A Run To Misery

A Joe Buck Trucker’s Tale

Closeup of map showing El Paso

A Rick Beck Story


Copyright © OLYMPIA50 2023 all rights reserved

I eased up beside the fuel tanks just off I-20 in tiny town, Louisiana. I was on a run from Waycross in Georgia to El Paso, Texas.

No, it wasn’t a route I’d run before, and I’d never come this way again, although I’d been to that truck stop before. I needed to fuel in Louisiana and there was a restaurant at the tiny town stop that was sometimes open, if I didn’t get there too late.

I had plenty of fuel to begin the lateral travel to the Southwest. I was hungry. I could fuel and eat here in thirty minutes. The food was nothing to write home about, but I was on a run. I had no time for writing, and I needed something in my belly. I knew not to expect fine dining in Louisiana this close to midnight. The place was dead. It was after ten. A kid roamed over as I pumped fuel. He nodded. I nodded. He jumped up and began doing my windshield. The places where that was done were getting fewer and fewer. I think he did it to stay awake.

I gave him a buck when he climbed down.

“Get yourself a soda. Thanks for caring,” I said, swinging back up into the truck.

“I don’t care, but I do drink soda,” he said, heading back toward the fuel stop’s business end.

I pulled over to the short term parking in front of the restaurant. I was the only truck in the front. I left my truck running as I climbed down and went inside. I wouldn’t be long.

It had been a long day. I don’t remember any days that weren’t. If I was on a load, I was moving, getting ready to move, or like tonight, I had just stopped moving.

I had picked up the load I was on the morning before. It was a drop and hook. That’s a piece of cake. I drop the trailer I’m pulling and I back under a loaded trailer. I’m on my way in fifteen minutes, if everything goes according to plan.

This drop and hook turned into a nightmare. When I found the trailer I was after in the shipper’s parking lot, three of the right side tires were flat.

I leaned my back against the trailer. I’d driven three hours to get there. I didn’t get any sleep the night before, because I was on an absolutely, positively, has-to-be-there-yesterday load. That wasn’t the problem. I’m paid well to do these things, and if I don’t fuss too much, I get put on a drop and hook that gets me making money sooner and not loading means more time in the bunk.

The problem was the three flat tires. It changed everything. The drop and hook was now an unload and reload to get the load on a trailer with all its tires hopefully holding the proper amount of air.

In the warehouse, I watched the set up so I knew what was coming. The sooner we got started, the sooner I’d finally get rolling, and I only made money when my wheels turned.

I backed up the empty trailer to one of the eleven available docks at the back of the warehouse. I dropped it before going back to get the loaded trailer. I backed it up beside the trailer I came with.

It could have been worse. They started to unload the loaded trailer and put the freight on the good trailer. I didn’t need to stand by to be sure they got me loaded without too much dallying. Since they went right to work, I went right to sleep, and just as I got to a dream I was enjoying, I was shaken awake to get underway.

It didn’t seem like three hours but I had fallen far behind on the sleep I needed. If I let myself get too tired, I had to stop and sleep for three or four hours whether or not it was planned. It’s what truckers do when the game plan doesn’t go as expected.

I called dispatch and told him my tale of woe.

“You take care of it, Joe. I know you’ll handle it. It’s why we pay you the big bucks. You will deliver on time, won’t you?”

“When have I not been on time?” I asked.

I needed to growl at someone and he was handy. It was always best to keep dispatch informed so they know when there’s a glitch.

Four hours after getting a drop and hook because I just came off a has-to-be-there load, my truck was moving again. When I left the warehouse, I knew where I’d be fueling and eating the next night at around ten. I climbed down after stopping in short-term parking.

I walked toward the restaurant and all the lights were out. It couldn’t have been because of me; I didn’t look that bad.

I sighed while looking toward the coffee pots lined up to my right. I’d settle for coffee and maybe a sweet roll. It wasn’t unusual for me to settle for less than I was looking forward to. It had already been one of those days. There was no sign of a change in direction.

The door was still unlocked, so someone was there. There was: I saw waitress walk toward me in long strides. There were lights on in the kitchen, but the dining area was in darkness. I knew what she was going to tell me, and I had no idea what I’d say. Maybe if I fell on my knees, cried, and begged for something, anything, I could eat, she’d have mercy on me.

I took off my hat and I gave her my lean and hungry look. It worked. I needed to practice that. She didn’t tell me to take a hike. She even knew my name.

“Hey, Joe,” she said, and I tried to remember if I’d seen her before. “We’re closed. Sit near the front and I’ll see if the grills are still hot. You don’t want me to turn the lights on? I’ll end up with more customers if I turn them back on, and I’m the only one here. I’d like not to attract any attention.”

“No, Carol,” I said, reading her name tag. “I like the dark. It’s easier on my eyes.”

“Do you know what you want? I could get it started if you know.”

“Anything that’s easy. Burger and fries works. I’ve got to get down the road, but I haven’t eaten all day. You’re being a sweetheart about this. It’s not how it usually goes.”

My eyes fell on the only other person in the entire place as Carol and I chatted. In the last booth along the wall with the windows, a lonely figure sat looking out the window. The light coming in the window plainly lit up a young distraught face. His face was turned toward the window. His cheeks were shiny from the wetness.

“You were going to leave him here?” I asked, recalculating Carol’s kindness.

“Don’t have the heart to make him leave. Came in this afternoon. He’d been crying when he sat back there. He only wanted coffee. He’s been drinking coffee for six hours. Drinking and crying. I’m an old lady. He’s a child. I just can’t take him home. It’s complicated. I wish I could but I can’t. Let me get your burger on.”

I was on a relatively terrible run of luck, but in a truck stop restaurant in tiny town, Louisiana, my luck began to change. I needed to sit down before I went to see if I could help the kid. I was starved.

I could see Carol moving around in the well-lit kitchen. It furnished a bit of light in the dining room. She went from the grill to the deep fryer to the fridge and back again. The number of waitresses who would fix a meal for a trucker, once she started closing down, I could count on one hand. It wasn’t the typical reaction.

I watched the boy when I wasn’t watching Carol. In ten minutes she’d returned with a big fat burger with two patties and it was stacked high with lettuce, tomato, onion and enough fries to feed the third army. She put the plates in front of me, going for more coffee.

“Didn’t know what you wanted on it. I added a couple of slices of cheese, and the lettuce, tomato, and onion was still out,” she said, dropping down in the seat across from me. “You need to excuse me. I’m thirteen hours into my twelve-hour shift. I gave you all the stuff the cook left on the counter. I don’t need to put it away. If it’s too much for you, just take off what you can’t eat.”

“You’re a doll, Carol. You are a lifesaver,” I said. “I am starving.”

I wasted no time stuffing my face full of burger. I took one and then two major bites, and before I was done chewing, I was stuffing fries into my mouth. My stomach thought my throat had been cut, and I did my best to prove it wasn’t so. I knew how it must look.

“I’m not usually this big a pig,” I explained, working on some more fries. “Yes, I am, but not in front of such a lovely lady if I can help myself.”

“Don’t worry, Joe, I’m too tired to care. Is it OK?”

