I started working at Smithfield Transfer while I was still in high school. I washed trucks, ran errands and did other odd jobs after school and on weekends. After graduation, Smitty (the owner of Smithfield Transfer) let me drive truck for the summer while I figured out what I wanted to do. Nothing big, just the one ton on short trips to deliver gravel or mulch. When I started technical college, Smitty let me stay on part time, and as soon as I turned 21 he offered me a full time position driving short haul. When I told my dad about it he was almost as proud of me then as he was when I graduated with my associates degree from Brook Tech. He said that he only wished my mom were still alive to see me all grown up. My mom died when I was a kid, a heart attack I think.
Smitty told me to take a couple of weeks off before I started full time. Chatty Crawford, one of his oldest drivers, was retiring and Smitty wanted me to take his route. One evening as I was clearing the dinner dishes, my dad said he wanted to talk to me man-to-man. We sat on the front porch where we had most of our man-to-man talks. The porch was screened in. I remember it was the year of the 17-year cicadas. They couldn’t get inside, but they clung to the screens and made such a racket that my dad and I had to almost shout to be heard. Their call was downright haunting. Looking back, I think it was a bad omen. In between sips of his beer, dad told me how proud he was of me, and said that he just wasn’t sure he was ready for me to grow up and leave the nest. He told me he had given it a lot of thought, and that he wanted to make me an offer.
Dad always filed my taxes for me, so he knew exactly how much I made at Smithfield. He said, “working full time for Smitty will pay you about $28,000 a year. That’s because he takes half your pay to cover the truck you drive, his truck. If you were to own your own truck, well then Smitty would double your pay.” I thought about that for a few minutes, then said that I didn’t see how I could do anything about that. A good truck would cost more than our house was worth. Dad said that he had a plan.
His plan was simple. If I would agree to work for Smitty for one year, and turn over every single pay check to my dad he would save the money and at the end of the year, I’d have about twenty-eight grand to use as a down payment on a new or gently used truck of my own. He said that if I could do that he would be willing to co-sign on a loan for me. Then, with my own truck, I’d be raking in close to sixty grand a year. That extra money would more than make my payments and soon I’d own my truck free and clear. From there I could do anything I wanted. Dad also told me that he would require that I continue living at home with him, and that he would cover all my expenses, even give me spending money in exchange for the chores I do around the house. I would have had to have been stupid to refused. So we shook on it, and in two weeks I started driving Chatty’s old route.
Mostly, I drove scrap metal from the junk yard to the steel mill to be mixed with new steel in the Electric Ark Furnace and I hauled mill slag out of there to deliver to the local sand and gravel lot. This latter part I worked out all on my own and gave to Smitty to show that I was a good thinker. He responded by adding a little slice of that money to my check every pay. Summer tuned to fall, fall to winter and soon I was closing in on the one-year mark. For the past year I had dreamed of owning my own truck. Not that there was anything wrong with the truck Smitty let me drive. She was an old Mack that would snarl like a monster every time I used my shift breaks. Some towns I drove through forbid drivers from using gears to break and had I lived nearby, I couldn’t have blamed them. But I loved the way it sounded, shifting down and letting that massive transmission hold me back. Smitty used to tease me that he should pay me more because he hardly ever had to work on my breaks. Chatty’s old girl was a beautiful old truck, but for close to a year now I had been dreaming of having one of my own.
Dad got sick about six months into our deal. Cancer got into him and as if that weren’t bad enough the coal mine that he worked for his whole life went belly up and even though those fat cat owners got million dollar bonuses, the pension plan the retired minors depended on somehow went bust. The lawyers said there was nothing that could be done about it. Dad owned our house out right, but the medical bills quickly ate up his social security checks and savings. Through all of this he wouldn’t let me cash a single check. He insisted that we bank every penny to use toward the purchase my new truck.
Smitty was aware of the deal my dad had made me. He was also aware of my dad’s situation and poor health. Said it was a damn crime what those coal barons got away with. They weren’t really barons. They were just plain ole crooks, but it was a shame, and I often thought I would kill them if I could get my hands on them. Smitty was a good man, and he knew he had a good employee in me. He told me that he didn’t want to let me go, said that he needed me. So one day he tells me that he had an offer of his own to make me. Said that since my dad would most likely not be able to sign a loan for me given the circumstances, he would like to make me a similar offer.
