May 5 2018
Today’s one thousand words.
Jimmy drives a red truck. Of all the attributes a man could choose to represent him in the vast interconnectedness of people and things in the universe, Jim decided at a very early age that the idea and the image of a red truck would be it – from the moment he could afford one until the day he died.
The seeds of this decision were sewn early one quiet summer morning when Jimmy was sitting alone in pajamas on the front lawn of his home. It was cloudy – the kind of day a person remembers and the kind of a day that sets a benchmark for all days like it in the future. Jimmy was playing with his matchbox cars, their tiny black wheels and shiny surfaces fueling his imagination. The yellow one is a car for his sister to get to school in – instead of the bus she hates. The blue one is for his Dad to travel back and forth to work in – the white one will be his moms – she has to go to the grocery store, over to Betty’s place to meet up with the ladies from the card-group.
It’s eight in the morning. No one else is out of the house yet and no one else is out of bed. Their home is at the end of the drive, on the downhill run – a right hand turn just in front continues the route around to the main street again – Spruce drive – that heads downtown. In the winter that downhill run and the turn are well graveled and salted – even so he’s heard his dad say it’s a dangerous place – sometimes people go way too fast.
His back is to the road – the packed dirt of the front garden, not yet planted, is the perfect place for road tracks for the tiny cars – their wheels are able to get a grip and he can make them work like real ones – traveling their busy routes for days on end – taking people to and from their business.
The red truck is in a big rush. The driver is thinking of how late he is and he’s driving fast in order to get to his destination on time. He’s rounding corners, climbing hills swerving through open spots and ignoring the rules. On this downward run he loses perspective and when he gets to the bottom of the hill he’s going way too fast to turn or stop and he hits the brakes. The truck sways on the road, and the tires grab and he whips the steering wheel to keep straight. The tires don’t squeal – they just scrape at the gravel left on the road and bounce when they hit the ramp up to the driveway and the truck stops ten feet from the front of the house, on the lawn and at a side angle to Jim – about four feet from where he’s kneeling in front of the flower garden.
He looks straight up at the chrome bumper, the red front fender, the tire and rim turned out from the wheel well – the engine is smoking through the hood – the smell of hot metal and oil and machinery and gasoline envelops him and his mind locks on the size of all of it and he thinks, ‘I’m Jim and I drive a Huge Red Truck’.
The window on the driver side rolls down – a man leans out – cigarette dangling from his lower lip.
Jimmy looks straight up at the face.
It’s OK mister. Nice truck.
Thanks kid. Let’s not tell anyone OK?
The man’s shoulders shift – Jimmy hears grinding of metal – the gears engaging, and the truck heaves backward. The front wheels turn outward and the truck twists on its axis – back wheels spin a bit on the grass and the man turns his head again.
See ya kid.
And the man drives off.
Jimmy sits looking out at the street where the truck disappeared. His mind is moving slowly and it seems very small. The truck is the biggest thing in his life. It’s all over the world. It’s bigger than the lawn and bigger than the house. It smells and it’s so much red you can feel the red of it all around you. Its wheels and its shiny front bumper, the mystery of the inside of the cab and the casual banter of the driver – in control of the wildness of it all – these things have surrounded him and have taken him over completely. He is the Red Truck Man.
Later, his father will wonder who drove up on the lawn in the middle of the night and left the grass pressed down in neat tire marks from the sidewalk almost to the front of the house.
For his whole life Jimmy will remember the color of the paint on the fender, the smell of the metal and smoke. He will remember the color of the tire that came to a stop six feet away from his face. He won’t ever think of being in danger, he won’t realize or believe there is any danger to fast moving trucks or downward slopes or gravel. He’ll be known for driving fast, accurately and with a certain flair.
He will purchase a red truck at the age of Seventeen – from a wrecker – and he’ll rebuild it from scratch. Every nut and bolt and hose and belt – until it’s brand new and when he’s able he will buy a new one and he’ll have two red trucks of different vintage and purpose and when he’s twenty five he’ll have three and when he’s sixty he will have accumulated over thirty red trucks and everyone of them with a slightly different purpose or configuration.
He will red truck himself from the age of five until his life expires – a total of eighty years completely dedicated to the idea of red and the marriage of that color to the movement of metal – the speed of it and its existence on the planet molded onto four wheels and hauling down roads filled with boys and teenagers and men in charge of making it go and stop at their command.
He is, he always has been the Red Truck Man.