“OK? OK? It’s wonderful,” I said before stuffing more food into my face.

“It’s a burger. You’re a trucker. I’m sure you’ve had burgers, and I’ve sure as hell seen a few truckers eat.”

Mine was half eaten and she’d filled my coffee cup twice. She filled her cup, and she didn’t move otherwise. The next time I went for the coffee and poured her cup full before filling my own.

“Thank you, Joe. You’re a prince, and I’ve got to get up and get my tired ass home,” she said.

“The kid?” I asked, licking my sticky fingers.

“I don’t have the energy. He’s a teenager. He’ll bounce off my walls and want to get into my pants. I just can’t. There was a time I’d do it, but I’m tired,” she said. “If you’d carry him out of here, well, we’d be even. I saved your life and you returned the favor.”

“I can do that,” I said, standing up and putting a twenty dollar bill in front of her. “Keep the change. It was great, Carol. You go home. Get some sleep. I’ll see if I can get the kid to go with me.”

“I don’t need to be back here for ten hours.”

“You have a schedule like a trucker,” I said.

“I do,” she said. “I can’t eat burgers any longer. I can’t get my hips into my girdle now. I used to be five foot nine and a hundred and twenty pounds. Now, I’m five foot four and I haven’t seen a hundred and fifty pounds in two decades.”

I laughed. Carol was a funny lady.

She went to the kitchen to turn things off again and I put on my hat and strolled back to the far corner of the restaurant.

God, he looked young. He didn’t look at me. He knew I walked to within four feet of where he sat. Two could play that game. I stood staring at him until he acknowledged I was alive and standing close.

“Lady says you got to go, kid,” I said in my take charge of the situation trucker’s voice.

He looked up horrified. His cheeks were wet, his eyes pleaded. He didn’t know where he’d go. Luckily, I had the answer.

“Tell you what. Come with me. I’m heading to El Paso. It’s not as bad as it sounds. I’m parked at the curb. It’s the best offer you’re going to get this time of night, kid.”

Once we got outside and I’d unlocked the passenger side door, he was right behind me. When I climbed into my seat, he was in the second seat. When I glanced at his face, he wasn’t crying. That made me feel better about how I’d got his attention.

I wasn’t mean, and I did feel bad for the kid, but if I’d pussyfooted around, playing nice guy, he’d still be sitting in the restaurant, and I’d be going to El Paso alone.

I might have just bought myself a thousand miles of headaches, but he looked harmless, and it was time to go.

“Buckle up,” I said, checking my mirrors as I left the curb and headed for the entrance.

A minute later I was taking the right out of the truck stop, and I immediately turned left onto the ramp to I-20 west. I listened to the sounds my truck made as I merged into the empty right lane of the super slab. By the time I got to eighth gear, I was at 60 miles an hour.

There were no cars coming when I started to merge. No cars passed me as I got up to speed. Tiny town was in my rearview and there were no cars ahead of me. I owned the night and I moved my speed up to 62 miles an hour.

I checked his face in the light that was furnished by the low-lit items in the cab. Thank goodness he stopped crying. I’m not good with tears. I’m paid to know what I’m doing, and I don’t know what to do when someone starts crying.

He looked harmless. He looked young. He looked straight ahead.

“Where are we heading?” he asked.

“El Paso. It’s in Texas.”

“I know it’s in Texas. How far is El Paso?”

“A good thousand miles from the restaurant. About 975 miles from here.”

He did look at me while we chatted. He didn’t look distraught. Maybe I hadn’t made a mistake. Maybe he wouldn’t be any trouble. Carol did go out of her way for me. I could go out of my way for her.

“You going to be OK?”

“I’m fine,” he said in a voice that sounded a bit like, fuck off. “Why did you want me to come with you? I wasn’t born yesterday.”

That was a new approach for someone who had nowhere to go and he was traveling light while he went there. Guys often got their backs up if you dared to indicate you thought they weren’t made of the right stuff -- the stuff boys all insist they’re made of, but he was the one who’d been crying. I decided not to press my luck.

“I could tell. You’re too tall to have been born yesterday. Boys born yesterday are much shorter, and they don’t have your way with words. You needed to leave. I tried to help. Where do you want to get off? I can stop anywhere along the highway.”

“I never said I wanted out,” he said, sounding sure.

“Boys born yesterday, they don’t have your attitude. Do you want me to keep going, or have we covered that I’m quite aware you were not born yesterday?”

He had a wise ass comment handy. He almost couldn’t resist letting me have it, but he was smart enough to know that he was the one who needed a ride.

He wasn’t talking and I needed to turn down the heat. I didn’t want him to get off the truck, and I didn’t think he wanted off.

“The lady said you had to leave. I had to get going. Us going together solved the issue short term. I’m Joe Buck. El Paso OK by you, or do you have another destination in mind?”

He smiled. That was better. Perhaps we’d gotten off on the wrong foot. He was cute, and the lack of traffic allowed me to take my time to get a real good look. “El Paso’s fine. I’m Nick,” he said, stopping there. “Can I go all the way with you, Joe? You don’t look like you’ll be any trouble. Some guys are trouble, you know. Assholes who don’t know how to keep their hands to themselves are always trouble.”

“You can go as far as you dare,” I told him with the same inflection in my voice as he’d used.

We both knew we’d stopped talking about El Paso some time ago.

Nick had been around. He looked young but he was old enough to know the score. He’d been on the road long enough to know the value his young body had to those who were looking for such a thing.

His eyes were immediately on the road ahead. He was done talking. We’d established he was likely to go to El Paso with me.

It was a dark night. There was no traffic. All systems were go as we ate up the miles that carried us toward Texas. I’d been running on four hours’ sleep the night before. It was closing in on the time I’d need to pull over for four more hours of sleep. I’d be good to go to El Paso after that. We’d be in El Paso tomorrow evening. I’d get a full night’s sleep before delivering. I’d be caught up for my next run.

Nick looked young, and he thought he was smart. He’d laid a lot of cards on the table with what he decided to tell me. I had the impression it might not be the first time he’d been dropped off somewhere.

It was time to ease his dubious mind about my good intentions. He’d obviously taken rides from cowboys before. While I do tend to study a boy with his qualifications, there are rules I try to go by.

“You can ride with me as long as it suits you,” I started.

His eyes were on me, his ears wide open.

“I like good company. I feed a guy who sits in my second seat. If he helps me save time, I pay a fare if he helps me gain time. Time is money on a truck. I pick up guys on the side of the road because I don’t like seeing them out there, and some prove to be helpful. All boys have a limit to how long they can ride. I’m a trucker. Riding is what I do. You’ll reach your limit, and when you do, I’ll buy you a bus ticket to anywhere you want to go.”

I yawned. He looked straight out the windshield. I yawned again.

“Anywhere?” he asked.

It wasn’t the first question boys usually asked. I found it amusing. He’d been on my truck an hour, and he was looking to see just how far he could go.

I don’t like to go back on my word, no matter how tired I am when I utter it. There is a trust factor involved when you encounter someone new, and I’d said, ‘anywhere’.