The deal was clean and easy to understand. Smitty said that he was going to trade Chatty’s old truck in on a new one. Chatty’s old truck being the one I drove every day. Said that if I would be willing to sign a three-year contract with him for the same amount I was already making, that he would be willing to buy this new truck and every month he would pay $850 towards the loan. In three years, that would be a little over thirty grand. After that I could have the truck for whatever was still due. He said I could either use the $28,000 I had saved for my dad if need be, or I could pay it all down on the truck loan after three years. He also offered to double my pay at the end of our contract bringing my expected salary to just under sixty grand a year.
Other than my having to sign a contract to stick with him for three years, his only other requirement was that I had to stay home with my father. He and my dad grew up together and according to Smitty, my old man got Smitty his first girlfriend and his first job. My dad said he didn’t know anything about that first job and as far as his first girlfriend goes, well that was my mom. Seems my old man was sweet on this girl at school, but she preferred Smitty’s wavy blond hair, that is until Smitty tried to get all hot and heavy with her on a porch swing one evening. The girl, my mom, screamed, slapped Smitty across the face and ran off the porch. As luck would have it, there walking down the sidewalk at this exact moment in time was the man who would later become my dad. Pops got the girl in the end, but now she was gone, and things weren’t looking good for my dad ether.
I accepted Smitty’s offer. I tried to explain things to my father, but somewhere during the past six months, dad’s mental health started failing him, too. His cancer was in remission for now, but I would come home from work and find him talking to my mother, even though she had been dead more than 15 years. He’d sit there for hours talking to an empty chair. Sometimes he would lean forward and stroke her invisible hair or hold her and sob for hours. At first, he would stop as soon as he saw me walk in, but eventually he went right on talking to her even when I was around.
As ashamed as I am to admit it, I sometimes would sit in the other room and listen to what he would say to her. I had to sneak and do this because whenever he heard me nearby he would tell my mother to be quiet, “the boy is coming,” he would say. Mostly, he would console her. He would tell her that it wasn’t her fault. He was just so tired, having worked three doubles in a row just to be able to get the time off for this trip. I figured he was referring to the one and only trip the three of us ever took. I was about 7 years old. Mom told me we were going to go on a camping trip. My dad had borrowed a pop up camper from a buddy at work and we were going down on Fish Creek to spend a long weekend camping and fishing. “I was just so tired,” he would say. “Never should have expected you to drive pulling that damn camper. It wasn’t your fault. You didn’t have to leave me.”
It was while we were on this trip that my mother died of a heart attack. My dad and I spent the day fishing out on a rented row boat. When we got back, my dad went into the camper, only to come right back out a few moments later telling me to get on my bicycle and go to the store and get him a pack of Luckies. I said that he had some on the dash of his car, but he yelled and told me to get my ass moving. Dad didn’t yell much, so as soon as those words came out of his mouth, I jumped on my bike and peddled as fast as I could. When I got to the store I figured out that I didn’t have any money. At first, I started looking for pop bottles. Back then, you could get 10 cents apiece for pop bottles. I only found six and that wasn’t enough for a pack of smokes, so I bought a candy bar instead and waited for my old man to calm down.
When I got back to the camper, an ambulance was taking my mother away. With tears in my eyes, I asked my dad what was wrong. He only said that from now on, it would be just him and me. After a while, he told me that mom had died of a heart attack while we were fishing and that he sent me away so that I wouldn’t have to see that. I told him that I wanted to go to the hospital to see her, but he said it was too late for any of that. She was gone. From now on, it would just be the two of us. I asked no more questions because for the first and only time in my life I saw tears in my dad’s eyes. I somehow knew that he was more scared than I was. A week later, we buried my mother. Dad and I were the only ones at the funeral. There was no viewing. We never went camping again. We didn’t even bring that camper back home with us. We just got in the car and headed home, home to an empty house.
Smitty and I agreed to his deal. We drew up a contract and both signed it. He handed it to me and said that a contract wasn’t worth the damn paper it was written on without trust and that he trusted me. So he handed the document to me, and suggested I keep it in a drawer at home. Two weeks later, I drove a brand new 14-wheel Mack dump truck off the lot. She was bright red with a massive bulldog on her front. She was a coal truck, though there wasn’t much coal being hauled these days. Mostly it was limestone, limestone for the oil well pads. Almost overnight, the gas and oil industry moved into our neck of the woods. It was the Utica and Marcellus Shale play that was all the buzz. Smitty had an inkling that there would be need for trucks and truckers. That’s in part why he wanted me to stay. He needed dependable drivers and that I was.
