The Trucker Mother

Info silverhawk
11 Sep. '19

The woman sitting in the driver’s seat of the semi signaled a lane change, pulled out into the left lane of I-40 West to pass the pickup truck filled with furniture, then pulled back into the right lane.

“Yeah, I thought I was just gonna drive for a couple of years and then have some kids.  Funny how things turn out though.  We’d been married, let’s see, two years and six months when Jerry had a heart attack right there on I-30 between Texarkana and Dallas.  If he’d been driving, we’d probably both be dead.  Still can’t believe how fast that happened.  Jerry was only thirty two.  He seemed OK one second and the next, just keeled over in the seat.

“When the EMT’s got there, Jerry was still breathing, but he’d started to turn blue.  They started giving him oxygen and it looked like he was getting better.  When they loaded Jerry into their truck, I locked up the rig and got in with them and we headed for the hospital in Rockwall.  We must have spent two hours in the emergency room before they moved him to intensive care.  They made me sit outside while they worked on him so I didn’t know how bad Jerry was at first.

“As they were taking him up to intensive care, this doctor - he looked like he was Chinese.  Can you imagine that, a Chinese doctor in the middle of Texas?  His name was Wilson and talked like he was from Texas but he was really short and he sure looked like he was Chinese.  Anyway, he was frowning when he walked over to where I was sitting and said Jerry had had a heart attack and they were taking him to intensive care but I shouldn’t get my hopes up. He said they’d already lost him twice and then brought him back but he didn’t think Jerry was going to last the night.

“When I got to intensive care, I was pretty much in shock.  I mean, Jerry had been laughing and talking and then he just stopped doing anything.  He wasn’t doing anything in intensive care either.  They had needles in both of Jerry’s arms and a bunch of wires taped to his chest that went to a monitor beside the bed.  I could see the little blips on the monitor, just like you see on TV, one little blip for each time his heart beat.

“I sat there and held Jerry’s hand for the next hour or so.  He woke up once, and he smiled at me.  He asked what happened, and I told him he’d had a heart attack and he should just rest.  Jerry just smiled again and said he thought he was going to be able to rest for a long time now.  Just before he drifted off again, he said he loved me.  A little later, the alarm on the monitor went off.  I looked at it and those little blips weren’t there anymore.  The doctor tried to bring him back again, but Jerry was gone.

“I called our dispatcher and told him we weren’t going to make Dallas and why.  He said he was sorry and that he’d send another truck to pick up the trailer and make the delivery.  He didn’t sound all that sorry on the phone, but he did send flowers to Jerry’s funeral, so I guess he was.

“They did an autopsy on Jerry and confirmed he’d had a heart attack but they didn’t understand why.  They didn’t have an answer until all the tests came back.  They said it was really unusual, but it had happened before.

“Jerry had gotten a cold a couple of weeks earlier, and he couldn’t seem to shake it.  He was taking cold pills and using some of that nasal spray to keep his nose open so he could breathe.  About a week later his sinuses started hurting him so he was taking sinus pills too.  When I got to the hospital, they asked me if he was taking any medications, but I didn’t think anything about it, you know, I mean, it’s not really medicine, is it?  You can buy the stuff at any drugstore or Walmart.  

“Dr. Wilson said if Jerry had been like about everybody else, it might not have been such a problem, but Jerry already had low blood pressure and between that and what was in the cold pills, the sinus pills and in the nose spray, his blood vessels got restricted enough it caused a massive heart attack.

“Well, after I got Jerry back home where his mom and dad live and we had the funeral, I had to decide what to do.  I never went farther in school than high school, and I was twenty-four.  I figured that was too old to go to college or anything like that.  Then I got to thinking.

“When Jerry and I got married, he talked me into getting my CDL.  He said if we could both drive, we could make more money, and we did.”

She laughed.

“At first, it was scary.  I mean, driving one of these rigs sometimes feels like you’re driving a house down the highway.  People don’t understand that you can’t get going very fast once you stop, and they really, really don’t understand that you can’t stop a tractor and trailer as fast as they can stop their car.  What was so scary is what they do to you.  Still is sometimes.  They get mad because you’re not going very fast so they’ll pass you when they really don’t have room.  Then, they’ll cut you off trying to get back into the lane so they don’t hit the car in front of them.  

“I haven’t caused any accidents so far, but I’ve been in more than I want to.  Doesn’t hurt my truck.  That big chrome bumper on the front can take about anything, but it sure tears up a car when they cut me off and I can’t stop quick enough.

“After a while, though, I started to like it.  I love sitting up higher than everything else.  I can see everything for miles ahead of us, not just the back of the car in front of me.  It was nice too that I could do what I wanted to do and however I wanted to do it.  I worked in a grocery store before we got married, and there was always somebody telling me to do this or do that and how I should stock the shelves.  The cashier work, well, I didn’t like that at all.  You wouldn’t believe the kind of people you have to check out.  Some of ‘em are real jerks.

“Anyway, I owned the truck, and that was the only place I had to live.  I called the dispatcher and told him J & S Trucking was still in business and to start sending loads my way.  Picked up the first trailer on my own on the fifth of July in ’95, and bought this low-boy two years later.  That was ten years ago, and I’ve been driving ever since.  Wouldn’t change anything for the world.”

I asked Sandy if she didn’t regret not having a family.

She sighed.

“Yeah, sometimes, but after I’d been on the road by myself for a couple of years, I really liked it.  If I’d gotten married again and had kids, I’d have been sitting at home taking care of the kids and wishing I was out driving down the road.  That’s probably not how you think a woman should think, but it’s how I think.  

“I don’t think about that too much anymore.  I still could, I suppose.  I’m not too old yet, but I can’t imagine going to a high school play or game and having white hair.  

“Uh-oh.  See that red pickup three cars ahead?  He’s been trying to change lanes for the last five miles but that blue van won’t either pass or slow down to let him.  See how he keeps edging over to the left?  He’s mad and I’ll bet he’s gonna do something stupid.  I’m gonna slow down a little in case he does.”

I felt the truck and trailer start to lose speed just as the driver of the pickup hit the gas and pulled out in front of the van.  He’d have made it if his back bumper hadn’t caught the van’s front bumper.  The van spun sideways and then headed across the other lane.  Sandy pushed the button for the emergency lights, hit the brakes and steered for the right shoulder.  By the time she’d gotten the rig stopped, the van was sitting on the left shoulder and pointing in the wrong direction.  The pickup was nowhere to be seen.  As soon as it hit the van, the driver had straightened it out and floored it.