“Anywhere,” I repeated.

He watched me saying it before going back to watching the road.

“You pick up a lot of boys?”

“Fair amount. Depends on whether they’re out there when I pass by.” “Been doing this long, Joe?” Nick asked.

“I was born to drive. I knew it the first time my ass hit the seat and my hands held the wheel. I been going cross-country eight years.”

“Long time,” he said, thinking about how he said what he said.

Nick was careful. Like most boys, he was content to ride for now. The name of the game was survival. I had a truck and a second seat. It cost me nothing to have someone sitting in it. It gives some boys a feeling of security, if they’re looking for that sort of thing.

With raging hormones and skirts to chase, boys lose their mind trying to grow into men before it’s time. Some are like unbroken broncos. Some won’t ever be broke. That’s where the trouble starts, and I’ll pass that boy while on my way from here to there.

Like them, I’m on the road too. I’m always on the move. Was I running from something? Was I running toward something?

A shrink I met at a truck stop asked me that.

I just said, “I got to go.”

How do I know what keeps me moving?

How could I know what makes all those boys keep on moving?

“You have a destination in mind?” I asked, realizing I’d offered to put him on a bus to anywhere.

He looked at me and smiled. He looked at the road straight ahead.

“El Paso. Don’t spare the horses, Joe,” he said in an easier-going voice that told me he might ride a while. “I’ve never been to El Paso. There are a lot of places I’ve never been.”

“I’ve been everywhere,” I said.

He smiled at me.

I liked that answer. I liked the way he looked at me. I knew better than to get too far out over my skis, but I had a good feeling about Nick. Maybe he’d last a while.

I didn’t have anything else to say. He was cute. He could have been eighteen or maybe nineteen. Hell, he could have been fifteen or sixteen. I wouldn’t ask. Not knowing made dealing with the boys I picked up a lot easier.

I picked a kid up in Davenport. He was young. He was really friendly. I kept some distance between us. He was twenty-two. That told me a kid could claim to be any age. I still didn’t know how old he was. I comforted boys I could comfort, and I left the rest up to them. It was a long lonely road and good company was in short supply.

Boys lied in order to create whatever story they wanted to tell. When you’re out there, you need a story. I’d heard some whoppers. I could spot one right off, but it didn’t matter. I wasn’t out here to make sure all the pieces lined up properly. If I rode with a kid awhile, I wanted him to feel comfortable and safe. I didn’t need his life’s story.

The road was no different from a city. Things are spread out a bit more on the highway, but anything you find in a city, you’ll find on the road. Needs don’t change that much.

Where there is a need, there’s someone who speak to it. Where there is a need, there’s a sucker looking to get taken, if he isn’t smart and careful. That doesn’t change either.

One time, outside of a Marshall Field’s warehouse in Chicago, I watched and listened to three men setting up their marks. I was working on my logs, but I heard it in their voices. They were looking for sheep to fleece. Not being a gambler, I didn’t jump at a chance to watch a three-card monte game get going.

The mark, in this case, was a young truck driver who was watching this guy move the cards. He had no trouble finding the queen. He could make some money. Greed is essential in a good mark.

Once the shill talks up the money he’s won, the dealer’s banter is what gets the mark’s money on the table. This wasn’t even a good set-up. I heard the con in the voice of the shill who came to tell me about how much money he’d just won. I watched that guy lose two hundred dollars in five minutes. It was his fuel money. It was his lunch and dinner for a week. You wet his whistle with the prospect of easy money, and the hook is set.

I could have said, “Hey, dude, don’t you know you’re being robbed? Instead of a gun, they used a pack of cards.”

I didn’t say that. I didn’t want to end up holding someone’s knife. There were three of them and one of me and that poor dumb sucker who lost two hundred bucks in five minutes.

As he stood there trying to figure out what hit him, the three-card monte game folded up and disappeared. The dealer made a hundred, and fifty went to each shill. That’s good money in Chicago. Money they’ll kill you for if you insist. It’s big money for a truck driver.

I wasn’t a cop, and I sure as hell wasn’t a priest. I walked away while the trucker told anyone who would listen, “That was my fuel money. What will I do?”

No one had his ears on.

I don’t know if that kid knew he’d been hustled. It wasn’t my job to tell him. If he intended to be a trucker, he needed to learn to keep his money in his pocket. You spend your fuel money on fuel.

The world is going to turn. A young trucker is going to learn. Anything that can be found is right along the highway, even when the highway takes you into town. If you’re asking to be taken, you will be.

I’d been on the road long enough to learn not to take my money out in front of anyone. The money I intend to spend at a stop, I separate before I get out of the truck. I tuck what I’m spending into my shirt pocket. It’s all the money a man watching is going to see.

When someone puts a man behind the wheel, odds are against him becoming a bigtime trucker. You’ve got to learn all the lessons. You’ve got to want to learn them. That’s how you become a trucker.

Everything I did required way too much time. I beat myself to death for three months. I was never going to be able to do this. I was too stupid. I was too slow, and there weren’t enough hours in a day.

One night, I climbed into my bunk exhausted. I’d been going for eighteen hours that day, and I felt like I was going to die. For three full months I’d been trying to do the things a truck driver does.

The following morning I rolled out of my bunk, buckled up my jeans, started my engine, slid into my cowboy boots, stuck my hat to my head. I went on down the highway. After that, I never again wondered if I’d ever become a trucker.

I’d become one. It took three months of torture, and I’m eight years down the highway since then with no accidents. I pick up and deliver on time and my dispatcher knows my name.

While truckers are often alone, it’s not always that way; you learn a lot about the people who ride with you. You’re together 24/7. You’re rarely more than a few feet away from each other.

No one can fake being a nice guy and pull it off. I hear everything they say. I forget nothing. When what they say doesn’t add up, I’m planning my next stop. When I leave, I’ll leave alone. When a boy relaxes, and the road is straight and true, I no longer have a rider, I’ve got a friend. When I look at the boy next to me and he looks right back and smiles, those are easy miles. In eight years, I’ve put two boys off my truck. They weren’t right. Call it instinct or common sense, but when I look at a boy and I see trouble, the ride isn’t going to last long. Turn your back on a snake, you get bit. Don’t ever do that.

I knew in the first hour, Nick was OK. His story would come out as we put the miles behind us. He was down on his luck. His luck changed once I picked him up. Nick would decide when he had enough. Until then, he was my right-hand man. He owned the second seat for as long as he wanted it.

“You travel light,” I said, after an hour of the kinds of thoughts I often have when I find someone new.

“I left in a hurry,” he said unashamed. I looked at his face as he looked straight ahead. He wasn’t hiding anything, but he didn’t say much.

“I didn’t kill anyone, if that’s what you’re thinking.”

“You forget how we met. I don’t think you’d hurt a fly.”

“Not if he didn’t ask for it,” Nick said, giving me a smile.

I knew what I knew and I didn’t know a thing about Nick. I intend to learn what I could. I didn’t know what hurt him, but I was the antidote for trouble that chased most boys. “It’s a long road. I don’t talk a lot, but I listen well,” I said.

