Trucking never seemed like a job to Frank, he enjoyed the time alone on the road. It helped him think and plan out his future. He didn’t have big dreams, but they were dreams nonetheless. A house of his own somewhere peaceful, and enough land to grow food on. He kept a photo of a pristine grassy landscape hidden in his truck’s sun visor. He would look at it occasionally and remind himself what this was all for. He would build a house there with his own hands. He would find a wife and he would start a family.
Frank had made this decision on a whim. He drove by one day and saw a FOR SALE sign in front of this plot of land. He made a down payment and now this land was his. He only needed enough money saved up in order to buy the materials that would be needed to build the house and the farm. A few more years of trucking cargo from one customer to another. It would all work out in the end. He had already gone through the hardest part of his life: the Pacific.
Frank’s time fighting in the Corps helped hone his senses. His gut instinct had saved him innumerable times. Friends in the Corps had always waxed poetic about the best ways to survive the war. He saw those men get cut down by the dozen. Death’s scythe harvested the most confident and bravest first. They were honourable men but they were too in their own heads, he thought. They should have kept their heads low. They should have gone off pure instinct. The goddess of intuition was always with him.
After the war was over, Frank was looking to transition to civilian life again. He walked by a sign posted on an employment bulletin board one day and saw an ad that read TRUCKERS NEEDED. Frank’s extensive service meant he was given virtually free training on how to drive a truck. Frank thought a lot but when it came time to make a decision, it was pure feeling for him. His intuition was on an unbeaten streak and he wasn’t about to change course now.
“This one’s headed to Marlow’s, Frank. He needs the shipment by 10:00 tonight.”
“I’ll make it there by 8:30,” Frank retorted reassuringly.
The directions provided by the shipping company were always highly detailed, but never accounted for the realities of the road. Construction, traffic jams, accidents or lesser-known paths. Frank always managed to find a quicker route. Maps were a general guide; intuition was a doctrine. Frank checked his watch as he pulled into Marlow’s warehouse.
“Eight thirty-seven,” Frank said to himself looking down at his wristwatch.
He was a valuable employee who did his job well and never complained.
“How’d ya get here so fast?” asked one of the unloading bay workers. “We wasn’t expecting ya till at least nine or nine thirty at the earliest.”
“Gut feeling”, Frank said patting his abdomen and smiling.
Frank delivered all manner of materials, from steel and lumber to food products and finished machine parts. Whatever assignment was suggested, he accepted. He woke up when he felt it was time, not when the alarm went off. He ate what he felt was best that day. Salad and water one day, hamburger and French fries the next. His schedule was the unseen force of nature that decided the cosmic universe’s alignment for that particular day. This feeling would be continually reinforced throughout the weeks and months of Frank working as a trucker.
The truck Frank drove was not his yet but borrowed from the shipping company. Frank left it in the company parking lot near the maintenance garages. The boys from the repair shop would check it every morning and make sure everything was in working order.
“All done for ya, Frank. You ready to go.”
Frank knew most of the mechanic that worked at the shop but once in a while someone would quit and leave and a replacement would be found. This new mechanic was young but very eager to do a good job on his first day.
“Already?” Frank said looking up from his newspaper as he sat waiting outside the garage.
“Yeah, she just needed a little oil top up.”
Frank thanked the young mechanic, got up from his seat and walked over to his truck. He started the truck and began to put the truck into gear when a sudden feeling of dread came over him. His eyes stared off into the distance recalling a time when his unit was ambushed by a Japanese scouting party. Frank’s unit saw no one on the other side of a small river and so proceeded to cross it. Frank began to climb over the embankment as well when that came feeling of dread paralyzed him and he slid back down the other side. The officer in charge noticed Frank and turned around to address him.
“Hey get your ass over that embankment, private.” The officer began to walk towards the direction of Frank as the rest of the unit paused. “Did you hear me or are you…” Before the officer could finish his question, a shot rang out in the distance and the man’s lifeless body dropped on top of Frank. Frank wanted to scream but he no sound was produced from his mouth. A hail of machine gun and mortar fire began to tear apart his unit who were out in the open crossing the river. Frank could only listen to the horrifying screams of his comrades as they were cut down. After several minutes, there was only silence. Frank could hear the approaching soldiers as they finished off the bodies of his fallen unit. Walking over Frank’s officer’s lifeless body, they could not see Frank underneath and left him.