Sandy reached for the cell phone sitting in a holder on the dash and tapped in 911.  After reporting the accident, she grabbed a first-aid kit from behind her seat, got out of the truck and stood there until the traffic slowed down enough it was safe to cross the pavement.  I’d joined her by then, and we ran across I-65 to the van.

The young woman in the van was leaning on the steering wheel and crying.  I could barely understand her when Sandy asked her if she was hurt.  She shook her head, sobbed a couple of times, and then said something about just being scared.

Sandy helped her out of the van and over to the side of the shoulder, then gave her a hug.

“It’s OK, Honey.  You’re not hurt and the police are on their way.  I got it all on my dash cam, so they’ll catch the guy.  You’ll probably get a brand new van out of the deal.”

As we sat there and waited for the cops, I had to smile.  Sandy wasn’t what I’d thought when we first met.  I was the site supervisor on a construction site in Memphis, and when the truck pulled onto the site with a load of steel columns, I was surprised that the driver was a woman.  Every other truck that had come to the site was driven by a man.

Sandy didn’t look big enough and strong enough to open the load binders that chained the steel to the truck, and as it turned out, she didn’t have to.  Nate, the lead ironworker, a big burly guy who weighed in at about two fifty, walked up and grinned.

“Hi there Honey.  You’re sure a sight for sore eyes.  Need some help?”

Sandy batted her eyelashes and grinned.

“You could break all my chains loose for me.”

Nate grinned again.

“If you’re gonna hang around, I could do a lot more than that for you.”

Sandy just grinned.

“You know, that’d probably be fun, but I have to be in Dallas in about ten hours.  Sorry.  Maybe next time.”

Once she was unloaded, Sandy brought me the bill of lading and I checked to make sure it matched what we’d unloaded.  She handed me my copy after I signed it and then hung all her chains and load binders on the rack at the back of the truck cab.  

I took the bill of lading and filed it in the desk in the construction trailer, and when I came back out, Sandy was just driving off the site.  I had to smile.

I knew there were women who drove semi’s.  I’d never met one before Sandy, but I always figured they were at least very masculine women if not the kind of lesbians who like to dress like men.  Sandy looked like about any other woman, and if the way she treated Nate was any indication, she’d done her share of flirting with men.

If there ever was such a thing as a born asshole, Nate was that.  His crew worked for him, but they didn’t like him.  He could hardly say a sentence without interjecting “shit” or “fuck” in there somewhere.  Now, ironworkers are known for being pretty much all alpha males without much of a filter on what they say, but they didn’t like Nate calling them “shitheads” and “dumb fucks” all the time.  

He was about as crude as you can get, but Sandy had turned him into a pussycat.  Oh, he was out for everything he could get from her, there’s no doubt about that, but he didn’t swear even once.  If any male trucker had suggested Nate help unchain a load, he’d have laughed and said “I get paid for working steel, not running a goddammed fucking truck.  You unchain the shit and then I’ll unload it.”  He’d almost begged Sandy to let him help her.

At the time, I figured Sandy was taking advantage of her long, dark brown hair, her cute face, and the figure she hadn’t tried to hide at all.  Most of the truckers who dropped their loads on the site wore either shorts and a loose T-shirt or baggy jeans and a loose T-shirt.  Sandy was wearing jeans and a T-shirt too, but the jeans were those low-cut ones that accent a woman’s hips, and her T-shirt fit tight enough it molded itself around a pair of really nice breasts.  If I’d seen her in a bar dressed like that, I’d have figured she was fishing for a guy for the night.  I’m sure that’s what Nate thought too.

The next time I saw her, it was the Monday after a very bad week.  It had rained all week long, and that put the steel erection a week behind schedule.  Sandy rolled into the site with the girders and rafters that were supposed to go on top of the steel H-beams that formed the building columns, except only half of the columns had been put up.

As if that wasn’t enough, my boss had called me while I was still driving to the site and asked how I was going to get the job back on schedule.  I said the only way I knew was with overtime and a lot of it.  He told me that under no circumstances was I to authorize overtime by any trade.  Apparently, they’d bid this job low to get it, and overtime would burn up most of the profit.

When Sandy pulled into the site that Monday, I was thinking seriously about finding another job.  Schuster Construction was a big enough company you’d think they’d have had quoting guidelines that included the requirement to add  some percentage of the cost as a contingency, but I’d found this was typical of their management style – bid low and then pound on the site supervisor to bring the building in on time and under budget.  I’d about had it when she smiled and handed me the bill of lading.

“You look like somebody stole your puppy.  What’s wrong?”

Sandy stood there nodding her head as I explained.  When I got done, she patted me on the arm.

“That’s why I drive a truck.  You ought to give it a try.  You’re what, maybe thirty at most?  It’d take you about a month to get your CDL and then you could start driving for a trucking company.”

I said I was twenty-eight, but I didn’t have enough money to buy a truck even if that’s what I wanted to do.  She laughed then.

“You don’t have to buy a truck.  The trucking company would have you drive one of theirs and it’ll be almost new.  They’re all scrambling to find more drivers, so they get new trucks every few years to attract new drivers and to keep the ones they have.”

When I told her I didn’t know if I’d like that or not, Sandy smiled.

“You really serious about quitting this job?  If you are, find a trucker and ask if you can ride along for a while.  The trucking companies don’t allow riders, but an independent like me can.  Talk to one of the drivers bringing in your stuff.  I’ll bet you’ll find at least one who’ll let you tag along to see how it’s done.  We’re all pretty proud of what we do and we like to show off.”

Sandy loaded up her chains as soon as Nate unloaded her, and she drove off the site as I was walking back to the construction trailer.  The “message” light on my desk phone was blinking when I sat down.

I punched the button beside the blinking light and the computer generated voice told me the caller’s number.  It was my boss’s cell phone number.  I pressed the “7” key to listen to the message.

“Hey, Rick, got an idea about your project.  Why don’t you have half your steel guys put up the rest of the columns and the other half start on the girders and rafters?  The way I figure it, you’ll be able to make up the week and be putting on the roof deck by next Monday.  Just something for you to think about.”

Well, Harold had either never worked a construction site or had forgotten everything he ever knew about working steel.  I had four ironworkers and a crane operator on site.  That was the minimum number of workers required by the union contract, and sometimes that wasn’t really enough.