He looked me over again, but he’d seen all he was going to see with my clothes on.

“If you’re the strong silent type, I can whistle to amuse myself?” I said, whistling a happy tune.

“You don’t look like a guy who has any trouble finding guys who want to amuse you,” Nick said with that same smartness in his words.

He walked right up to the thing boys feared and craved.

There are looks, and there are looks. The way I looked at him gave a lot away. My guard had come down. Nick was a boy who had been looked at a lot. He knew what each of those looks meant. If he could read my mind, he’d hand me a bar of soap. He was cute.

We were getting close to the time when I’d need to hit the bunk. I’d find out just how smart he was when we stopped so I could sleep.

“You aren’t a runaway, are you? I should know that. I’d rather not end up arrested for kidnapping your tender young ass, you know?” I said, taking off the gloves.

“Runaway? That’s yesterday’s news. I ran away three years ago before dear old dad offed me. He caught me going down on his brother. I don’t think he liked it.”

“How young, or would you rather not say?”

“He was thirty. He was married and had twin boys two years younger than me. I babysat them, and he had me staying over a lot once his wife left him. I was a live-in babysitter. My father unexpectedly dropped by, and I split.”

“Three years ago?”

“About that. I’m a bit disoriented. What’s the date?”

“What did your father do to his brother?”

“Do to his brother? Oh, they’re good old boys. I seduced him against his will. He was shoving his dick down my throat at the time, but things like that can be overlooked by good old boys.”

“I bet,” I said. “You were living with your uncle?”

“More or less. I had to watch the kiddies,” Nick said.

“Did the kiddies know their father was raping you?”

“No. He was way too careful to let his issue watch him queer off. I taught them what he taught me. They liked to play choo-choo. One was the engine, me in the middle, the other was the caboose.”

“How long were you training his kids to queer off?” I asked.

“Started when I was fourteen. Lasted maybe two years. They were as horny as their father. They had each other once I left. I think they were screwing each other before I got into the act.”

“Interesting,” I said. “You’re gay?”

“You aren’t?”

“How did I lose control of this conversation?”

“Joe, I saw the way you looked at me. You may not be gay, but you don’t mind looking at good-looking guys,” he explained. “It will be a lot more fun if you’re gay, but I don’t require reciprocation. I like sucking cock and I can take it up the ass.”

“You like to play choo-choo,” I said.

He laughed.

“We’d need to find a third to play that,” he said. “My cousins came up with that one. They switched off which one was the engine.”

“I apologize for the long looks. I’ve been too busy to...”

“I’m never too busy to...” Nick said.

“I’d bet on that,” I said. “I do stay busy, though.”

“Don’t apologize. If you hadn’t had that glint in your eye, I wouldn’t be here, Joe. It’s a good look. I came to see what your glint has to offer a tender teen like me. I heard truckers are wild in bed.”

“You haven’t made a point of finding out?” I asked.

“Let’s say I cannot tell a lie. You’ll be my first trucker since my last trucker, and yes, they’ve been rather wild, if you’re interested. Then he stretched, scratched his crotch and said, “I got to pee. “I’m sorry. Too much coffee. I promise not to do that again, but tonight, I got to pee.”

“There’s a bottle behind you seat. You’ll learn the art of peeing in a bottle if you stay long enough. You need to take care of those kinds of things when we stop. I’ll need to stop soon, but if you can’t wait, the bottle is behind the seat next to the door.”

I could see him feeling for the bottle. Once he held it, he knelt on the seat facing me. He unzipped his pants and shoved his half erect penis into the bottle. He was uncut and about average size. It hardened and lengthened once it was mostly inside the bottle.

His penis was smooth. The head was plump once the skin came off it. There were no veins or any blemishes on his penis. His skin was as perfect as he was. The head was shining in the light from the dash.

I watched him, he watched me watch him, and there was no sound.

It took a couple of minutes for me to hear the pee hit the bottle.

He had an odd way of holding it, like he might hold it as he jacked off. His eyes stayed on me. My eyes stayed on him as I got my first erection on account of Nick. It wouldn’t be the last, but it was time for me to stop and go to sleep. I didn’t want to insult him, but I needed to sleep.

“This how you check out the new riders?” Nick asked, filling the bottle half full. “That, and it’s how I keep moving. Most guys don’t give me much of a view when they piss. I could glue the pee bottle to the doghouse. They’d pee facing me, like you’re doing.”

“What if they get stage fright?” Nick asked, considering some of the stupid stuff I said.

“I do my best with what I have to work with. It pays to be informed. It’s no big thing, unless it is big, and that gives me more to look at,” I explained, keeping track of how stiff his dick became.

Nick laughed a knowing little laugh.

“You don’t pee?” he asked.

He put the top on the bottle and he pulled the skin back onto the head of his penis. He pushed it off, and back on, watching his slow careful strokes. He looked at me, as I watched him skin himself back again, holding it up so the skin on the head of his penis shined.

“No. I’m a trucker. I pee first thing in the morning, before I start. I pee before I get in the bunk. I pee at stops for food and fuel. That about covers it pee-wise.”

“I’m not big. I’m told I’m good on my bad days, and I’m terrific on my best days. I’m no more dangerous than a high school cheerleader, as long as you don’t fall in love with me. I have that in common with cheerleaders too. No falling in love, please.” “I’ll try to control myself,” I said as he sat without bothering to put his dick back in his pants.

He wasn’t small once he was hard. The skin was smooth, the head was thickly shaped. It shined like it was translucent, I thought about the cheerleaders I’d known.

That was quite an image. I tried to imagine Nick in a short skirt with pom-poms. I imagined him in that skirt without his underwear.

I scolded myself. I’d only known him for three hours. I usually wait for at least four hours before I imagine a cute boy naked while sitting in my lap. It was easy imagining Nick in my lap. I swallowed hard and felt my dick strain against the denim.

I’d love to know what he was thinking, but he went back to watching the road ahead. He spent time looking at my face, then my hands, and then he looked ahead of the truck again.

“Shouldn’t a truck driver keep his eyes on the road?”

“He should unless the guy in the second seat has his dick out and I have excellent peripheral vision. I usually use that vision to see sites I like seeing. My peripheral vision works to see the road while I’m seeing a boy’s dick.”

The ice was definitely broken. He put his dick away.

“Wouldn’t want to cause a wreck,” he said, zipping up.

“I bet you’ve caused your share,” I said softly.

My mouth was dry. My dick was hard, and I was closing in on the spot where I’d sleep, an overpass beside the highway. I couldn’t hear the highway from there.

I needed to sleep and no matter where Nick slept, sleeping was going to be a challenge. We’d have plenty of time to talk tomorrow and do anything else we decided to do once I reached El Paso and parked at the warehouse where I’d deliver.

As I approached the spot where I’d sleep, I’d gone about as far as I could go in one day.

“Look, Nick, I’m going to need to pull over and get four hours of sleep. You can sleep where you are. It’s a bit hard on your back, but boys sleep there all the time. If you want to get into the bunk to get prone, the rule is, no clothes worn up front get into the bunk; go behind that curtain to undress if you want to come back there. There are few creature comforts on the road; my clean sheets are one. They stay clean by keeping what’s up front, up front. This is entirely up to you. I’m fine with however you want to do it.”

