I got a truck. Red with dust coloring all over and black in places. Rust fingering through in the cab corners where they will reach through in July and not give me a new inspection sticker. I bought it from Jeff whoís a state detective now and carrying eighteen cases since six months ago when he got his promotion. Most Maine detectives donít get over seven all year.
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Jeffís a big guy with a hunger for meat and hunting for meat. He throws plastic and rubber ducks with heads tied on with string for Bounty, his Golden Retriever. He throws it far as he can and points down, not letting Bounty run, then heíll wait, Jeff, staring at the trees, smiling because he knows he trained his dog right.
Thereís a Lordís Gym bumper sticker on my new truck with a picture of a body builder doing push ups with a huge cross on his back. It looks like itís made out of railroad ties. Heís supposed to be Jesus, of course. Jeff put him on there years ago when he bought the truck in college. Thereís also a good sized outline of a fishóthe kind they used to use to mark their secret prayer group meetings back when the Christians were being fed to lions.
Jeff and I go way back to when we were building the boat and Jeff would stop by in his blue cruiser and rattle us with stories. His hair is short and blond like itís bleached from surfing every day like he used to in Atlantic City, New Jersey. It reminds me of his surfing stories, except itís half an inch long and combed circular somehow like the earthís rotation against draining water.
I lived with Jeff and Tina for two weeks when I ran away from the boat, from my dad and family when they needed me most. Jeff and Tina took me in plain and simple because I needed sleep, which I hadnít had for about a week. Their house is the house of whispers because except for the bedrooms and bathroom, itís all one big open area with an open loft over the kitchen and dining room. I slept sometimes in the living room just off the dining room and sometimes in the loft but it didnít matter because I could hear the dog farting at three in the morning from any spot in the house.
Jeff always changed the oil. Always. Every three thousand miles, he changed it, and lubed all the joints himself. And then he would let me borrow it to go into Bangor from where I would bring it back with a loose clutch peddle. The first time I did that he didnít tell me how much the new one cost because he knew Iíd try to pay for it. A hundred and eighty bucks! for that old S10 slave piston. Now itís mine and I lift up the clutch with my toe every mile or so to check the play. When I bought it, it was tight as anything. Now it wiggles a quarter inch and I donít know how else to shift other than to almost pop it and stall every time I start out of the driveway. The reverse gear is where I think Iím really burning it up because how do you back slowly between cars when if you let all the way into gear, it rams backward at about fifteen miles an hour? A burning clutch smells something like a burning debit card. And now I want to talk about driving with Jeff.
It was Sunday and Jeffís wife was at church while we were getting ready for the barbeque after. We made a quick run to the dump and Jeff said keep driving, so I took the back road from East Machias to Machias, which Jeff said was faster when you do seventy around the corners. Itís wild up that way. Blue berry fields and horse pastures and tree tunnels with sunlight shafting through. Jeff doesnít drink, but heís crazy like he does. One time he stood leaning out the open truck door while his friend drove it in tight circles. He said the centrifugal force held him there.
He said not to slow down, but keep it steady so he could show me how to get into the bed of a moving truck from the passengerís seat. Then he opened the door and yelled over the white noise something about the wind pressing the door against him and making it safe. He pushed with his hands against the roof until his arms were straight and then let go, letting the door push him back.
He was in the process of doing this again when a Sheriffís Deputy came into view ahead. Reflexively, I slammed on the breaks, and when I looked up from the speedometer, Jeff was gone. He wasnít catwalking down the truck in the side view mirror or already in the bed behind me, but I didnít want to believe heíd fallen because he didnít scream.
The copís lights swirled blue suddenly, stimulating thoughts of flushing blue toilet water, and he pulled off the road quick. Thatís when I turned my head I saw Jeff bouncing and rolling with his arms out like he was trying to perform cartwheels.
I forced the break peddle down all the way, forgetting about the clutch, and held it until the truck stalled.
I couldnít figure out the keys so I left the truck in the middle of the road with long faint black skid marks leading up to the tires. Youíd never believe how much dust your tires can make skidding, or how faint the marks are. Thatís when I realized the thick black tire marks I see all the time are from kids holding down the break and gas peddle at the same time.
I didnít dwell on this too long because Jeff didnít look so good moving around in the dirt like he was trying to walk.
By the time I got to him the cop was helping him sit up Jeff was rubbing his elbows and knees. Heíd hit the loose white sand from the plow trucks that piles up beside the road, so he was basically okay.
The cop asked him if he needed an ambulance, and Jeff said no, standing slowly. The cop and I grabbed an arm each, and walked him slowly back to my truck. The cop didnít say anything, I assume because he recognized Jeff.
The ride back was quiet. Jeff picked dirt from his cuts, and then fell asleep against the window. We were only five minutes from his house.