It takes one ironworker to rig the steel to the crane hook and run one of the tag lines, one to work the work the other tag line and one to guide the column into place on the anchor bolts by telling the crane operator to go up and down or side to side.  The other two don’t actually set the steel, but they’re just as important.  One runs the fork lift to bring the columns to the crane in the right sequence and the other runs the nuts down on the anchor bolts.  While the other ironworkers are getting the next column in place, he tightens those bolts down while the man who guided the crane watches the “bazooka bob” plumb bob to make sure the column stays plumb.

It also takes a minimum of four to set girders and rafters as well.  One reads the steel plan and rigs the correct girder or rafter to the crane hook according to the rafter plan.  He then helps another run the tag lines to keep the steel from swinging around.  Two are in bucket lifts guiding the girder or rafter into place and bolting or welding it there once it’s positioned.  While they’re doing that, the rigger runs the lift truck to bring the right bundle of girders or rafters to the staging area where the crane can reach them.

If I split my crew, it wouldn’t save time.  In fact, it would increase the time because each man would have to do two jobs that were in different locations and they’d burn up hours walking back and forth.  It would be especially bad for the guys hanging girders and rafters.  The man rigging the steel would have to run a single tag line.  He’d have to run back and forth depending upon which was the rafter was swinging.  It was either that or one or both of the workers in bucket lifts would have to go up and down all day.  Bucket lifts don’t go very fast in either direction.

The other problem with splitting my crew was the crane.  When we started setting columns again, the crane would have to be at the middle of the building where we’d stopped because of the rain.  In order to set girders and rafters it would have be at the end of the building where the columns were already plumbed and secured.  The crane I had on site would move at the blazing speed of about two miles an hour after the crane operator spent about an hour lowering the boom and retracting the stabilizers.  Once the crane was in place, he’d have to do all that in reverse, so we’d spend more time waiting on the crane to change locations than in setting steel.

To add to my problems, on Friday morning my boss called me again and said if the building didn’t get back on schedule, he’d have to reconsider the completion bonus I was supposed to get as part of my pay for the job.

It was later that Friday when Sandy pulled onto the site again with a trailer load of steel decking for the roof.  She was right on schedule.  I still wasn’t.  The columns were all up, plumbed, and secured in place, but we’d barely started setting the girders and rafters.  It would take about three more days to get everything set and welded in place, and then another day to weld in the angles to the bottom chords so the rafters wouldn’t twist under load.

We’d also lost another three days because some of the bolt holes in the column bases didn’t match the drawing and wouldn’t fit on the anchor bolts the concrete guys had cast into the column footers.  The engineer who designed the building let us burn new holes, but it took him a day to decide that was an acceptable fix and it took Nate’s crew another two days to build a jig and then get them all modified.  There was no way I was going to get back on schedule without working Saturdays and probably some Sundays.

Sandy walked over to where I stood watching Nate’s crew unloading the stacks of roof decking.  Just like the two times before, Nate was personally popping all the load binders and moving the chains out of the way.  Sandy watched for a few moments and then chuckled.

“That Nate guy seems to think I should want to hop into bed with him.  He said after he got the load unchained, his guys would do the unloading and I could show him the inside of my truck.  I don’t think he was talking about the steering wheel and gear shift.”

I smiled.

“That’s Nate.  He’s a horn dog if there ever was one.  From what I hear, the week we couldn’t set steel, he met a woman in a bar the first night and spent every night with her in his motel room.  That’s what he says anyway, but his guys say he had to pay her.”

Sandy chuckled again as Nate dragged a chain over a stack of roof deck and then dropped it on the ground.

“Not even if he paid me.  He has a beer gut, doesn’t seem to like shaving much, and he smells.”

She looked at me then and smiled.

“So, how’s it going with you?  Find your puppy yet?”

“No, it’s getting worse.  We’ve lost more time because of an error with some of the columns, and this morning, my boss called me and said if I don’t get back on schedule, he’ll have to take away my completion bonus.  I make pretty good money, but a third of it is in that completion bonus.  There’s no way I can get back on schedule without spending money.  Evidently he’s going to balance the increase in cost by having me pay for it.”

As soon as I’d said all that, I was pretty ashamed of myself.  I shouldn’t have unloaded on Sandy like that.  It was just that when you supervise a construction site, you have to stay in control.  If I’d told any of the guys what was happening, they’d have thought I was soft, and the next time I had to change how they were doing something, they’d either argue with me instead of working, or worse, just ignore me and keep doing what they were doing before.

With Sandy, well, I didn’t have to tell her how to do anything and it was very easy to talk to her.  When I told her as much, Sandy smiled and patted my arm.

“You don’t have to apologize.  I know how you feel because I had a job kind of like that once.  That’s why I drive a truck now.  Thought anymore about giving this up and doing that?”

I had, ever since the phone call from my boss that morning.  If he took my completion bonus, I’d end up working for less than what we were paying the tradesmen on the job.  The money thing hurt, but wouldn’t hurt me all that much.  I was single with no real expenses except for clothes.  Schuster paid for my meals and motel room while I was on site, and the truck I drove was a company truck.  All I needed was enough to tide me over until I got another site to supervise.  I’d get by and maybe make it up on the next job.

What did bother me was that Schuster, well, my boss anyway, seemed to think I wasn’t worth what they were paying me.  I’d always thought a supervisor should make at least as much the people he supervises.  I hadn’t stopped supervising during that week of rain.  I’d been working my ass off with Nate trying to figure out how to recover at least some of the time.  I didn’t like Nate, but if anybody knew how to get that time back, it was him and we’d actually been able to make up one day.  Now, it looked like my boss was holding me responsible for something I couldn’t control.

I looked at Sandy.

“Yeah, I have, especially since this morning.  I don’t know if I’d like what you do or not though.

Sandy touched my arm again.

“You’ll never know unless you try it out.  Have you been talking to the other truckers about that?”

I said I hadn’t had time.  What she said then sort of floored me.

“You’re talking to me about it right now.”

Well, I didn’t really know Sandy and I knew she didn’t really know me.  That’s what I told her.

“Miss…sorry, but I don’t know your name, are you asking me if I’d like to ride with you?”

She grinned.

“I’m Sandy, Sandy Richards, and I wouldn’t mind having somebody in my shotgun seat for a while.  I like driving, but sometimes it gets lonely, so yeah, it’d be nice having someone to talk to for a change.  You seem to be pretty sharp, and I think you’ll probably behave yourself.  Whatcha think about holding down my right seat for a week or so?”