He watched me while I spoke. I could see his mind working over the phrase ‘no clothes go back on the bunk’. Each boy hears the same thing. Each boy processes it through the lens of his mind.

This is the most difficult part of the first day with a new boy. This might be the point when a boy pops the big question, “You gay?”

Nick and I passed that bump in the road hours ago. My answer was always the same, “Yes, I am.” The reaction was what you might expect. How badly do I want to get naked with a gay guy who is probably going to try to get his dick up my ass sooner or later? Even though I knew the apprehension, as many boys got in the bunk the first night as slept in the front seat.

The road is a funny place. I’ve never been able to figure out which guys will and which guys won’t, but the lines between straight and gay, and what a guy would and wouldn’t do with another guy, don’t have the same meaning as when you sixty-nine with a friend at school -- the school where you could be ruined if some guy starts talking about how good you are at gobbling dick.

The road is an entirely different equation. There is no one on my truck who could ruin your life if he talked about what you wanted to try when you slept together. Sexuality, the sex act, was a moving target on the road. I knew Nick would. He told me he would, and I wanted to go as far as he wanted to go… but I needed four hours of sleep if I intended to drive all day tomorrow and reach El Paso by day’s end.

It took me about two minutes to get out of my boots, jeans, and shirt. I reached forward to shut off the engine. I disappeared into the bunk. Nick did not look at me until my jeans were below my knees. I didn’t wear underwear. That’s when Nick’s eyes were on me. He didn’t try to hide the fact he wanted to check me out.

He didn’t throw up. I thought that was a good sign, but I leaned back until I was in the bunk and out of sight. Nick had been unbuttoning his shirt when I disappeared into the bunk. I left the light on; I had high hopes of seeing his entire body before I passed out.

It would make for sweet dreams. Most guys checked me out. They did it for the same reason I checked them out. Inquiring minds want to know and I get a thrill out of seeing guys naked.

I was ready to turn off the light when a very naked butt began to move its way back into the bunk. He was smooth and this hole was pink. There wasn’t a hair on him. My dick was immediately throbbing with desire.

I didn’t move my face away from the crack that came dangerously close to my lips. I could have flicked my tongue and wet him there, sending a delicious thrill running through him. Instead, I made room for him to lie beside me. It couldn’t be done without a lot of physical contact by the time he settled in against me. His rather plump dickhead had become even plumper as his face was four inches from my face where he ended up.

“There are ways to make plenty of room. It’s small but if we sleep on our sides, there’s enough room to be comfortable.”

“Easy for you to say,” he said, letting his hand come to rest on my hard-on.

“If I put my back against the back of the bunk and you put your back against my chest, we’ll both have plenty of room. You’ll see it’s quite comfortable. I’ve learned that’s how it works best for two men in a rather small bunk.”

This also put Nick in my arms, and we got back to my being in a position to comfort him. There had been no tears, and maybe the misery had passed, but what I’ve learned -- if I’ve learned anything – is most people like to be held and kept safe from the demons that chased them but could never keep up with Joe Buck’s truck.

“I’m OK. I’m doing what you told me. You do what you want,” he said in words I wouldn’t use if I was worried about chastity.

I had it in mind that, when all was said and done, he’d be in my arms and he’d feel safe. Nick didn’t question it because this wasn’t as new to him as it was to some boys who had never been held.

Teenage boys do not allow themselves to be held or comforted. Teenage boys are tough, able to take care of themselves, and that makes too many of them lonely.

Me, I like holding boys. Yes, there is a sexual element, but, surprisingly, the sexual aspect gets far less consideration once you have a boy in your arms. Now, our culture says, not only am I a dirty old man, but I’m evil, corruptive of the lost, and lonely.

Did I tell you I’m gay? No one has ever approved of anything I did, and I don’t give much thought to trying to please a culture that specializes in delivering a lot of misery and pain.

My flaw was wanting to get a boy like Nick into my arms; the evidence of my attraction to him was apparent. He couldn’t have missed it since he kept moving until my erection rested in the crack of his ass. With my arms around him, he almost disappeared. His warm, soft body melded into mine in a commingling of flesh that erased where I started and Nick stopped.

My raging erection was the demarcation line between lust and the loveliness of a boy in my arms. I could have spent four hours living lavishly for the sensation he gave me, but I needed sleep, and -- my body being smarter than my horny trucker side -- I did sleep.

I slept soundly, waking periodically to take the temperature of the bunk I shared with Nick. The second or third time I awoke, there was one deep sob that shook Nick’s body. I pulled him as close to me as I could get him. His fingernails dug into my wrists as his demons closed in on him.

“You’re safe. No one can hurt you here. No one can find you here. Rest easy, Nick. I won’t let anything hurt you,” I whispered in his ear.

I slept until my eyes snapped open a little after five.

He’d turned in my arms. His arms were around me. His face was on my chest as he breathed soft and easy. I’d wake up this way each morning for the next seventeen mornings. On this morning, I had to go, but from now on, I’d wake up and hold Nick in my arms until he woke up. I never wanted to let him go. I didn’t want to wake him.

I knew that I was smitten. I knew it was a mistake. It was daylight and I was way past Dallas-Fort Worth and three hundred miles into Texas when Nick climbed out of the bunk to sit in the second seat. He didn’t say anything. He didn’t look at me. I stared straight ahead, watching the road, the cars, and the landscape.

“Thank you,” he finally said, putting on his underwear.

“I didn’t do anything,” I said, giving him my biggest smile.

He sat there in his underwear looking at my face. He slowly dressed, stopping to watch me periodically. I was busy watching the road. That didn’t mean I missed that he was curious.

“Who are you?” he asked.

“Joe Buck, trucker extraordinaire, at your service.”

“I need to pee like a racehorse,” he said. “I filled the bottle last night so you got to check me out. Somehow, and I’m only spit balling here, but trying to empty a pee bottle while we are whizzing down the highway seems like a bad idea to me.”

I laughed.

“You hungry?” I asked.

“Yes, but I don’t get the feeling you are in the habit of stopping when one of your assets gets hungry.”

“True, but you let me sleep and I’m way ahead on time now. I can start backing down. We’ll be in El Paso by dinner time and that means a full night’s sleep tonight.”

“Sleep, Joe Buck, is extremely overrated if you ask me. I can think of better ways to spend my time,” he said.

It was his turn to smile.

My dick was so hard it ached.

The vision of a full night in a bed with Nick had my heart palpitating. If I wasn’t Joe Buck, I’d have pulled over and given Nick what for, but I was and I didn’t, but we were on the way there. I didn’t have the power to stop it. I didn’t want to stop it.

Once the bell was rung, there wasn’t a way to un-ring it. My experiences with boys on the road taught me how little I knew about anything. Yes, I fell in love with more than one boy. It wasn’t the sex but the companionship I loved. Sex was a need we had and sometimes shared. I never knew where a boy and I were going together, and it was the going there that made it remarkable.

