The river had rose overnight. It crested just below the bridges on Highway 41. There was no one out fishing on that day. No boats going up and down the waterway. Just brown murky water seeping into the lands where the pines and the oaks stood.
Semis heading north and south drove over the river. Their mud flaps soaked and windshield wipers keeping tempo with the songs on the radio. And, to the east, the sun rising as the rain continued coming down. There was no end of it in sight. Storms came in from Illinois and Iowa. They were driving against it.
A group of them clustered together on the road. They traveled in a pack like wolves or mad dogs. Five truckers heading to Chicago to drop loads from Terre Haute. All of em driven by men who only knew one thing; drive fast and don’t get caught. This was difficult to do in the storm. But, they made a go at it. They most certainly did.
One of the drivers picked up a young girl heading to the big city. She couldn’t have been more than eighteen. While another picked up an old man who’d seen his share of the road. He’d been all over this nation. Going from town to town. The skinny old man slept most of the way. The driver knew he’d paid his dues.
But, the young girl chirped like a bird all the way. The driver wanted to just let her out in the middle of nowhere, but she kept him awake. And, she was easy on the eyes, he thought. All she did was talk about Chicago, how she’d never look back, counted money in her purse, and smacked on gum. He promised her a ride, and she promised to keep him awake. They worked out a deal.
The old man woke up around Whiting. He had seen this area before. Knew Whiting, Hammond, Highland,Gary. Knew the whole corner of the state. Remembered as a kid driving through in a ’82 Chevy pickup truck he’d stolen from his father. Stayed in Chi-town for a week before the family realized he was missing. He had no money. Never had any money. Had to call his pop to wire him some for gas to get back home. Needless to say dad was quite surprised. The old man laughed at his memories. It’s been a strange life, he said to the trucker. It’s been strange.
The trucks decided to pull in at this truck stop over by Canaryville on the far southside. The rain still poured. I’m gonna let you out here honey, the trucker said to the girl. You can catch another ride into the city. Been good having you along, he extended his hand. Yeah, she said. And she ran into the truck stop diner where she saw the old man sitting alone.
This seat taken? she asked. The old man lit up a smoke and offered her one. She took it, lit it, and coughed.
You want some coffee? he asked her. On me, he said. She nodded yes.Where you from? She told him Terre Haute. Nice town. Why would you wanna leave that place? They both paused and laughed. She began to cry. Never been away from home huh? the old man swigged his coffee. She shook her head. I see. Well, stick with me kid. Stick with me.
The sun was fully awake. Trucks came and went. The two sat in the diner. They were both scared. She was afraid of him and he was afraid of her. He reminded her of her father. She reminded him of an old girlfriend years ago. They both kept quiet. Silence was comforting.
They got a ride into the city. Let em out downtown. Across the street from the Picasso piece. The rain came again. And they said goodbye. They didn’t even know the other’s name. They just knew about Terre Haute.