My dad always told me to never quit a job until I had another one in the bag, but then, he was a commercial electrician who worked high-voltage lines so he never had to do either.  There aren’t a lot of those guys around because it’s a very dangerous job.  Over the years he was away from home a lot, but he never had to be concerned about finding a job.  The jobs found him.

I looked back at the construction trailer.  I was going to spend the next eight months or so in that little ten by twenty-four foot box, fielding complaints from my boss and the construction workers during the day and sitting in my motel room watching TV every night.  When that job was over, I’d move to another site and do the same thing.  

I turned back to Sandy.

“Where are you headed next?”

“Arizona.  I’m picking up a load of hardwood lumber here in Memphis for a furniture factory in Phoenix.  From there, I’m taking some aircraft parts from one of the defense plants there back to a Navy base in North Carolina.  I don’t have anything scheduled after that, but something’ll come along.  Why?”

“Were you serious about me riding with you, or were you just trying to make me feel better?”

She grinned.

“Probably both, but if you want to hitch a ride, I’ll be happy to give you one.”

It took me five minutes to tell everybody they had the rest of the day off and another five to call my boss and tell him I was resigning effective immediately.  I picked up everything I had in the construction trailer, climbed into the cab of Cindy’s truck, and she took me to my motel.  Half an hour later, she was threading the rig through the traffic of Memphis to the sawmill where the lumber was made.

We didn’t talk much until we got to the sawmill and Sandy had backed her trailer into the loading dock.  It took almost an hour before they were ready for her to chain down the pallets of oak, walnut, and cherry.  We talked a little during that time, but it was more about me than about her.  Once she got the bill of lading, Sandy pulled out into the parking lot and we started securing the load.

I still thought she probably wasn’t strong enough to do all that by herself, but it turned out that was wrong.  Sandy didn’t manhandle the chains and load binders like Nate had.  I could tell it was a struggle to lift a pile of chain to the top of a pallet of lumber, but once she had it there, she’d just pull one end down and hook the hook to the rail on her trailer, then walk around that pallet and pull the chain tight and hook the free end in the rail on that side.  Of course, there was some slack, and it was in that slack she put the load binder.

A load binder is a sort of toggle thing with a hook on each end.  Sandy would hook the top hook in the chain over the load and the bottom hook in the free end that was hooked onto the trailer rail.  She’d pull on the load binder handle to take up the slack, and if she could pull it until it went over center, she’d open it again and hook the top to the next highest chain link.  I was wondering how she was going to pull the handle then, because I’d done that with one chain and it was a struggle for me.  Sandy laughed when I pulled on the handle and grunted until it closed.

“You’re working way to hard there, Rick.  Let me show you how it’s done.”

She went back to the back of her cab, opened a door on the side and pulled out a pipe about five feet long.  The inside of that pipe was a snug fit on the handle of the load binder, and the added leverage made pulling it over center look easy.  She did the first one and then looked at me and grinned.

“That’s how I do it when some guy like Nate isn’t around.  Try it and you’ll see.”

Well, it was night and day.  I’d had to pull with everything I had on the one I’d done by hand.  I think I could have used just one hand with the pipe and it would have worked without me having to strain much at all.

We got everything tied down and after Sandy tried all the chains, she said, “Let’s go.”

We were across the river and heading away from West Memphis before Sandy told me much about herself.  At that time of day on Friday, the traffic was a mess so she had to concentrate on driving.  After we passed the last off ramp into the suburbs, Sandy set the cruise control and then grinned at me.

“Well, that’s over for now.  Didn’t wet your pants or anything like that did you?”

I chuckled.

“No, but being so high, I saw some things that did scare me a little.  I guess I never saw that in my pickup.  Is it always this crazy?”

“At this time of day, pretty much.  Everybody’s in a hurry to get home as fast as they can.  It used to scare me, but I’ve mostly gotten used to it now.”

I asked her how she started driving a truck, and she was telling me when we started coming up on a pickup piled high with furniture.  That furniture didn’t look to me like it was tied down very well, and Sandy didn’t think so either.  She looked in both side mirrors, then signaled to pass the pickup.  It was when we pulled back in she told me the story I related before.

We sat there with the woman from the van for another fifteen minutes before an Arkansas State Trooper pulled onto the left shoulder and turned on his light bar.  He talked to the woman a little and then to Sandy and me.

Sandy told him what had happened, and said her dash cam would have recorded the truck hitting the van, and might even have the license number of the truck.  She took him to her truck and about five minutes later they came back.  The cop put the memory card from her dash cam into the computer on his center console and copied it, then handed it back to her.  After getting our names and cell phone numbers, he said he’d call us if he needed anything more and that we could leave.

It was almost seven by then.  I was getting hungry but didn’t know if I should ask Sandy to stop.  She did stop half an hour later at a Love’s truck stop.  Once she’d shut off the engine, I started to get out, but she stopped me.

“We’ll go use the restrooms, but don’t buy anything to eat.  That stuff’ll make you fat and it always gives me gas.  We’ll eat here in my truck.”

I hadn’t looked behind the seats because Sandy had sort of a curtain there.  When we got back, she opened the curtain and grinned.

“Welcome to Sandy’s Bar and Grill.  I have soda’s and sweet tea, and I have frozen dinners.  What would you say to meatloaf with potatoes and gravy?  That’s what I’m having.”

In less than ten minutes, the microwave above Sandy’s little refrigerator/freezer produced a meatloaf dinner for both of us.  It wasn’t a very big meal, but it was OK.  She said we’d stop at a Walmart tomorrow and get what she called some “man-sized” dinners for me.  

I figured we’d start driving again as soon as we ate, but Sandy set me straight about that.

“The rules let me do my trucking thing for fourteen hours, and I can drive for eleven hours out of that fourteen.  After that, I have to have ten hours of rest.  I started for Memphis at five this morning.  I did have some down time waiting to get unloaded, but as of now, I’ve been driving ten and a half hours.  We can’t make another truck stop or rest area in a half hour, so we’ll spend the night here.”

We’d been sitting on the bed in Sandy’s sleeper, but it was only one bed and it was about the size of a twin.  I was pretty sure she didn’t intend to give it to me and sleep in the driver’s seat, so I said if she’d take me to a motel, I’d spend the night there.  

