Milligan's Truck Story
rating: +10+x

I used to run a hostel back in the '80s for folks along I-40. This was back before it was common, these pit stops for travelers along the road. I had the money for it and things weren't looking too good heart-wise so I figured, why not do some charity before I hit my date with the almighty? Was never too busy but - didn't have to be. I had the operations cost covered so all it really came down to was the wait. Just sitting there, most of the day, most days of the week waiting for some folk to stumble on in and oblige them beer and a bed.

I had a friend out further East - this highway patrolman who smelled like pot and depravity. Never put much stock in what he said but I guess I liked the company, over the phone and all. We swapped stories on the hard days, when I couldn't get a figure through the door and the road just kept quiet, refused to come in. And he told me stories, of the folk out East, of the folk the highway patrolmen used to stop and talk to. And one evening - one particularly quiet evening, for the both of us, when the current of his tongue wavered a little extra than was usual, and I could taste the hemp bleeding through the receiver - he told me about the white trucks.

Supposedly, out East, and deep, deep West - further than I've ever been, and I wasn't always stuck in the middle of things - every highway patrolman gets a shot of one of these monstrosities. Careening through the road late night high on speed and running the road like they're being chased. They never are, at least from what anyone can tell but there's a terror in the white trucks, and in their drivers. Terror that can't be faked. They don't spin out, they don't split off into a million pieces when they take a car up the rear-end but they pass through. The road eats them up and spits them off rightwise and they head on past wherever they're going.

My friend spots one one night. He figures he's going to arrest it, bring it into compliance. Throws up his lights and goes for miles, chasing this thing. He ended up tracking it two-hundred and forty whole ones up the Interstate, tearing up asphalt, and my friend couldn't be eaten up by any road - and he was never any kind of crack wheelman, if you take my meaning. But he kept going. Floored the gas and swerved as best he could. Pursued in the name of the law, and you know what?

Well, it did stop for him. The sun rising over the prairie, cows shitting fire in the distance it did stop for him. It slowed and it pulled over to the side of the road and he did too. He goes to light one up before meeting some kind of new thing neither of us had ever seen and his radio lights up - and he hears something over it.

Last we talked, he said that he doesn't remember what it said. Only that the sky seemed to dim a bit, and the moon grew large inside its breadth, and darker than it usually is, and that it was like the man within was howling at him and the world around. And, that fifteen minutes later that white truck was gone - grinding up pavement like it was making up for lost time, which I suppose it was, and that a day and a psych check later he was back to hauling drunks. That story stuck with me for a while, though. Became a little convinced at some point the road might eat one of those motors up and send it through my door. I'd forgotten about the story before it did.

It was the last couple years I could operate my scene, in this hottest of July's. The day's aching for some rain, and even the night that night gleamed with this burning humidity. It bordered on painful. But of course I had to sit there and near midnight I did, at my counter, waiting for some soul to walk in through the door. And around that time I hear a ruckus outside it.

I wander outside it and in my parking lot a large white truck groans into a space. Could hardly fit, the size of the thing. Threw up a big black plume I couldn't hardly see under the cover of night. Engine is screaming and I think the thing's gonna catch fire but in a moment in shuts off, and everything's quiet again, so I head back inside and get a bed ready.

I head back to the counter and in my shop, standing there and waiting for me is this nude folk. Tall and thin and the palest man I'd seen until then. I figured he was hot, sitting in that big hauler, not to mention the degrees so I tell the poor man I won't hold it against him, but he'll need to be dressed. He apologizes, but says that in order to be dressed I'll need to look away; he's embarrassed. Figure he couldn't mug me if he tried and he would've already so - I do. Cover my eyes while I hear him do some strange business. Tells me he's ready to purchase goods and I look back around and he looks the figure of me, in my old working johns and even my little hat. His face and his eyes are the same as they were, but we must've used the same tailor. I told him as much and he said it was the only one he had to choose from. I chose not to begrudge him that.

I asked him what I could do him for. Maybe call him a mechanic, rent him out something to rest his head on or what. He said that he was having trouble getting to sleep, and wanted something to relax. I asked him if he wanted booze and he said no. I asked him if he wanted some little bits of cotton to stuff in his ears, if he had any ears to stuff them in. He confirmed that he did not. I asked him if he wanted some pills for the road and he said 'maybe another time.' He then told me that what would help him sleep was a story. That for many many miles the road, though 'ordinarily a purveyor of many such things' had been uncommonly empty, and he wanted one so that he could rest before continuing the march East. I said we had plenty of stories, and he said that he was delighted by the fact.

So I showed him over to my little rack of audio-cassette tapes, my library for people on the road. I let him pick through them. He lingered over a couple and seemed highly amused by the words on the covers. Not laughing or anything quite so violent but he did smile, and he had a wide smile he made decent use of. He asked me how they were used, and I told him that men of his caliber listened to them while on long journeys to take some of the edge off the empty. He said that that interested him, so he asked me to recommend one best suited to his own road.

I told him I reckoned the one with the goblin was the most fun.

He smiled at that, took the tape, paid for it, and asked that before he returned to his road, he might sit down and have a drink with me. I didn't see anyone else coming along through the night so I consented. I had a table in the back I set up for us. I pulled out a bottle of wine and poured some of it into two glasses. And we talked for hours that night about me.

He wanted to know where it was I came from, so I told him I came from a small town up North. He wanted to know why it was I sat along the road waiting for men like him to come along and I told him it was because it made me happy to see a man appear more alive sleeping, than he did awake. He asked me what the wine tasted like in my mouth, and I didn't quite have an answer to that. Suppose it just tasted good.

Every question I finished for him, I could see a little more of what I think he wanted his face to be. It grew solid, and full-colored, and warm. I began to realize he had hair like mine, and lips like I used to dream mine might grow into. Eventually he even leaned into his little chair the way I used to try and manage when I was younger, and wanted to be the folks from the old pictures. He seemed to fit my johns, embrace them, and make them his own. He looked like me, but he was the kind of me I reckoned I might like hanging around with. And for a while that night, after we finished with the questions, and the wine, and I touched his lips… just to make sure that they were real - we did. I did.

He was gone in the morning, and the white truck too. And that's the whole of it, I suppose.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License