Passing Elko - By Brian Law

He was dreaming fitfully when he felt the hand of the trucker on his shoulder shaking him awake and saying, “You asked me to wake you when we passed Elko, pal.” 


Ed opened his eyes for the first time in several hours. The dim glow of the truck’s instrument panel and the back glow of the truck’s headlights were the only light in the darkness that otherwise surrounded the truck as it rolled west down the highway.


The exhaustion he’d felt when the trucker first picked him up was now gone, but the pain remained. He yawned and stretched, grabbed the rolled-up jacket that had until a minute ago been his pillow and sat upright. He patted the inside pocket of his jacket and found the almost empty pack of cigarettes. 


“Mind if I smoke?” he asked the trucker, wincing a bit.


“Nah, be my guest. You still going all the way through to Fresno?” the driver wondered. “I kinda like the company.”


Ed lit up and inhaled. He reached out and opened the dashboard ashtray and put the spent match in. “Fresno? Is that what I told you back there where you picked me up?”


“Yeah, you said Fresno. You don’t remember?”


“No, Fresno’s fine.”


The two said nothing for a while until the trucker saw a sign that said “Rest Stop 5 Miles Ahead”. He turned to Ed and explained, “I gotta stop and check the load, pal. Go ahead and use the facilities if you want. We’ll stop for about fifteen minutes.”


Ed nodded and said, “Thanks, I will. What’s your load, by the way?”


The trucker chuckled and replied, “A load of new caskets for a funeral home in Fresno, believe it or not. Forty-seven of ‘em, from the cheapest to the most expensive.”


Ed continued to smoke quietly for a few moments without speaking and continuing to stare out the windshield. The trucker turned to him and asked, “This bother you, you know, being on the road with these caskets and all? ‘Cause it doesn’t bother me none. I deliver caskets all the time all over the country.”


Ed asked, “You ever lose one, a casket I mean?”


The driver, downshifting, answered, “Lose one, sure. It happens. Lost one outside of Salt Lake City last month. Why?”


Ed turned towards the trucker and opened his shirt, revealing a gunshot wound. “Jesus, pal. You need a doctor!” the driver exclaimed, upshifting.


“I need a casket. You got forty-seven of them. I got money, plenty of money,” Ed said, his voice weak. “Just pull over. Won’t take much time. We’re in the middle of nowhere. I’ll make it worth your while.”


“There’s a place, not far up ahead, just before the rest stop. It’d work. How much money you got?” the driver asked.


“Five thousand.” Ed reached into his jacket and removed a wad of hundreds.

“Okay. We got time. We got two hours of darkness,” the driver replied. “Problem, though. You’re not dead yet.”


“Is that really a problem?” Ed replied, his voice weaker yet.


“Nah. Not really,” the driver replied, checking in his rear view mirror and downshifting as he moved onto the shoulder.




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