Sandy just laughed, “Nah, that’ll take too long and it’ll cost you”, then stood up and pulled a loop near the ceiling. Another bed came down about three feet above the one where I was sitting.

“You can have the top bunk, Rick, and I’ll take the bottom one.  Let me put clean sheets and a blanket up there and then we’ll watch a movie before we turn in.”

I only half watched the movie.  I kept wondering about how we were going to “turn in” as Sandy said.  I didn’t feel comfortable undressing in front of her and I was damned sure she wouldn’t feel comfortable about undressing in front of me.

When the movie ended, Sandy shut off the DVD player and TV, then grinned.

“If you’re gonna travel with me, you have to lose some modesty ‘cause I don’t have a dressing room.  You just turn around and face the TV and I’ll turn around and face my little closet.  When you have your jammies on stay that way and don’t peek until I get into mine.  Then we’ll go to bed.”

Well, that would have worked just fine if I’d had any pajamas, but I always sleep in my underwear.

“Uh…Sandy…I, uh, I never wear pajamas.”

She giggled.

“This is gonna be a more interesting trip than I thought.”

“Sorry, but that’s how it is.  I don’t even own a pair of pajamas.”

“No need to say you’re sorry.  Jerry never slept in pajamas either.  Here’s what we’ll do.  When I get my jammies on, I’ll tell you.  I’ll stay turned away while you climb up and once you’re there, you face the back of the sleeper and tell me you’re in.  Then I’ll get in bed.  In the morning, we’ll do the same thing in reverse.”

I stood there in my underwear for a few minutes before Sandy said, “OK, up you go.”  I tried not to look when I climbed up into the top bunk, but it was unavoidable.  It was also pretty nice.

Sandy had on what looked to me like boxer shorts and a sports bra.  The shorts had sort of slipped down onto the flare of her hips, and the legs that came out of those shorts were slender and looked really smooth.  Those curves were a whole lot more inviting than they were in jeans.  After one look, I pulled myself up in the top bunk and rolled to my side.

“OK, Sandy, I’m in.”

The lights in the sleeper went out then and I heard the rustle of the sheet and blanket on Sandy’s bed.  The sleeper rocked a little when she got in and then said, “nighty night, Rick”.

It took me a while to fall asleep because I kept remembering how Sandy’s ass looked.  I suppose it was as much that I knew she was naked under those shorts as what I saw, but I realized that night that Sandy was a very desirable woman.  Yeah, I hadn’t seen any more of her, but that feeling was just there, you know.

There was no way I was going to turn into Nate just because of that.  I was Sandy’s guest and that wouldn’t have been right, and besides, she was six years older than I.  That didn’t really make a difference to me, but it probably would to her.

My watch said it was five AM when Sandy’s alarm beeped.  She bumped the bottom of my bunk then.

“Time to roll over, Rick.  I’ll tell you when I’m dressed and then I’ll go sit in the front until you are.  I usually take a sponge bath with some baby wipes, and I’ll leave the package on top of the microwave if you want to do that too.  After that, we’ll have breakfast.”

No, I didn’t sneak a look while Sandy took her sponge bath.  I do have some ethics.  I kept my face turned toward the back of the sleeper until Sandy said, “I’ll be in front waiting”.

When I slipped down to the floor I sniffed my pits and decided Sandy’s sponge bath would be a good idea.  While I was at it, I did my chest and face.  About five minutes later, I poked my head through the opening in the curtain.

“I’m dressed.”

Breakfast was fresh coffee Sandy brewed in her electric pot and egg and cheese biscuits warmed up in her microwave.  When we finished, she dumped the coffee grounds and biscuit wrappers in a trash bag inside a bucket, then carried the trash bag to a dumpster in the lot.  When she came back, she started the engine and then checked all the gauges on the dash.  After that, she got out and did a walk-around of both the truck and trailer.  I followed along to see what she did.

All the chains were still tight and she didn’t have any low tires.  She made sure the fifth-wheel lock was in place and wouldn’t move and that the glad hands on the brake lines were on and locked.  I stood behind the trailer while she tried the turn signals, brake lights, and parking lights, and then in front to check the headlights, signals, and running lights.  They all checked out, so we climbed back in the cab and fastened our seat belts.

Sandy pressed down the clutch, moved the shifter to the first gear position, and then applied the accelerator at the same time she eased out the clutch.  The cab rocked to the right when the clutch caught, and we started moving out of the lot.  She shifted twice more while driving down the road to the on-ramp, and once we made turn on the ramp, started up-shifting to get up speed.  She was doing about fifty when we merged onto I-40 West, and kept accelerating and shifting until she was doing sixty-five.

It was great to ride so high off the road.  The company pickup was a four-wheel drive truck so it sat higher than most cars, but this was fantastic.  I watched Arkansas roll by and I could see everything. After about twenty miles, I looked over at Sandy and said, “Wow.  This is great.”

She just chuckled.

“My truck or the scenery?”

“Well, both, I guess.  I’ve been through Arkansas before, but I never saw all of this.  Your truck is great too.”

I didn’t tell her the scenery in the driver’s seat was pretty great as well.  She’d changed her T-shirt from the day before to a snug tank top.  Her cleavage made it really hard to look anything else.

We drove for about another two hours before Sandy took an off-ramp that didn’t look like it went anywhere.  Once she’d parked the rig on the shoulder of the ramp, she smiled.

“I can drive for eight hours at a stretch, but there are some things that won’t wait eight hours.  You stay up here and I’ll be right back.  Then it’ll be your turn.”

I wasn’t sure what Sandy was talking about until I heard a zipper and then a quiet hiss.  I heard the zipper again, and then Sandy came out from behind the curtain with a big laundry detergent bottle with a very wide mouth in one hand.

“This is the potty for “number one” unless we’re at a rest stop or a truck stop.  You go back and take care of things while I get us back on the road.”

She grinned then.

“Just be sure to put the cap back on and stick it in the space between the fridge and the cabinet, OK.”

I went behind the curtain while Sandy drove on up the ramp, across the county road and then down the on ramp on the other side.  I learned pretty fast that you had be careful using the bottle.  Sandy hit a bump before I was ready to let go, and if I had, I’d have hosed down the sleeper.  I waited until she was down the ramp and back on I-40 just to be safe.  When I got done, I put the cap back on and stuck it between the refrigerator and cabinet.

When I got back in my seat and buckled up, Sandy looked over and grinned.

