Blood On The Tracks
Photograph by Ben Lambert, Story by Micheal Coleman
“What's the point of changing horses in mid-stream?”
“Shut up Malachy!
. . .That same song over and over.”
Jobo gripped the wheel. The tension in his fingers was mirrored in his jaw. His eyes were fixed on the windscreen. Lines of sleet moved in a rhythmic dance to the windscreen wiper's beat until they reached the edge and
disappeared into the night like lemmings.
Malachy sat in the passenger seat. A bottle of Jameson’s whiskey resting on his knee. He stopped singing but continued humming the tune under his breath.
“Greatest song writer of the 20th Century. The ability to paint an entire canvass in just a couple of sentences.”
Jobo did not respond.
“Anyway it’s all your talk of quitting, Jobo. Can’t help thinking we are nearly there if we just stick to our course. No point in quitting now. And what would we do with the rig? And the mortgage? We have to keep truckin’ to pay for the rig.”
Jobo just starred at the windscreen.
“You can't quit, Jobo, not now. We are the greatest truckers of all time. We are a team, Jobo.
We drove that car as far as we could – abandoned it out west. Split up on a dark sad night. . .”
The truck droned on through the night. Outside it was pitch black. No other vehicles on the road. There were never any other vehicles on the road. The sleet turned to large snow-flakes. Caught in the lights, they seemed like an army of cold pitched against them.
“Do you want me to take over? Must be my shift. You have been driving forever, Jobo. Take a rest.”
“If we stop the truck I am quitting. Anyway you can't drive, Malachy. Not with all that whiskey in you.”
Jobo began muttering to himself, “seems like years. . . seems like years”
Finally he turned to Malachy, “How long is it now, anyway? Must be years?"
“It’s a good few, Jobo, I’d say it is.”
“Seems Like a lifetime.” Muttering to himself again. “The only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on, like a bird that flew. . .”
Jobo took a breath. Stretched back and relaxed his grip a little.
“You have got me singing those bloody songs now”. He turned his head towards malachy. “I always thought it would be different, Malachy”
“How did you imagine it would be, Jobo?”
“Oh you know. Happy, I thought I would be happy. I thought there would be time.”
“There was that girl back then right enough. . . and kids. . . I suppose that’ll be what you’re thinking?”
“Chickens. . .
. . .in the yard. A banjo on the porch, watching the sun go down. That sort of thing. I always thought that once we paid for the rig we could try an easier route, head south. Find a quiet place with a few chickens.”
“Oh yes, Jobo. A banjo, I can see you with a banjo. And you would have been a wonderful father. Maybe there is still time, after this run, maybe?”
Malachy took another swig of whiskey.
“Early one morning the sun was shinin’. . . No sunshine here, Jobo, only endless twilight.”
Another long silence ensued. Jobo starred at the windscreen. Malachy nodded off to sleep. Time passed. Then Malachy let out a yell and woke up with a start. He began to fidget nervously.
“I saw them again just now, Jobo.”
“What did you see, Malachy?”
“You know, I saw the wolves again in my dream, just now. They were standing in the road, Just watching me. I wish I knew what they wanted. I haven’t seen them for some time now Jobo. But there they were, there, looking at me.”
Jobo said nothing.
“You were in the dream this time, Jobo.”
Jobo starred at the windscreen without saying a word.
“You were dead, Jobo.”
Jobo pressed hard on the accelerator. The engine gunned harder and louder. The noise was deafening. They were now full throttle, full speed. Heading into the night, into the black. Malachy had to shout to be heard.
“You pulled over and stopped the truck to have a rest. If you hadn’t stopped at that spot… It was pitch black outside and black ice on the road. There were no other vehicles just us. Then out of nowhere there was a screeching of breaks and another truck jack-knifed and began heading straight towards us. There was an almighty crash and the other truck hit us head on. You were dead, Jobo. The truck rolled over and I was thrown out into the snow.
I was the only survivor. I tried to pull you out of the truck. Smoke pouring out of the door. I tried to get the others out of their truck. Then I gave up and just sat on the snow. I sat and waited for you until winter was over.
It was silent. Not a sound. Nowhere to go - Just stillness. At first, I was afraid. I thought the wolves would attack me but they didn’t. They were watching me, in silence. I couldn’t hear myself think it was so quiet. It’s like they wanted to speak to me but I didn’t know how to listen. It’s like they wanted to say it’s okay Malachy. You can just be still and not keep thinking, worrying about the future and the past. There they were, on the road, Just watching. And the truck - it was stopped, Jobo. I couldn’t hear the sound of the truck anymore.”
“Dreams are like being in another world, Malachy.” Jobo took his foot off the gas and the truck began to slow down. He started singing and Malachy joined in. They both sang together.
“’Twas in another lifetime. One of toil and blood. When blackness was a virtue and the road was full of mud. I came in from the wilderness a creature void of. . .”
"The truck doesn't stop, Malachy"
"You are right. The truck never stops, Jobo."
"If the truck stops, I am quitting."