Estimated reading time — 5 minutes
There wasn’t much about 2015 that didn’t completely suck. My marriage was falling to pieces. My spouse had grown cold and indifferent. Our son hadn’t been diagnosed with autism yet. He was still a toddler. But, we knew there was something off about him. We knew something was wrong.
By summer I’d moved my belongings into the guest quarters and that became my bedroom. It was the beginning of the end with the two of us in bitter denial or, possibly, waiting for the other to end it first. A 5:00 a.m. alarm got me up for work every weekday morning and I spent most wakeful moments trying to find a way out of dump truck driving and construction. My spouse was less than supportive.
I didn’t have the funds for college. I was too busy to learn a new trade or skill. Once in a while I’d come up with a cool sketch or painting. Sometimes I’d write a poem that people appreciated. But I didn’t have the talent or skill to replace the earnings of my day job. So, every weekday, it was a ten to twelve hour shift of double clutching a tandem axle Mack. I’d haul a flatbed trailer with heavy equipment for a paving crew to get the mortgage and bills paid.
The second Friday of June didn’t seem any different from any other weekday. It was payday. I planned on spending time with my little one, putting him to bed, and getting into a cheap bottle of whiskey before passing out in the guest room.
For the time being, I was still on the clock and getting ready for my last run. My foreman, Mike, asked me as a special favor to take an overloaded flatbed a few miles down the road. Normally I would’ve said no. But, I liked Mike, I didn’t wanna argue and I just wanted to wrap up the day and start my weekend. My worst case scenario, I thought, was an overload fine from a DOT officer.
The crew loaded a paver, a skid steer and a roller onto a flatbed trailer designed to hold two thirds of the combined weight of all that equipment. Everything was already chained down. I told the guys I’d see them in the yard after I hooked up to the trailer. I eased off the clutch and into first gear. I could feel the Mack truck struggle to pull the overloaded flatbed trailer.
I got to my first traffic light without demolishing the dump truck stopped ahead of me only because I began to downshift and brake well ahead of time. I realized my seat belt was off and tried to put it on but it wouldn’t budge. The light turned green, the sky opened up and a torrential downpour pissed all over everything in sight. I started driving but kept the rig 10 miles per hour below the posted speed limit convinced that would keep me safe. I passed a quarry on my left and began my descent down a steep grade on the way to my stop.
I got part of the way down the ominous hill and traffic was stopped ahead in the distance. I gently applied the brakes but the truck tires started skidding on the wet road. The trailer began to jack knife over the double yellow lines into oncoming motorists. I eased off the brakes, regained control of the trailer and reapplied them. The same thing happened. All the while I’m still moving toward stopped traffic going 30 miles an hour downhill with a combined vehicle weight easily exceeding sixty thousand pounds.
The old country road had one lane headed downhill, one lane headed uphill, no shoulders and nothing but trees on either side. As a last ditch effort, I pulled the parking brake and started stabbing at the brake pedal. Crashing a commercial truck is almost always fatal for the driver. Not having a working seat belt wasn’t really helping my odds. The cars stopped ahead were now less than two tractor trailer lengths away and I couldn’t stop the truck.
I thought about my wife. I remembered being in love with her before we started hating each other. I thought about my son. I thought about the people stopped ahead and their families. I thought about how much it was going to suck dying in a dump truck from colliding into the trees on the side of the road. A collision was inevitable and there was no way in hell I was going to allow innocent motorists to get killed.
My last run had turned into a suicide mission. Being a non religious heathen, I thought, per chance, there may be something close by; some ghost that watches over truckers and bikers; some spirit, perhaps, inhabiting those woods. I called out to it. “Make it quick.” That was my first and final payer to whatever sprite inhabits that forest. I didn’t see any fucking way possible I’d survive what I’d do next and I didn’t want to linger in agony following the crash. I just wanted my death to be swift.
I turned the steering wheel away from the traffic and into the woods. As soon as my front wheels left the pavement, the bumpy, wooded terrain shook me violently throwing me into a world of hurt like I’d never known. As an at risk teen, I’d been jumped, hit with chains and bats. I’d been beaten mercilessly by my bastard of a father as a child. Nothing I’d experienced could’ve prepared me for the beating the inside of that truck put on every inch of my body.
The trailer snapped off and headed into another portion of the woods. The truck roared into the forest with me as it’s hostage; mowing down vegetation; leaving hunks of metal all about as the tree branches of the forest fought back against this hostile, diesel powered invasion. I gripped the wheel for dear life while smacking all about the console, the control panel, the shifter and feeling every abrasive texture grind away at my flesh.
The truck hit a big bump that sent me head first into the ceiling. Blood went everywhere. Then, it hit a dip and skidded to a violent stop. A terrible pressure pushed into my chest. I thought i was having a heart attack. Somehow, I didn’t go flying through the glass as the horrifying ordeal came to an abrupt halt. As quickly as the crash ended, so did that awful blow to my chest.
I exited the smoldering wreck that was once a sturdy Mack truck. I was covered in blood and had what seemed like a sheet of plastic, a grocery bag perhaps, stuck to my head. It wasn’t a grocery bag hanging off my head. I didn’t realize at the moment that my scalp had been partially degloved. It peeled right off my noggin, my skull exposed and blood pouring all over me. It was hanging off the side of my head, I imagine, much like a peel hanging off the side of a piece of fruit. It must’ve happened when I hit the ceiling of the truck’s interior.
What hurt more than anything at the moment was my chest. It couldn’t have been the steering wheel. It wasn’t a heart attack. I didn’t know what it was that kung fu’d the ever living shit out of my sternum. I was just glad I was still alive.
Only moments later I was getting put into a c-collar, strapped to a back board and loaded into an ambulance by paramedics. My Blitz t-shirt; my favorite fucking punk rock shirt was blood soaked and sheered off me by the medics. They took my vitals and asked questions meant to gauge my level of consciousness.
Then, for a moment or two, they fell silent. “Am I gonna make it?” I joked as I turned my head to see both medics staring at my sternum, mouths agape and eyes bugged out in bewilderment. After a second, they assured me everything would be fine and continued with routine measures during medical transport.
I thought about the day’s events at the hospital. I got all doped up by the docs, got my scalp stapled and bandaged, and got admitted to my room. I thought about my terrible judgement, the last minute decision, the dying man’s prayer and the blow to the chest while crashing and somehow not flying through the windshield.
I thought about it all in my hospital room. I stood bare chested before a mirror gazing at my bruise. Across my chest, spanning about 12 inches in length, was a deep purple mark in the shape of a giant, ghastly hand.