“Betcha never did that before.”

I had to chuckle.

“No, that was a first, but I have a feeling I’m gonna have a lot of firsts before this trip is over.”

“Yep, but that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?  You’re learning what a trucker’s life is like to see if you like it or not.”

Well, that first day I did like it.  We made Oklahoma City within Sandy’s eleven hours of wheel time and spent the night in a truck stop.  The second day, we drove across the Texas panhandle and I liked it more.  At the end of the third day, we rolled into a Love’s on the east side of Albuquerque for fuel.  I knew Sandy had been behind the wheel for almost eleven hours by then, so I figured we’d stop for the night and make Phoenix the next day.

It was after we’d had dinner that Sandy asked me what I wanted to do for the next day and a half.  I told her I thought we’d keep on driving but she shook her head.

“Like I said before, I can be in my truck and taking care of business for fourteen hours a day.  That means my eleven hours driving and also things like loading and unloading, fueling and anything else related to my business.  Once I hit sixty hours in a seven day period, I have to take thirty-four hours off.  I hit my sixty hours when we pulled into this Love’s, so it’s here we stay until Wednesday morning.”

I asked Sandy what she usually did when she had to stop that long.  She chuckled.

“Usually, I just do my laundry and take a shower.  Sponge baths keep me feeling mostly clean, but it’s nice to stand under a hot shower for a while.  I wash my hair then too.  That’s about it.”

I hadn’t shaved in three days and I had some underwear I hadn’t gotten washed back at the motel in Memphis.

“That sounds good to me.  Maybe after we do that, I can buy you dinner tomorrow night.  I see a restaurant within walking distance.  The frozen dinners are good and I’m not complaining, but it would be nice to sit at a table and have someone else do the cooking.”

Sandy smiled a funny smile.

“You know, that’s what Jerry always wanted to do, get our laundry done, take a shower, and then take me out for dinner.  Sometimes it was just hamburgers, but I always liked it.  Dinner it is then.”

The next morning, we took our dirty laundry to the Love’s and used the washing machines and dryers.  Well, actually, we only used one.  Neither Sandy or I had enough to fill a machine, so she said we might as well just pay for one and dump everything in together.  Since I didn’t have any detergent, I saved the four bucks for the washer and dryer and another two for detergent.

When the dryer stopped, I started sorting my stuff out of the heap.  I’d found two pairs of underwear and three socks when I pulled a white T-shirt out of the pile and a pink bra came with it.

Sandy giggled.

“That’s probably mine.”

She picked it up, stuck one cup inside the other and put it in her laundry bag, but not before I saw how large the cups were and that it had four hooks on the band.  I always thought my mom was pretty big, and her bras only had three hooks.

Somehow, my stuff had gotten tangled up with Sandy’s in the dryer.  I remember starting to fold up a long-sleeve shirt and finding a lump in one sleeve.  I figured a sock had gotten stuck down the sleeve, and when I pulled the lump out, it was black, but it wasn’t one of my black socks.  When I realized what I was holding, I dropped it like it was a hot rivet.  The little bikini panties were smooth, silky nylon except for the transparent mesh panel in the front, and there was a little bow just above that.

I didn’t know Sandy was watching me until she giggled again.  When I looked at her, she was holding a pair of my briefs.

“I’m pretty sure those won’t fit you.  Wanna trade?”

By the time we had our laundry separated I’d found another pair of panties, this time pink lace boy shorts, stuck down the leg of my jeans, and another bra that had gotten tangled up with one of my shirts.  This bra looked just as big, but it was pale blue and the cups were just mesh.

On our way back to Sandy’s truck, we stopped at the counter and arranged for two showers.  I was going to pay for mine, but she stopped me.

“I always fill up at a Love’s if there’s one around, and every time I do, I get shower credits.  I’ll never use all mine, so I’ll use some to pay for yours too.”

We had to wait half an hour before they called our names over the PA and said our showers were ready.  It was then I realized I had another problem.  

When you live in motels all the time, you never buy washcloths or towels, and I didn’t have a single one to my name.  I asked Sandy what to do about that.  She just grinned.

“They have towels and washcloths but you have to pay to use them.  We’ll park at a Walmart one of these nights and you can buy some.  In the meantime, you can use one of my washcloths and towels.  You probably don’t have any soap or shampoo either, do you?”

Well, I did have those.  I always picked up the little bars of soap and the bottles of shampoo and conditioner they leave in the motel room every day.  I had probably fifty of each in my duffel bag.

“I don’t need those.  I save the ones from the motel.”

Sandy handed me a pink towel and a blue washcloth.

“OK then, let’s go.”

I don’t think any shower I ever took was as great as that one.  Washing with a baby wipe works, but you don’t really have that all-over clean feeling when you get done.  The shower time was thirty minutes and I used at least fifteen just letting the water hose me off.  When I dried off, I shaved and that felt pretty good too.  

Sandy was waiting for me when I came out.  Her hair was still wet, but on her, wet looked pretty sexy.  I don’t know why it struck me that way, but it did.  When we took our stuff back to the truck, she got a fresh towel, dried her hair as much as she could and then combed it the way I’d usually seen her wear her hair.  It wasn’t anything fancy, but I could see why she liked that style.  It was simple to do and didn’t require a hair dryer or curling iron like my mom used.

The restaurant was more of a fast food chicken place, but after we ordered, the girl at the register handed us two tall plastic glasses for drinks and a little plastic sign with a number on it.  She said they’d bring our food as soon as it was ready.  We got our drinks and then sat down at a table to wait.

Sandy seemed to be thinking about something because she wasn’t talking or smiling.  Another girl brought our food to the table before I could ask her if anything was wrong.  As soon as she took a bite of her chicken breast, she smiled.

“I guess I should treat myself like this more often.  Fried stuff isn’t good for you, but it sure tastes a lot better than microwaved meatloaf and spaghetti.”

I swallowed my french fry and then smiled.

“I like this too.  I’ve spent the last two years eating in restaurants, so it isn’t the food.  It’s the fact that I’m not sitting here alone like I always am.  The chicken is good, but the company is better.”

Sandy’s face got sober all of a sudden.

“That’s what Jerry always used to tell me when he took me out.”

Her smile came back then.

“I don’t know why that came back to me like that.  Let’s talk about something else.  What do you think so far?”

“Well, a week ago, I’d have been sitting in a restaurant by myself after spending the day explaining to my boss why I couldn’t get my building back on schedule without spending more money and then arguing with Nate that he didn’t need more people or overtime work.  

