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She said she hoped I wasn't too disappointed about her not bein my mother, and I said, "Naw, I figured as much since I was only four years old when my mama started workin at a Truck Stop." I told her about a driverless truck that had passed me a few miles back: it was goin 90 miles an hour. I didn't think much about it at time—that's what too much Night Train'll do to a man—but, after hearin her story, I got a case of hee-bee-gee-beez like you wouldn believe. I leaned across counter and held onto her tired old hand. I said, "Ma'am, you may not be my mother, but I'll bet you five dollars against price of pie and coffee that you can't name all 8 reindeer."
She started to cry and said this was first time in ten years that Christmas had any meanin for her—she hadn even bothered to put up any decorations. Now that it felt like Christmas, and she knew it would be her last one, all she wished for in whole wide world was somethin to make it look like Christmas. Well, it just so happened that I was haulin a hot load of cheap, plastic Nativity scenes to Chicago for an eleventh-hour trainload sale. I made up my mind right then an' there that this old woman was gonna have one of 'em if it drove every dime store in Chi Town out of business. I said, "You wait right here, Ma'am; this is gonna be best Christmas you ever had!" Well...that's when I woke up. [military-drums-in-the-distance]
I woke up in a foxhole...about 15 miles from White Sands Missile Range. The First Sergeant was shakin me. When I looked up at him, there was a look of curiosity and concern in narrow eyes that so resembled elongated lug nuts, chiseled into weather-beaten leather that was his face—two eyes, one on either side of his nose. He told me that I'd been yellin in my sleep, somethin 'bout drivin a truck.
I said, "But, Sarge! I am a Truck Driver!" The curiosity and concern melted into a combination of compassion and sarcasm—with just a touch of amused weariness. He said, "Son, you are not a Truck Driver, for you see, that would be impossible." "Why do you say that, Sarge?" "For two reasons," Sarge said: "One, you are a chimpanzee. Two, you don't even have a driver's license."
Well, I thought about that for a moment. My disappointment turned to resignation. I quietly asked Sarge, "If…if I'm not a Truck Driver, then what am I?"
Sarge said, “Speak up, son, I can’t hear you.”
So I says out loud, I says, “If…if I’m not a Truck Driver, then what am I?”
He said, "You are an Astronaut. You just got back from a 5-year trip around Planet, Pluto. I don't know what happened to you up there, but I do know this: you are not a Truck Driver." I sat there, chewin on that one for a good long while. Sarge poured us both some coffee. The long silence was broken when I said, "Sarge, what month is this?" He told me it was August. "Well," I said, liftin my cup, "Feliz Nuevo Año, Sarge."
Sarge grinned, and raised his cup. "Happy Halloween, Kid." I poured coffee all down front of my flight suit—that's what too much weightlessness'll do to a man.
It was a Truck Stop Christmas With magic in air; It was nightmare of a monkey, And a Mother's answered prayer. A mystery, a miracle, We'll never understan; But it's notarized and witnessed By a Truck Drivin Man... A Truck Drivin Maa-aan. Wah-ooo.
In God’s Trombones, James Weldon Johnson tells of an old-time preacher who announces, “Brothers and sisters, this morning—I intend to explain the unexplainable—find out the undefinable—ponder over the imponderable—and unscrew the inscrutable.” This author seeks to do all that, plus take it a step further and eff the ineffable. Tom Hale is a featured author at wizardboys.com.