“Hey, are you gonna go or are you just gonna sit there all day?” A sarcastic voice coming from one of the older mechanics woke Frank from his trance.
“I said the truck’s finished; you can head off now, didn’t ya hear me?”
Frank put the gear back into neutral and engaged the handbrake. He turned off the engine and got out of the cab.
“Hey, Ed, can you do me a favour and check it over one more time?”
“The new kid already did,” Ed replied pointing over at the young mechanic now working on a new truck.
“Yeah… I know, but… you know… just a favour?”
Ed looked stupefied at the request but begrudgingly agreed. Frank went back to sit on the chair, although this time he did nothing more than stare off in the distance with the newspaper laid out in his lap. After only a few minutes, Frank snapped out of his current trance after hearing Ed scream.
“Get the hell over right now!”
Frank looked up at Ed who was staring at the young mechanic.
“What do you call this?”
The young mechanic walked over and Ed continued to berate and scream at this young boy. The boy’s only response was shoulder shrugs and scratching the back of his head.
“It’s your first and your last day, get the hell out of here you idiot!”
The young mechanic went towards the garage, picked up his lunchbox and walked off down the road. Ed walked over to Frank who was still staring at the scene with the newspaper on his lap.
“That idiot didn’t see an air pressure leak in the brakes. If you had taken this thing on the road up to full speed, there’s a good chance you would not have been able to stop.”
Frank opened his mouth to respond but before he could form a single word, Ed interrupted him.
“How the hell did you know this, Frank?”
“I didn’t, I just had this feeling that…”
“Well, thank Christ for that!”
“But it’s fine now?” Frank asked, still at a loss for words.
“No. We’re gonna give you a new one. This one needs a few hours of repairs.”
Ed walked over to the truck and signalled for Frank to follow. Frank obliged and Ed showed exactly what was wrong with the truck and pointed out the glaring deficiencies in the braking system. He continued to do this while occasionally using expletives when referencing the now disgraced young mechanic. After several minutes, another truck pulled up driven by a mechanic.
“Your new ride,” Ed said looking up from inspecting the defective truck’s engine. Frank took his belongings from the old truck and got into his new rig. He familiarized himself with the interior and started the engine. Frank placed his lunchbox behind his seat and slid the photo of the pristine landscape behind the sun visor.
Frank still felt somewhat dizzy as he took to the road with the new truck. He was to pick up a load at a warehouse 30 miles down the road. It was relatively close and with no rush for delivery, Frank decided to take his time. He knew other roads but felt at this moment there was no need to fumble around with alternative routes. Intuition continued to reinforce its own importance in Frank’s mind. Ed and the other mechanics were astounded at the power of Frank’s foresight into the unknown, but it wasn’t new for Frank. His life had been defined by following the goddess of intuition down the path she chose for him and would do so until the end of his days. Frank reminded himself the reason why this was all worth it and looked at his plot of land in the photograph. A wife, a house and maybe a son of his own to raise and teach the secrets of following gut instinct. He looked longingly at the photograph imaging a beautiful white house with a small farm behind. A dog running around in the backyard while his kids played and his wife waited for him to return home from work. Bliss enveloped Frank when he saw a figure out of the corner of his eye leap out in front of his truck.
“No.” Frank said to himself half-muted as the figure was crushed beneath his truck in an instant. The truck immediately came to a stop as Frank vice-gripped the steering wheel with sweat-soaked palms. For thirty minutes after the accident, Frank continued staring into the distance as police sirens wailed a quarter mile away.
The police report laid no fault with Frank or the truck’s braking system. They said the man that leaped out in front of Frank was distraught. According to his parents, he had lost his dream job an hour before the incident and was out for a walk to clear his head. The neighbours who witnessed the incident, said the driver had done no wrong. But Frank knew it was he who failed and he who was responsible that day. His intuition had been absent when he needed it. Frank never forgave himself for this lapse in awareness. He and the other mechanics attended the funeral of the young mechanic and extended their condolences to the family for their loss but the grieving continued for Frank. Shortly after that he quit his job. The goddess of intuition had left Frank and his modest dreams forever.