The first couple of days with the new Mack were filled with both lows and highs. I was so excited to be behind the wheel of this powerful new machine, and she was powerful, much more gumption than the last one I was driving. But at times, times when I was feeling the highest, something would creep in under my awareness and suddenly I’d be filled with sadness. I’d be sad that my mom didn’t live to see this day, sad that even though my dad got to see the new truck and even got to ride in it, he wasn’t really here to see it either. And oddly enough, the thing I felt the saddest about was the loss of my old truck. She was old and she was dirty, belched black oily smoke from her stacks, but she was good to me, and I missed her. At times, tears would come to my eyes, and I wasn’t sure if they were for my mom, my dad or that old Mack truck.
Gas and oil took over. Suddenly I found myself driving various routes. I’d get a stone gig and I’d play it till it was played out. Every pad needed hundreds of trucks worth of limestone. These gigs would last a month or three, then I’d move on to another pad. There was so much work to do and so few drivers in relationship that I kept very busy. The work force hadn’t yet caught up with the work load and I wanted to capitalize on that the best I could. In a very short while, hundreds of rural land owners got rich. There were new cars, trucks, motorcycles and boats everywhere. And don’t forget the tractors. Every field had a new tractor and a big brand new equipment shed. I wasn’t a land owner so I wasn’t going to get rich, but as long as I kept driving I could make a lot of money.
Ten to 14 hour days became the norm. I’d fix dad breakfast before I left, and as often as not he wouldn’t eat again until I either fixed supper or brought home some takeout. I never was much one for the ladies. It was always just dad and me, that and my work. Driving was everything, so was my dad. He had good days and he had bad days. Mostly he had been having bad days, but there was nothing that made me think he needed any help, at least not any help that I couldn’t provide. Mostly he read old letters from back when he dated my mother, and he talked to her. He talked to her so often that I never really felt like he was alone. Still he would tell her to hush when I, the boy, came into the room. Somehow that didn’t bother me. I figured that the two of them had things to discuss that didn’t involve me, stuff about young love and kissing. Hell, I didn’t know. Like I said I didn’t have much to do with the ladies.
One day late in the summer, I was into my 14th hour sitting just off of County Road 5 waiting for a string of tanker trucks to come past. These old roads weren’t built with big trucks in mind. Many were so narrow that a stone truck and a tanker couldn’t pass one another without both going two to three feet off the shoulder, so we would radio ahead and ask what was on the road. The tanker trucks hauled fracking water in and out. They ran in convoys of up to nine trucks, and they all had two support cars, one in front and one in back. These cars were the flaggers and they manned their radios like sub commanders in WW II. I radioed ahead and was told that seven were headed my way about 10 minutes out. As soon as I saw the last of them pass me by, I pulled onto the road and headed to my last stop of the day.
It was early evening. We tried to all be off the road by dark. It was hard enough for local drivers to navigate the roads with us on them in the day. At night, our lights set just high enough to blind even those in pickups and SUVs. I wanted to be back on the highway before dark, so I was going a little over speed limit. Hell, I was going 20 miles over speed limit. I was tired, but not too tired to drive. Suddenly, I saw a flash low and to the right front of my truck. It looked like a kid crawling out of the bushes. Before I could hit my breaks or steer clear I hit it and I hit it hard. I stopped as soon as I could, looking the whole while in my side mirrors. I saw nothing, but I was sure I hit something. My stomach was sick. As much as I loved animals I prayed that it was a deer or a dog, anything but the kid I thought I saw.
I got out of my truck and ran as fast as I could back down the 40 yards it took me to stop. I saw nothing. There was no blood, no body, nothing at all that would indicate that I hit something. I slowly walked back to my truck, looked at the front, the right side and underneath. There was nothing, not even a dent. The closest thing I found was a small spot where the shoulder of the road had given way. All I could figure was that I saw that just before my wheels hit it, and I must have somehow been confused enough to think that I had hit something. I promised myself that I would stop working these 14-hour days. I delivered my load and headed home.
One part of the agreement Smitty made with me was that I would no longer have to leave my truck in the lot. He suggested that I park her at home. We lived at the end of a lonely lane and no one cared if I parked her on the street. As I was pulling up to the house – the house I shared with my dad my whole life – I knew something was wrong. There were no lights on. Dad had been slipping, but he always had the lights on. If anything he left lights on, all of them all the time. I was constantly walking from room-to-room shutting off lights. But tonight the place was dark. I called out for him as soon as I hit the front yard. The front door was open and the radio was on. Dad liked to listen to old time country music, always had. So it was not odd to hear Connie Stevens coming from the squawk box. Dad was there in the living room. He was sitting in his chair leaning forward and sidewise halfway into mom’s old chair. He and mom always had their own chairs, and after she died that arraignment stayed the same. I called his name, but I knew he wouldn’t respond. There was something about the way he was sitting that told me he had passed. I put my hand on the back of his neck, then called for the ambulance. Dad had passed in peace talking to the woman he loved. That they died 17 years apart didn’t seem to matter. He always loved her and he died in her arms. At least that’s how I chose to think of it.