No matter where we thought we were going when a new boy dropped down into that second seat, it was never quite where we ended up, because when two people come together in a confined space, anything can happen.

There was far less mystery with Nick. He hung it all out there from the get go. He didn’t fear being who he was. He’d probably lived more than I had, but he understood that things changed and he was changing with them. He was in the wind. He went with the flow.

Most boys who ventured onto the sexual side of the equation did it because they needed relief, and doing it themselves wasn’t as nice as having someone do it for them. Being together every day, 24/7, creates a familiarity.

Once you venture onto sexually stimulating activities, it’s no big deal. Most guys have a solid brick wall between themselves and a homosexual encounter. Once you realize you can walk around that wall and your dick doesn’t fall off, it’s easier to return if there is a need, once you’ve been satisfied by being with another guy.

Biology is a curious thing. I’m not educated. I can’t tell you anything intelligent about biology, but your body responds to stimulation. You can’t fool your body with a bunch of indoctrination about what is, or what isn’t, going to be tolerated.

Psychiatrists’ offices are filled with people who listen to the indoctrination and not their bodies. Common sense can tell you a lot about what you feel. If you can adapt your feelings to fit somewhere inside your indoctrination, you might avoid the psychiatrist’s couch.

I’m gay, and no matter what I do or say, it’s wrong, and unacceptable, and I’m to be rejected in the harshest way possible. No matter what I do, there are people who will make it bad. I don’t subscribe to the idea there are people who can tell you what to do and how to do it and it works for most people. Because of who I am, I have no confidence they’re telling us these things for our benefit and not to benefit themselves.

I’d known Nick for a little over twelve hours when we stopped at a Taco Bell that had trucks parked behind it. We got burritos, tacos, and a ton of chips and salsa. He drank sweet tea. I drank Coke.

I didn’t eat going down the road. We sat and dug into the feast. I watched him enjoying the meal. He watched me. I felt like I’d known Nick for years. My comfort level topped the charts. I felt like he was comfortable with me.

There’s nothing like Taco Bell to give you all the tastes and flavors to fire up most of your taste buds. The food, the company, and the road ahead of us excited me. A little into that afternoon, we were on the road and closing in on El Paso, Texas.

The run was going according to plan. The miles were behind me. My destination was an easy drive ahead, and I’d be in El Paso nearly twelve hours before my scheduled delivery time. The road doesn’t require a lot of effort. For the first three months I drove a truck, the road was beating me to death. I was averaging four hours of sleep a night, and I did more waiting than I did driving. I met with a friend who went through the truck driving learning process with me. Jim had been an accountant in his former life.

He told me about his life as a trucker. “I’ve been out here for two months, nineteen days, and six hours, give or take an hour. I work an average of nineteen hours a day, seven days a week. I’ve put together all my expenses, what I’ve earned, and I am making a grand total of $2.17 an hour.”

Typical Jim. He knew to the dime his expenses and his pay, and how long he’d worked. What he didn’t take into account was the experience he was gaining while he made $2.17 an hour. At the time I met Jim in a truck stop -- the first time since we’d gotten into the trucks we’d bought -- all we knew is what we knew.

The day I got out of the bunk, put on my boots, started my truck, and went on my way without giving it a thought, was the day I had become a trucker. It was a long time before I realized I don’t need to think about everything I do any longer. I just do it. I wasn’t a bigtime trucker yet, but I was learning. I learned something every day. That’s priceless. I am good at what I do, because it’s what I do. I’m not going to do anything I don’t enjoy doing. I love driving a truck. I love moving. I love the road. I love the country I never get tired of seeing.

If there is anything I do that I do as well as I drive a big rig, it’s giving boys who end up on the side of the road with their thumb out, going nowhere, a port in the storm. I give them a place where they belong. I feed them and tell them they’re safe, and I comfort boys who need to be comforted.

When you are young, lost and alone, and you have nowhere to go, a pair of strong arms holding you can take away the fear and the pain. Each boy is different. I’m different around each boy. I’m Joe Buck, bigtime trucker, and I keep moving down the road. The boys come and the boys go, and I keep on moving.

As the afternoon passed and El Paso was a couple of hours away, we didn’t have much to talk about. Anything was possible that day. It wasn’t something on my mind as I considered Nick.

If I’d asked Nick how old he was, he’d have lied, and even if he didn’t lie, I wouldn’t have believed anything he told me. I knew better. That’s why I didn’t ask questions. Nick would tell me what he wanted me to know. If he wanted me to know what had upset him so much the night before, he’d tell me.

Questioning him, if he didn’t want to talk about it, would make me less comforting and more of a threat. I was going down the road when I met Nick, and I’d be going down the road when he left. We were ships passing in the night. He was a particularly lovely ship.

I hated seeing most boys go. Good company was hard to find, but most boys had a limit for how long they could ride. Some got off the truck, and called me, using the phone number on the card I gave them once they told me they were leaving

I stopped trying to outguess the boys who rode with me. No matter what I assumed, it changed the longer a boy stayed on the truck with me. The longer a boy rode, the longer I figured he’d ride, but sooner or later, they all say, “Let me out at the next crossroad.”

Those were words that often stabbed at my heart.

As the day waned, Nick was in the watch stage. He would look straight ahead for a while. He’d turn his head to look at me for a while. He’d watch my hands for a while. He couldn’t hide the questions on his face.

Why did a stranger pick him up, treat him kindly, and comfort him, after someone Nick was close to broke his heart? It was an educated guess that might explain where I found him.

The question he did ask wasn’t one I expected.

“Are you tough, Joe? I heard truckers are tough guys,” he said.

“As tough as I need to be, I guess. I’m also gay. Being tough isn’t usually on my mind.”

“Did you want to fuck me last night?”

That was certainly a question I didn’t expect to be asked.

“Did you want me to fuck you, Nick?” I shot back.

He watched the road ahead.

What was this about?

“Did you mean what you said… I can stay on your truck?”

“I told you how it is, Nick. I’ve had plenty of guys on my truck. I want to fuck a lot of them, but I don’t. Most guys have no true understanding of what flips their triggers. They are told what should flip their trigger. It’s up to them to make it work. From my experience, taking it up the ass isn’t on that list. So, it’s not on the mind of a boy once he’s standing on the side of the road.”

“You want to flip my trigger, Joe?”

“It’s not what I want. I want to go to El Paso. I get paid to go to El Paso. Everything else is gravy,” I said, without apology.

“I been fucked before,” he said, looking for a reaction.

“I don’t find that hard to believe.”

He watched the road ahead. I knew where I was going, but I didn’t know where this was going.

“You’re asking how I liked it?”

“I don’t even want to guess what I’m not going to ask,” I said.

“You picked me up at a truck stop. You aren’t going to ask me what I was doing there?” “If you want to tell me, you’ll tell me. Right now, I’m going to El Paso. That keeps me busy.”

He wasn’t exactly beautiful, but he had a nice look that wasn’t your typical good looks. When you put it all together, he was beautiful, but that went deeper than the glow of his skin.

