Marcus died while behind the wheel of an eighteen-wheeler going sixty-six miles per hour, having driven for a full twenty-four hours at that point. Nineteen crushed Styrofoam coffee cups and three Red Bull Cans rattled as they shifted behind the driver’s seat.
Story by Jake Price
Art by Chris James – custom illustration / an imaginary tire ad
ACT #1: The Numbers
Marcus died while behind the wheel of an eighteen-wheeler going sixty-six miles per hour, having driven for a full twenty-four hours at that point. Nineteen crushed Styrofoam coffee cups and three Red Bull Cans rattled as they shifted behind the driver’s seat. His heart exploded inside of his chest. Slumped forward on the steering wheel, he merged lanes and jerked the truck back in between the lines on the highway. “Keep it between the mustard and mayonnaise” as his uncle had told him when he first learned to drive. His last thought.
He had been late to a drop off— and needed to get his inventory to the distribution center by 3:00 PM that day. He died at noon, his least favorite time to drive. The west Texas sun always made the asphalt so hot it started to melt his tires. He hated the smell. The trucking company that Marcus worked for, Challenger Transport, paid him forty cents for every mile he drove. After death, he made twenty-five cents before his truck plowed into the back of an SUV. A family of five turned into a family of three, with a three hundred grand medical bill, two funerals, and one file for divorce.
ACT #2: The Best Family Road Trip In The History of Family Road Trips
“STOP KICKING ME—”
“Don’t kick your sister, Jeffery. We’re supposed to be having fun.”
“Livin’ easy, Lovin’ free, Season ticket on a one-way ride”
“Who can have fun going camping? Why are we—”
“Who wants to spend the weekend in the woods?”
“Goin’ down, Party time, My friends are gonna be there too, yeah”
“I am excited for it.”
“Thank you, Sarah.”
“Shut up, Sarah.”
“Like a wheel, Gonna spin it, Nobody’s gonna mess me around”
“That is enough! I am sick of your attitude young man—”
“Your mother is right, Jeffery. Do I need to pull over?”
“Hey momma, Look at me, I’m on my way to the Promised Land, ow”
“Why don’t we play a game Mr. Grumpy Pants?”
“The animal guessing game?”
“Sure, I’ll go first.”
“I’m on the highway to hell, On the highway to hell”
“Can I play?
“Of course you can Sarah.”
“Okay, does it live in the water?”
ACT #3: Martha
The breeze that came in through the window was a gift from God. It made the curtains turn into sails and the setting sunlight made everything feel more holy. The air conditioner had stopped working the previous afternoon, and Martha was grateful for the reprieve. Two box fans circulated hot stuffy air throughout the apartment, and there she sat on the living room couch, sweating. The TV was playing reruns of a show she didn’t know the name of, and she didn’t have to. She was only watching it with her eyes; her mind was elsewhere. As it had been. It was impossible to be present in the heat.
She couldn’t stop thinking about the argument. The way her husband had slammed his palms on their kitchen table.
“What do you want me to do, Martha? I don’t understand. You complain cause we’re poor, so I go and work my ass off. Then you complain because I am away working my ass—”
“That’s not what this is Marcus, you know that. Don’t act like you’re out there sweating under the sun. You drive truck. There is a fucking air conditioner blasting in your face all hours of the day.”
He had stared at her. A mug of coffee steamed in front of both of them. Untouched. After a ten count, he answered. “What do you want me to do, Martha?”
“I want you too…” She caught herself laughing for the first time in a year. “I want you too have a life again. I want you to be. You’re not Marcus anymore, you know that right? You’re a robot. You have wires in your chest and oil in your joints and you need to be plugged into an outlet—”
“WHAT DOES THAT MEAN MARTHA?”
That was two days ago. He had left that night. He had to drive across the state into new Mexico for a drop off. The air conditioner had broken the day after, and Martha had called him once it had stopped rattling its last breaths. He hadn’t answered. So, she sat and watched reruns and sweat, letting her mind replay the argument over in her mind. She remembered it fondly. That was the first fight they had since college, and she thought they finally had hope. Something to hold on to. Couples that made it work fought. It’s the ones that didn’t that ended up splitting.
The phone rang in the kitchen. She let it ring twice before she stood, feeling the cool breeze from the window on her skin. Rounding the couch, the floor changed from carpet to tile underneath her bare feet.
About the Author
Jake Price is a sophomore student at Susquehanna university pursuing a degree in creative writing. His work has been published in Rivercraft Magazine, Halcyon Days Magazine and Cream Scene Carnival. He was born in Texas and currently resides in Pennsylvania. He has grown an Instagram account, where he posts his poetry, that has over 3,000 followers as of writing this.
About Chris James
Chris is a graphic designer and visual artist who resides in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. He enjoys living a mostly hermitic lifestyle with his family while striving to perfect a range of visual art techniques, honing his culinary skills, and chasing the heels of technological advancements. His current interests include 3D design, animation, AI technology, and puppet making at the behest of his oldest child.