That night, the first night I had ever spent alone in my parents’ house, in my house I dreamed horrible fitful dreams. I was driving my new truck. Mom and dad were both with me. Patsy Cline was on the radio and everything was fine. We were going camping. Even though I was only 7 years old, I was driving that big new Mack truck. All of a sudden mom cried out that there was a boy in the road. No sooner had she uttered those words when that big beautiful Mack truck of mine hit that little boy and sent him flying. Mom was hysterical. I was scared and started crying out loud. Dad stayed very calm and told us he could fix it, he could fix everything. I woke with a start. Suddenly the old house was no longer my friend. It immediately started judging me. It asked why I didn’t provide the care for my father that he needed. It asked if I placed my truck ahead of my family. It asked if I had to work 14-hour days for myself or for my father and it told me that I was worthless as a son.
I woke when the alarm went off. I ate a little cereal, made some coffee and went out to the truck. Sometime around noon, Smitty called me on my cell and said he just heard about my dad. He was sorry and wanted to know if there was anything he could do. I told him I had only a few more runs to make and that I would be fine. He was furious when he figured out that I was working, but I told him I wanted to, I had to. Sometime later I became very tired, so tired I was about to fall asleep, when bam! I hit something. I immediately looked in my side mirror and saw the figure of a small boy flying through the air. I hit a kid. I slammed on the breaks. With a full load, I swerved all over the place, almost hitting several cars in the process. I got out of my truck and ran to the crash site. One of the cars I almost hit stopped, and a big fellow got out and asked if I was drunk. I told him that I had just hit a kid and we both started searching the ground for the body.
This guy had his wife in the car with him, and she called the State Police. A trooper arrived within 20 minutes and took my statement. We all searched the side of the road, but found nothing. The trooper took all of my information, checked my log, administered a breathalyzer test and sent me home. The local barracks called me the next day and told me that nothing was found that would indicate that I hit anything. They said maybe it was a deer that ran away, but that nothing was found. Three days later I buried my dad. Smitty and I were the only ones at the funeral. I asked him why he and my dad weren’t close. I mean after all they went to school together and my dad got Smitty his first girl and his first job. Smitty told me that the story was a long one, but that he would tell me one day, not today, but sometime.
The dream came back that night. This time, we were driving my dad’s old station wagon. We were towing a pop up camper. We were singing country songs along with the radio, having a good old time. My dad was telling me that we were going to catch so many fish that we would have to throw half of them back or the lake would be empty. We were all so happy. Then my mother said for me to watch the road because this was the place where we hit that kid. Everything got real quiet, then the cicadas started making that defining screech that they make and there he was, plain as day – a little boy wearing a straw hat holding a bamboo fishing pole. I saw him, but my feet were unable to hit the brakes and my hands couldn’t turn the wheel. I hit him full on and sent that poor little fisher boy flying. I woke up sitting upright in my bed. I ran into the bathroom and threw up into the commode. I told myself that it was only a dream, but it was so real. It was so real both in my dreams and those two times while I was driving. I began to wonder if I was losing my mind.
The next day, I called Smitty and told him I would have to renege on our contract, that I was not sure I was sound enough to drive again, and that I was thinking about having myself evaluated by a shrink. He urged me to calm down, told me that I had just been through a lot, road stress could be a part of it too, and that he would come over around lunch time. My doorbell rang 30 minutes later. It was Smitty. I invited him in. He sat in my mom’s chair, and for the first time ever, I sat in my dad’s chair. I told him everything, expecting that at any moment he would have me committed or at least demand the keys to the truck, my truck. Actually, his truck. He did neither. Instead he simply listened.