I did want to know what had Nick so low the night before. He’d shown no sign that his misery might return, but I’d seen guys who got morose once the sun went down. I was happier while the sun shone, but most people were. Gloomy weather was no fun, but while I drove, it didn’t matter what the weatherman said.

First, I needed to get where I was going. Once I did that, I would do what came naturally until I was on my next load. El Paso wasn’t the best place to unload. It wasn’t a city that shipped goods. Much of the goods traffic that came through El Paso came out of Mexico. Very little was offloaded in El Paso, and reloaded American. The laws allowed Mexican trucks to go a certain distance from the border without needing to answer to the DOT regs.

If you had a wheel coming off and your truck was blowing smoke as black as coal, you might get looked at, whether or not you originated in Mexico.

I was in El Paso and parked outside the gates where my load would be delivered in the morning, and we were eating chicken I had shoved onto the manifold and it was oh so warm.

His first bite got me a big smile.

“This is great. How did you keep it hot all this time?”

“Old trucker’s secret,” I said in my mysterious voice.

He put his feet up on the dash and kept looking at me through his smile. He ate all the chicken and then he began stuffing French fries in his mouth. He looked at the fries before looking at me. He was smiling even wider than before.

“You going to hold me tonight?” Nick asked.

“I don’t know. You don’t look like you need hugging tonight.”

He was still stuffing French fries into his mouth.

“I might need you to do that every night,” he said.

“What’s chasing you, Nick?” I asked, and I let it go there.

I wasn’t as tired as I’d been the night before, but I rarely was that tired once I reached my destination. I hadn’t sat still for more than a few hours in three days. I slept early this morning, and there would be no driving before I delivered.

I might sleep before calling for my next load. I wouldn’t sure what the plan was, until it was time to make a plan. I knew when I needed to sleep, and I knew when I was ready to go. I kept three logs. I made them say what I needed them to say. I’d been caught once for running a bad log. I’d been sloppy, and that didn’t happen again.

Uncle Sam had no idea how I needed to drive my truck. Like so many regulations and laws, they wanted us to all doing the same thing, because it made them feel better. If I ran the hours they wanted me to run, I’d never get anywhere on time. I’d been driving eight years and I was never late on a pickup or delivery and I never had an accident. Uncle Sam needs to consider that when he wants me to drive his way, a way I can’t drive safely.

I wasn’t as tired the second night. I got into the bunk first. Nick sat awhile. Young guys hate going to bed early. It wasn’t early for me, but I was a trucker and what I did was drive.

When I woke up it was still dark. I wasn’t sure where I was, but I got located real fast. There was a warm wet sensation to my erection, which felt as if it was about to explode. I felt Nick’s face and he changed to a slow easy suck.

I did my best to hold on, but it wasn’t going to happen. Nick didn’t want me to hold off. I tried to find a way to tell him.

“I’m going to cum,” was the best I could do.

That didn’t seem to do it justice. I was dizzy as he drained the lust out of me. I kept on cumming. I hadn’t gotten off for a couple of weeks; I was cumming now, but I couldn’t be sure if I was coming or going. It took me some time to catch my breath. Nick stayed down on me, unwilling to let go. I kept my hands on the side of his smooth face. His skin was amazing, and I was hard again.

Nick was a generous lover who found it hard to get enough. I didn’t get much sleep that night, but Nick made sure I stayed busy. Once he’d gotten me off a few times, he knelt in front of me and he let me take him in my mouth. It felt bigger than it looked while he peed, but dicks off get harder, more lusty, once they’re swallowed.

It took little effort and he simply let himself cum the first time around. I went at it, giving my best, and the cum rolled out of him. It was gentle and surprisingly erotic. He moaned softly as it ran across my tongue and kept on running.

He finally relaxed his crotch across my face. It took a while for him to stiffen again. It grew into my throat as I felt him leaning, pushing, breathing harder and harder before he began driving the point home. He growled, he thrust, and he held my face so he could force himself as deep as he’d go.

This was not the kind and gentle lover with the cum running freely. This was the demanding lover who intended to take me as far as I’d go, and I’d go all the way with him. Erotic as the first time around was, this was more erotic, as he kept at it, pushing harder, thrusting, thrusting, and using his hips to bury himself in my throat.

This time he squirted down my throat. One, two, three, four thrusts, and he eased back, his thighs shook as his sweat dripped onto me, and after I took my first few gasps of air in a while, he hit my mouth with more thrusts and more cum. I was cumming while he was cumming the second time. I never even touched myself, but it was as hot as anything I’d done. Nick was as hot as any lover I’d had.


Later, when we’d been in Denver for too long, I needed to get out of the bunk, but Nick didn’t want me to go.

He moaned and thrust and he moaned some more. Once he’d cum and gone as far as he could go, he held up my dick, now ragging as thought I hadn’t popped a load in an hour or more, and he sat down. I finally had Nick in my lap and it was hard to say which of us was working harder, but it was hard and got harder and I did my best to keep up my end and he sat on it when he wasn’t lifting off it, and he achieved lift off in a way I’d never experienced before.

One thing was for sure, Nick had done this before. The more I got, the more I wanted, and this was one of those nights when I caught up and I might have gotten a bit ahead with Nick.

It was only the beginning. If my wheels weren’t turning, we were taking another turn in the bunk. We went around the world and came back to do it all over again. I was deliciously sore as he swallowed me that night. It was soothing, arousing, and insanely satisfying.

I did not call my dispatcher. I didn’t want a load. I wanted Nick and he needed me to want him. He needed to want me. We flew together while parked behind the KFC where we ate right after I delivered that morning. It was a nice place to park. It was a busy fried chicken restaurant, but we didn’t know who was coming or going because we were always cumming and cumming and cumming some more.

The second morning after I delivered I had to call. I actually needed to rest my dick for long enough that the skin wasn’t so sensitive to the touch.

I’d never had a workout like the workout I was getting with Nick. I’d never had a lover I loved the way I loved Nick, and that was only true because of how completely he loved me. I did need to hit the road to get some rest. He agreed after blowing me twice the next morning.

“You OK, Joe?” my dispatcher wanted to know.

“You got something for me?” I asked, and he did and it started all over again.

Nick took to sitting with his back against the door. He didn’t take his eyes off of me for the trip. I had to go to Albuquerque to pick up a load going to Denver. It was a lot of driving but in Denver I was back in the major shipping lanes, and there would be good loads in Denver. I did deliver in Denver later that week. Once I delivered, I didn’t get far before I was pulling over to get back in the bunk. Nick put his ass in the air and I drove hard without having a delivery time. This was exquisite relief after a drought, and Nick wasn’t a guy who believed in moderation. By the third day, I’d thrown caution to the wind.

As soon as the tires stopped turning, we were in the bunk. There was nothing Nick wouldn’t do, except drive the truck. Some nights were all oral, for as long as I could last, and some nights were anal festivals. He’d have me sweating for hours and then the long, slow all-night fucking began. He’d learned exactly how to get the most out of me, and I gave him everything I had.