If I wasn’t doing that, I’d have been either sitting in the construction trailer being bored to death or walking around the site checking on things I’d already checked on a hundred times before.  I’d go to bed that night knowing the next day was going to go the same way.  The high point of any day would have been when a truck made a delivery because that was something different.

“You haven’t had to explain to anybody where we are or why we’re not where they expected us to be.  You haven’t had to argue with anybody about anything.  Every minute of every day has been something different.  Sometimes it was just watching the scenery, sometimes it was watching people do stupid stuff and hoping there wouldn’t be a wreck, but it was always different.  I like it.  I like it a lot.”

“You don’t mind not having a place of your own to go back to?”

I chuckled.

“Well, the only place I had to go back to was a motel room unless I had a week or two between jobs.  I’d go spend some time with Mom and Dad then, so I haven’t  had a place of my own for almost three years now.”

We talked about a few more things while we finished eating, but I noticed that Sandy seemed to be preoccupied by something.  She was still that way after we got back to her truck.  We watched another movie but every time I looked at her, she had that same look on her face like she was thinking about something.  

When the movie ended, Sandy didn’t say anything like “That was pretty good, but I’ve seen better”, like she usually did.  She just got up off the bed and shut off the DVD player and TV.  Always before, we’d gone to sleep right after that.  That night though, she didn’t do like always and say that.  Instead she looked at me for a while, and then smiled.

“This probably isn’t something you want to hear, but I’m going to miss you when you stop riding with me.  I’d forgotten what it was like to have somebody to talk with.”

I asked her why she thought I wouldn’t want to hear that.”

Sandy looked at the floor.

“Well, I’m a lot older than you are for one thing.”

“Sandy, six years isn’t a lot older.  It would be if you were sixteen and I was ten, but not now.”

“I know, but six years is still a lot.”

“Why would that make any difference anyway?  It’s not like we’re dating or anything like that.  You’re just helping me to decide if I’d like to do this for a living.”

Sandy looked up at me and I saw tears in her eyes.

“That’s what I thought it was going to be, but it’s changed, for me at least.  When I see you sitting there beside me, I remember how it was when Jerry was alive.  When you help me make my walk-around before we start out every day, I remember Jerry doing that.  Tonight, when we were eating dinner, I remembered him sitting across from me and telling me he couldn’t imagine doing this by himself ever again.

I said it was normal for her to miss her husband, but Sandy just shook her head.

“It’s not that.  I do miss Jerry, but after all this time it’s more like when a friend moves away and you know you won’t see them again.  It’s not that I didn’t love Jerry, because I loved him with all my heart and I still think about him sometimes, but it isn’t Jerry I miss as much as what he used to do and the fact he was with me.  

“That’s what changed.  I thought I was happy driving by myself, and I was, but the last three days have been the best of my life since Jerry died.  It’s selfish, I know, but I don’t want that to end.”

I didn’t quite know what to say to that.  I mean, I’d changed too over the past three days, so I knew kind of what Sandy was saying.  I’d originally thought it would just be a vacation from a job I didn’t like.  I wasn’t really sure anything was going to make me want to drive a truck, but all the things I’d thought would make me decide I didn’t want to do that had made me understand how great that would be.

The other thing that had changed was how I looked at Sandy.  That first day on the site, I’d figured she wasn’t really much of a woman.  She just knew how to get a man to do what she wanted.  After three days, and especially right then, I saw Sandy for what she really was.  Sandy was just as much a woman as any I’d ever met and more woman than many of those.  She’d become a friend over those three days, and that friend had become more than just a friend.  I just hadn’t realized it until then.

“Sandy, what are you telling me?”

Sandy took the two steps that separated us and then put her palms on my chest.

“I’m telling you I don’t want you to leave me because I think I’m falling in love with you.”

“Sandy, what would you say if I said I feel the same way about you?”

Sandy put her arms around my neck and smiled.

“I’d say you should show me how you feel.”

She kissed me then.  I kissed her back because I couldn’t do anything else.  It just felt right, you know, to put my arms around her and hold her close.  When she eased back down off her tiptoes, she smiled.

“After that, I don’t think we’re gonna need the top bunk tonight.”

“Sandy, I’m not really…I mean I don’t have – “

“You don’t need anything.  Just make love to me.”

I didn’t need any convincing to do that.  I didn’t need any convincing to pull the T-shirt over her head when she raised up her arms, and I didn’t need to think about unhooking her bra and then sliding it off her arms.  When her breasts slipped from the cups, I stroked the side of the left one and Sandy shuddered a little and then started unbuttoning my shirt.  She didn’t wait to get it all the way off.  She just put her arms around my neck and pressed her breasts into my bare chest, then murmured, “I’d forgotten what this feels like.”

I’d forgotten too.  I’d dated a little before getting the job with Schuster, but after that, it was hard to develop any sort of relationship with a woman. There had been a couple who liked sex and I’d been more than willing, but it always ended the same way. I’d be in an area only a few months and then I’d be gone.  The girl didn’t want to follow me around all over the country, so we’d part as friends.  After those two, I stopped trying.  It was too painful to say goodbye.

Sandy’s nipples pressed into my chest reminded me.  So did the feeling of her hips when I cupped them and pulled her a little closer.  They weren’t the tight hips of a young girl.  Sandy’s ass was soft, round, and just about the most erotic thing I’d ever felt.  When I undid the snap and zipper of her jeans, eased them down to her knees and then cupped her hips again, Sandy sighed and then pushed gently away from me.

“We need to get in bed now before you have to pick me up and put me there.”

She rolled the pink boyshorts down her hips and thighs, then spread her legs a little when they caught on her thighs.  Sandy then tossed them to the side, laid back on the sleeper bed and held out her arms.

It didn’t take me long to get my own clothes off, though it was hard to not just climb up beside Sandy instead.  Her breasts sat in two soft mounds on her chest and if she moved even a little, they sort of rolled sensuously.  When she opened her thighs, her soft lips peeked out at me from beneath the trimmed brown hair on her mound.

Sandy snuggled up close when I got in beside her and then put her soft, smooth thigh over mine.  I kissed her, then nibbled down her chin to her chest and then all around her right nipple.  Sandy caught her breath when I closed my lips around that nipple and sucked gently.

“Ooooh, I’d forgotten that too”, she murmured and then slipped her right hand down my side.