I told him about the kid, the straw hat and the fishing pole. I told him that in my dreams I was with my mom and dad, but that I had the same experience while I was awake too and behind the wheel of the truck. I told him how I ran right into this poor boy and killed him. When I finished, he told me that though this was one weird and out there kind of story, he had one that was stranger. He insisted that I come to the shop the next morning. Said that he wanted me to know that he believed every word that I had told him. He didn’t doubt a word I said and that he had something that would either make sense of all of this or drive both of us off our rockers. He promised me that I was not losing my mind, and that he believed he could prove it. I wanted his proof right then, but he insisted it be tomorrow. He said he needed time to pull some things together, that there was something big that he never told me or anyone for that matter, something very big. I agreed to meet him at the shop in the morning.
I met Smitty early in the dispatch office. He suggested we walk out back, and headed me toward an old equipment shed that I had never been in before. We sat on a bench out front, and he told me there were some things he wanted to say before we went in. I was still numb from the past couple of days. It felt like I was in a fog and it was kind of hard to pay attention to what Smitty was saying until he started talking about my dad. He said that they were boys together, best friends even. They lived on the same street and spent most of their time together from early childhood all the way up until the point my mother came into the picture. Once my mom started going steady with Smitty, my dad stayed away. This didn’t last very long though, Smitty said, because Smitty was lousy with women, always said or did the wrong things and besides she was really sweet on my father and only went out with Smitty to make my dad jealous.
Eventually my mom and dad got married and I was born. Smitty was at my baptism, but was no longer close enough to my father to have been asked to be my godfather. Said this kind of bothered him at the time, but that he got over it. They remained friends, not close, but friends. Worked together in the mine before Smitty started the Transfer business. Anyway, one day my dad asked Smitty if he could borrow his old pop-up camper to take mom and me camping. Smitty said he was happy to loan it to him and even included several fishing poles and some tackle. The trip was set. Smitty hooked his camper up to my dad’s old station wagon, told my dad to be careful because the camper’s electric brakes didn’t work real well, and waved as my dad drove it away.
“This is where things get complicated,” Smitty told me. Said we should go inside the equipment shed now because he wanted to show me something. We went in through the man door, walked past a boat, an old Willies Jeep and a couple old Fords that were mostly in parts. Then I saw it. I hadn’t seen or really even thought of it in years. It was that old pop-up camper. At first, my heart leapt with nostalgic remembrance at the sight of that old Coleman camper. Funny, but I never remembered it being a Coleman. Then as we got closer my heart started pounding, my hands got cold and I had a terrible foreboding feeling way down deep in my gut. Sensing this, Smitty suggested we not go any closer. He said that he could feel it, too. Felt it every time he got near the damn thing.
Smitty sat on an old chair. I sat on an overturned five gallon bucket. We just sat there for a few minutes. When Smitty started to talk I was as alert as I could possibly be. I heard everything as if it were magnified. I heard the rasping sound his whiskers made when he scratched his chin, the deep wheeze in his breathing and the tremble in his voice. “Your dad asked to borrow this old camper,” he said. “I was thrilled to loan it to him. I always envied him, his family. I never had one myself. Never was much good with women. Anyways, your dad drove off with it late on a Thursday afternoon, just after he finished his second shift at the mine. He was taking you all down to Fish Crick. Three days later I got a call from your dad asking if I would mind going down there myself and picking it up. Said he wasn’t able to return it to me himself and that he just couldn’t talk about it. I could tell he was upset, so I didn’t argue. I just got in my truck and headed to the campgrounds.
When I got there I gave the girl your dad’s name and asked if she could tell me where I could find the camper. She told me, and said she would be glad to see that thing go. Said some woman had killed herself in it. I went to the lot. Everything looked in order, still all set up for camping and all. I opened the door and stuck my head inside and was instantly hit with the smell of spoiled blood and saw swarming flies everywhere. I gathered my wits and somehow managed to close everything up and get that old tub packed up. I drove it back here and let it set where I parked it. I wanted to call your old man, but something told me not to. The next morning, I saw in the paper that your mother had passed away. There was no listing for a visitation or anything, so I stopped by your house. Either no one was home or you all didn’t answer. I left a note stuck in between your screen door telling you dad I was available if he wanted to talk, but I never heard from him.
I never used that camper again. I just let it sit where it was. After a few years I got up enough courage to open it up again and go inside. By now there were no flies, and any smell that was there was replaced with mustiness. When I closed it up years before, there was blood everywhere, but now there was none, just powdery old stains that could have been anything. There were still dishes in the sink and the beds were unmade. Other than that everything looked normal. I popped the little kitchen table up into place, and that was when I found the note. I’m sorry to say that your mother didn’t die of a heart attack. She killed herself, took her life by cutting both her wrists and slicing through her own throat. It said so right there in the note. The note was for your father. She laid out her plans very carefully in that note, and she told your father that she couldn’t live with herself knowing what she had done. She asked your dad to keep this truth from you and said how sorry she was to go. I still have the note if you want to see it. I’m very sorry to have to tell you any of this, but I thought you should know. She also wrote a letter to you. I have that too.”