When I woke up most mornings, Nick was in my arms. His arms were around me. His face was on my chest. I spent a lot of time holding him, being held by him. Most mornings of my life, I was up and on my way as soon as my butt hit the seat, but everything slowed down when Nick was with me. Nick knew what he liked and he made a point of finding out what I liked. He was as passionate a lover as I’d known. The ending of one sex act was the doorway to the next sex act for him. A good time was had by all. The best part was waking with Nick in my arms. In the next seventeen days, I took six off. Twice I didn’t call for a load until two days after I delivered my last load. My dispatchers asked if I was OK.

Yeah, I was a trucker. I was a good trucker. I picked up my loads on schedule and I delivered on time. For eight years I went out for three months at a time, and when I delivered a load, I was calling for my next load within an hour.

I was regular as clockwork for eight years.

I delivered in Oklahoma City on Tuesday and Nick and I spent the next two days in bed at the Truck Stops of America. We got up before noon on Thursday and we got breakfast, and Nick wanted to do laundry.

I left Nick in the TA Laundromat with a box of Tide and a handful of quarters. I wanted a store-bought haircut, and that took a half hour wait before I got a chair. After getting out of the barber’s chair, I stopped to get my boots shined. The man’s buffing cloth whipped as he applied two coats of boot black and buffed it up until I could see my face in the toes of the boots.

I bought a new shirt. I was taking Nick to an Italian place another driver showed me a year ago. The food was good.

I had it in mind to call for a load to pick up on Friday morning, but I kept putting it off. If I loaded Friday, I’d run the weekend.

Boys stay on the truck for different lengths of time. Some boys can ride for a lot longer than others. I know when a boy is ready to leave when he says, “I’m getting off at the next crossroad.”

That’s when I know this ride is over. I gird myself for the parting with someone I’ve known for some length of time. As I’m stopping on the shoulder, I place two twenty dollar bills on the doghouse. I put a business card with my phone number on top.

“If you need me, call me. This number is where you can leave me a message. I’ll get back to you in a day or two.”

After he climbs down, as I merge back onto the super slab, I’m looking in my right hand mirror at a guy I’m not likely to see again.

Nick didn’t have one of my cards yet. I didn’t know we’d reached the crossroads. Some guys don’t say, “Let me out at the crossroad.”

I whistled on the way back to the truck. I hadn’t seen Nick in two hours. That’s the longest we’d been separated since the night we met. I expected Nick to be back to the truck by now.

I jumped up on the ladder and dropped into the driver’s seat. I knew the truck was empty immediately. Maybe he decided to make some other stops inside the Truck Stops of America’s businesses.

I turned the mirror to look at my perfect part and gleaming teeth. Damn I looked good. I was about as good as I could make myself look. I was as good as I would be for some time to come.

When I put the mirror back in place, that’s when I saw it.

There was a folded piece of paper in the second seat.

I knew what it was. I looked at it for a long time before I reached across the doghouse to pick it up.


It was my turn to cry.

I didn’t move the truck until Monday. I spent a lot of time in the bunk, where I could smell Nick. Maybe he took a wrong turn and he was trying to find his way back. I thought he would realize he couldn’t live without me, and he’d come running back to me.

Each time I left the truck over those three days, I looked for Nick. I wasn’t a fool and I knew I was on a fool’s errand.

I hung around hoping I’d be wrong.

On Monday morning, I got up, ate breakfast, took a shower, and I finally called my dispatcher six days after I delivered my last load.

There is one thing you never want to do if it can be avoided, when you’re a bigtime trucker, you never want your dispatcher to wonder where the hell you are. Yes, I’m an owner operator. It’s my gig and I get to do it my way, but my way comes with a cost.

The dispatcher said nothing as he pulled up my location on his computer. Dispatchers have ways of talking to you that gets their message across, and they don’t need to say a word. By Monday, a little before noon, there were no prime loads to pick from, but there was a load waiting for me.

I’d go to Wichita, pick up a floor load at eight on Tuesday morning. A floor load would load onto my trailer and if I was lucky, they’d get me loaded by noon. If I wasn’t lucky, I’d be loaded by four. Once loaded with a trailer full of airplane parts, I delivered to an airplane parts company in Cheyenne, Wyoming, on Friday morning.

It was two hours and change to Wichita. It was ten hours and change from Wichita to Cheyenne.

I’d have plenty of time to think about keeping in closer contact with my dispatcher, if I knew what was good for me.

I was on a run that did nothing but eat up time. I wouldn’t make a dime. I’d be lucky to make enough to pay for fuel.

I knew the game. I’d broken most of the rules, which usually wasn’t all that bad, but when I didn’t let the dispatchers know where I was, they weren’t able to cover loads I might be on top of.

I waited long enough to call in so that they didn’t have a decent load. I’d spend a few days in the doghouse. I’d go back to calling an hour after I unloaded to get my next load. On that Monday morning, I didn’t give a damn who was mad at me. Nothing really mattered. I never stopped looking for Nick until I turned out of the TA truck stop and turned toward I-40. I’d go to I-35 heading north for Wichita. There were good truck stops in Wichita and in Cheyenne. I had plenty of time to get where I was going.

As I hit the ramp for I-35, I realized I was going to live. I realized it was all part of a never-ending story as soon as I saw him.

My life hit reset and I was moving on.

He was almost at the end of the ramp. He obviously didn’t know what he was doing. His shirt was half untucked, a burgundy jacket hung low on one shoulder. As I passed, he didn’t seem to see me, but he heard my air brakes and he came to life. He was running my way when I watched him coming up beside the truck.

He came up and dropped into the seat. He’d been in a truck before. I shifted up through the gears, blending onto I-35.

“I’m Joe Buck,” I said, when he didn’t look my way. “I’m heading for Wichita. I’m going to Cheyenne after that.”

“I’m Barry,” he said, taking a glance at me before looking straight ahead.

“Wichita OK with you?” I asked.

“Wichita’s OK. Got to be cooler in Cheyenne. Too hot here.”

He told me what I wanted to know. Anywhere was better than where he was when I picked him up. Most boys have no idea where they’re going. They want to move. A big rig keeps on moving.

Barry was older than Nick. He was rougher, beaten down by his life. He’d been kicked around longer before hitting the road.

I was in no hurry, and Barry would have plenty of time to give me his story. On the way to Wichita, he watched me when he wasn’t watching the road. Was I safe? Would I give him time to ride or would this be a temporary respite?

It was hours to where we were going. I had breakfast late and we’d stop for food and talk before my driving day ended.

It was a bit tougher taking on Barry. He had some big shoes to fill, and I was still in pain, which slowed down my need to lay the groundwork for my next helper. It would be a long time before I got as close to a boy as I got to Nick.

I knew better and I took a beating this time. I never knew what a boy would be like, after I picked one up. The last thing on my mind was getting close to one. It’s hard not to care, and if I care too much for too long, I’ll live to love again. There is no hurry.

Of all the boys I met along the way, Nick was the one I missed most. He reached a place so deep inside me I didn’t know it existed, until he touched me there.

He never told me goodbye.

From time to time, I see a boy on the side of the road.

It’s Nick!

He turns and smiles before I realize my mistake.

I do look for Nick. He took something that belonged to me. I’d like to feel it one more time.

~ Joe Buck