She could reach far enough to touch my cock, but she didn’t have to.  It was already stiff and aching to feel her body close around it.  I didn’t hurry her though.  I’d learned the hard way that was a bad thing to do.  Mary had looked up at me when I’d shot my load and said, “Is that it?  That had made me feel as weak as my shriveling cock.

I didn’t have a clue as to how Sandy liked to be aroused, but she seemed to like everything I did, some things more than others, of course, but she never pushed my hand or mouth away.  Her nipples rose swollen taut and covered with little ridges when I touched the tips with my tongue or sucked them gently.  She shivered when I cupped her hip and then ran a fingertip down the separation between them.

When I pulled her thigh up a little so I could reach the lips there, she gasped and pushed her body into mine.  I felt her tummy roll a little when I stroked those lips, and she caught her breath when my fingertip slipped between them.  

I won’t bore you with a bunch of words about how much she gasped or tell you she begged me to enter her because Sandy didn’t do either.  It was a little different, but she let me know how she was feeling by the way she’d press closer when my finger slipped inside her entrance and then pushed back to keep it there when I tried to pull it out.  

The way she got slippery inside wasn’t different, except it happened before I thought it would.  The only thing she really said came after I’d stroked my finger deep inside her and then slowly moved it up to the little swollen button at the top of her lips.  Sandy moaned then.

“Oh Rick, I need you.”

I started to roll her over on her back, but Sandy held on tight and started trying to move her body to line up with my rigid cock.  I’d never done it that way before, but I tried to help.  I felt my cock head brush her mound, then slip between her soft lips as I moved down a little.  After moving it down a little more, I felt Sandy rock her hips up and then the feeling of my cock head slipping inside her.

Sandy moaned then and rocked her hips again.  That was all it took to get things lined up, and I held my breath as my cock slowly slipped inside her snug passage.  Sandy raised her thigh a little more, and before I knew it, the base of my cock had flattened her lips against her inner thighs.

I have no doubt Nate would have said he was fucking Sandy, but that wasn’t what I was doing.  In fact, I wasn’t doing anything by myself.  We, both Sandy and I, were making love.  It wasn’t just me stroking my cock in and out of her until I shot my load.  It was her meeting every slow stroke and then running her hand down my back to make the sensation that much more intense.  It was me bending my head to nuzzle her nipples and then kissing her when she sighed and murmured “yes”.

It was her thigh over mine that moved up so my cock would go even deeper, deep enough I felt my cock head slide into a warm and snug spot I’d never felt inside a woman before.  It was her starting to dig her nails into my back or as far down my ass as she could reach when she started to rock her hips into each stroke.

The end didn’t come quickly at all, but I still wished it had taken longer.  Sandy groaned, “Oh Rick” and then arched against me.  I felt her muscles contract around my shaft, then release as she started to pant.  After two more strokes, she arched up again, cried out softly, and then her hips began to shake.  

I couldn’t hold back any longer.  I pushed my cock deep and then groaned as the spurt raced up my shaft.  Sandy stayed arched against me as the second and third splashed inside her, then gasped and eased gently back down.  As we lay there, my cock still inside her and Sandy’s heart still beating hard against my chest, she stroked my back and covered my face with little kisses.

It’s odd how some things can slip up on you before you realize it’s happening, and yet, when you look back, it was happening all along.  Without realizing it, in three days, I’d gone from just liking Sandy to loving her.  I know, you’ll just say it was the sex that made me only think I loved her, but you’d be wrong.  Making love to Sandy was great, just like it had been for me before, but this went way beyond just feeling my cock inside her and then the breathtaking feeling as I shot my load.

No, it was a feeling of never wanting to be without her again.  When I looked back that night as I was trying to fall asleep, I realized it hadn’t just happened that night.  It had started when I watched her comforting that girl who’d had the wreck.  Sandy was acting just like my mother had when the first girl I’d ever dated had dumped me.

That feeling kept worming its way into my mind with about everything she did.  I had no doubts that she had loved Jerry with all her heart, just like she’d told me, but Sandy had room in that heart for me as well.  Even though she’d told me a lot of truckers would have invited me to ride along, I knew that wasn’t really true.  She just understood I was feeling down and had tried to pick up my spirits.

When I had asked if I could ride with her for a while, she didn’t stop to think.  She’s just smiled and said yes.  I didn’t know until that night that the same feelings were taking her to the same place I was.  I’m sure she did, but she never said anything until that night.

I did have to leave Sandy for a motel room again, but only for about a month.  I spent the first two weeks of that month learning how to drive a semi, and the last two on the road driving under the eye of an instructor.  At the end of that month, I had a brand new Class A CDL in my wallet, and I was again sitting in Sandy’s truck.  She let me drive a lot, but at first took over when we went through the maze of interstate exchanges around big cities.

It’s worked out really well.  Instead of eleven hours, we can switch off and keep driving until we both hit sixty hours in seven days.  One of us stretches out on the sleeper bed while the other keeps rolling the rig along.  At the end of those seven days, we’ll stop, do our laundry, take a shower, and then find a place to eat.  When we get back to the truck, Sandy will put her arms around my neck and whisper, “Remember that first night?  I think I forgot, so you’ll have to show me again.”

I don’t need to be convinced to do that, but I suppose you never do when you feel about someone like Sandy and I feel about each other.  She’s still a little worried about the difference in our ages though.  That’s why she hasn’t yet agreed to marry me.  She told me once that she’s afraid when she gets older, I’ll feel more like she’s my mother than my wife.  I smiled and stroked the hair from her face.

“I don’t think you’re gonna have to worry about that.  Mom was never as sexy as you are and she’d never drive a truck.”

Sandy thought for a second and then giggled.

“So I guess I’ll be your ‘trucker mother’ then.”

Well, after that, it’s become my pet name for her.  I’ll pull over to the shoulder when it’s time to switch, walk back into the sleeper and wake her up.

“Come on, my little trucker mother.  It’s time for Mom to get behind the wheel.”

Sandy will stretch and I’ll think about finding a rest stop instead.  She gave up her boxers and sports bra after that first night, so when she stretches and lifts her big breasts up from under the sheet, sleeping while she drives is the furthest thing from my mind.  I have to remind myself that in another eight hours we’ll have to stop so she can take a half hour break.  

Three days doesn’t seem like enough time to change a person like it did us both.  Half an hour isn’t very long either, but sometimes it’s long enough.

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