Smitty offered a few more apologies, then he handed me an envelope that contained both the suicide note and a letter addressed to me. Smitty said he would be over by the door when I finished, and that he was there for me if I wanted to talk. I read the note right away. I’m not sure how I felt about it. I wasn’t sure if I was mad at my mother for doing this, or if I was mad at my dad for never telling me the truth. Maybe I was mad at myself. I really couldn’t tell you. It took me awhile before I could open her letter. It was in a Fish Creek Campground envelope and it was sealed. Knowing that she sealed it with her own saliva made it somehow feel like it would be wrong to open it, but I knew I had to. My hands shook as I carefully pulled the envelope open.
“My Dearest Baby Boy. If you are reading this I can only assume you are now a grown man. Perhaps you have children of your own. By now you have forgotten what I looked like. Maybe this is best. I didn’t want to leave you, but I knew I had to. I knew I could not live with myself knowing what I had done. I didn’t do it on purpose, but I did it just the same. It was not your father’s fault, or any fault of your own. I take full responsibility for my actions, and am prepared to pay for my sins.
Your dad always worked so hard. He wanted to provide for you and for me. He worked many long hours, and all I wanted was for all of us to get away for a little while and go camping. Your dad borrowed this old camper, and we were set to go when your dad got home and said he was too tired to drive. I wish I would have listened to him, but I wanted us to go then. So I insisted he sleep and let me drive. He didn’t want to, but I pressed until he agreed.
We were about an hour and a half away from home driving back the long road that leads to the campgrounds. It was starting to get dark and I really wanted us to get to the camp before it was too dark to set up the camper, so I was going a little fast. All of a sudden and before I could do anything about it, I saw a fisher boy climbing out of the tall grass on the side of the road. I only saw him for a second, but that was long enough for me to see his straw hat and his wooden fishing pole. I screamed as the car hit him at 45 miles an hour. The sound his body made against the car was sickening. His little body went flying up and over the bank. I stopped as fast as I could, but I knew it was too late.
Your father woke at the sound of my scream. I told him I had hit a boy and that we had to go back and help him, though I knew he was beyond help. Your father calmed me down and insisted that I stay in the car while he went back. He was gone for a long time and you woke up while he was away and asked what was going on. I told you to go back to sleep, nothing was wrong, but I knew. I knew. Your father came back smiling. He said that it was only a dog, just a damn dog, nothing to worry about. I said that I was sure it was a child that I hit, but he took me in his arms and said it was only a dog. He insisted we trade seats and he drove to the campground.
The next day I told him that I was absolutely certain that it was a child that I hit, and he told me to never mention it again. He said that he took care of everything, and that if I ever mentioned this to anyone it would ruin us. “It was just a dog,” he said. I tried to believe him. I really did. I tried all last night and the night before, but I know. I know. It is best this way. It is beat that I end this now for all of us. I love you. I love you. I will always love you.” The letter ended there. No good byes no signature.
I sat there for a little while. Finally, I looked over my shoulder and saw Smitty sitting there by the door. He never took his eyes off of me. I got up, walked over to him and asked if he would mind if we burned that camper to the ground. He didn’t say a word. With tears in his eyes he nodded his head up and down. He went over to a corner of the building and got a hand cart for moving trailers, hooked it up and pulled the old Coleman out into the yard. He dumped a little gas inside the doorway and splashed some on the dry canvas. I walked over to the camper and using a lighter that Smitty handed me, I lit the suicide note and the letter. I used this to ignite the fire. Smitty’s place was far enough out of town that nobody even saw the smoke.
We stood and watched for a little over an hour. Smitty asked if I was OK. I said I wasn’t sure, but that I thought I would be. A few months later, I got a letter in the mail stating that my father had listed me as the beneficiary of a life insurance policy. The payment would be a little over a hundred thousand dollars, more than enough to pay off my Mack. I worked for Smitty for six more years. We never spoke of any of this again. Smitty died earlier this year. His will stated that I was the new owner of Smithfield Transfer.
From time to time I think of that little fisher boy. I never saw him again, not in dreams and not in person. Maybe it was just a dog, but somehow I know it wasn’t. It’s funny how I can’t remember what my mom looked like, but I can see every detail of that little boy.