the door.
"Hi come on in."
"I need a little help, this is kind of tight." 

He looked down and couldn't believe his eyes, gone were the ever-present jeans, instead a short skirt revealed attractive legs and stylish shoes. She wore a western shirt undone a bit to show off and her hair was tied back real tight. Her face was bare!
"Just guide my feet and hands and take this package, careful now!"
They got up into the sleeper only after he decided it was easier to lift her and she squealed in delight as his big powerful hands wrapped around her legs, the skirt slipped halfway up her thigh. She found the bed and felt for the bag. Out came two small candles and holders, a bottle of pretty good wine, two glasses and several packages of snacks and goodies.

"You look wonderful, where are your…"
"In my shirt pocket. I took them off before I knocked on the door." 

She took them out and gave them to him feeling for his arm. 
"Don't think I'll need them tonight, okay? Just let me stay close to you and help me find things." 
He looked through them before putting them down.
"Pretty weird aren't they?" Guessing what he was doing.
"Could you see me?"
"No, but everybody looks through them the first time." So she hadn't seen him before.

He took her by the waist and put her on his lap, running a hand over her leg. She murmured something encouraging in his ear and finding his lips kissed him, staying in his face until they were both satisfied. His hands explored her body and he was surprised at her full figure. She murmured her pleasure but her eyes didn't make contact. Once she put her eye almost into his then drew back. 

"I needed to try, just needed to try…"

They sat together on the bed sipping wine and eating the snacks. He asked her about her glasses and she told him that with them on she could see but not very well. 
"Things close up and far away were blurry, especially far away." 

She wore her hair forward to hide them as much as possible and to stop people staring. She had asked him where they were and several times she reached to touch them as if making sure she could find them later. He asked her questions that had been on his mind for weeks. 

The final one was no surprise, "I can't really see the road, and I have to imagine it."
"My eyes have always been bad. When I was sixteen I got my license and my folks bought me a little car. They knew I would only be able to drive for a few years so they let me drive as much and as often as I wanted. Then my eyes got so bad I couldn't get a license. I freaked out and ran with the wrong crowd. One day after too much drinking we caused an accident that maimed several children, the court blamed the driver but in my mind I caused it. I had been buying the drinks to keep my 'friends' happy. Now I do everything I can just to stay on the road. I love to be driving. I need to be going somewhere. Sometimes I get the chance to help someone, it pays a little on what I owe."

He held her while she told the story, turned her face to his, kissed her and asked her to share his bed. 
"How can I ever thank you, you saved my life."
"Sssshhh, you did the real work, I just happened along."

Later they fell asleep with her face next to his and her fingers on his cheek.
In the morning he woke up and missed the coffee smell. He figured she had just gone for it and rolled over. Twenty minutes later as he dressed he knew she was gone. Her backpack, the small toilet kit everything. He had tears in his eyes and reached for the bottle under the bed. Taped to it was a piece of paper with large handwriting, it read, 'Good-bye dear man, I shall always hold you in my heart. Last night was so special. You don't need this bottle. You have everything to live for. If you really want to thank me be your own self again.'

Below the last line instead of a signature was the drawing of a little angel with big thick glasses up front and a little backpack between her wings!

He put the bottle back then took it out and dropped it in the trash on his way to breakfast and his new life.

Later that day a beat up old rig pulled into the same truck stop and the young driver took a pull on his whisky bottle before going to the bar. As he sat drinking his lunch a woman sat beside him.

"Hi yourself guy, what's good for lunch?"


I like the style of this story, the language, the atmosphere. There is just something that resonates in my soul. So, I made a little illustration ...

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