Nathan's Laserium: Retirement Tour

So this is a short piece I wrote back in 2009, kind of based on an actual incident though very fictionalized. November always reminds me of hitch-hiking, since it's the time of year I finished up my cross-canada trip back in 1997. I always think it'd be great fun to retrace my adventure for its 20th anniversary but for some reason my wife strongly disagrees. We have two years to talk her into it! Enjoy, in the meantime.

It was his retirement tour. If he was honest with himself, it was his second retirement tour. The first time it was after he got married. No married man should be out hitch-hiking around, he told himself at the time. So just this one more trip. And a few years later when she told him she was pregnant, and after the euphoria settled down, he decided he should hit the road one more time before the baby came and he had to become responsible. 
He grabbed his sleeping bag and hiking boots and quick! out the door. He left a note for his wife telling her how much he loved her and that he would be back in a few days. Most other wives would have been angry and she was no different but she would forgive him. She knew when she married him he was a wanderer. And so long as he wandered highways and not beds she could live with it, even if she worried.
He never worried, not really. Sometimes he got into peculiar situations, even times he might call Crazy Fucked Up Shit, but he always found his way home. And anyways he had a way with people. He could build a rapport without even trying. Most times he didn't try, actually, and his rides would open right up to him. He was a story sponge. He never told stories, he just absorbed them from the people who gave him rides. You're a good listener they would always say. Thanks for the ride he would say.
It took a couple of hours to get out of the city- it always did. He hated that part but it had to be done. Once out on the highway though it was better. Even when it took hours to get a ride it was better. He could think. This time he had a lot to think about. Being a dad. Talk about Crazy Fucked Up Shit. His thumb was out but he didn't really look at the passing cars. Someone would pull over eventually. Maybe sooner, maybe later.
This time it was sooner. He almost didn't notice, actually, all lost in thought. It was an 18 wheeler. Usually the big rigs didn't stop. Too dangerous. Against the rules. Insurance costs too much. You know. He had to approach casually, in case the driver had pulled over to check a map or something and hadn't meant to pick him up. But the driver waved him to hurry so he climbed in.
Middle-aged white guy, hair going grey. Thin. They greeted each other. Then from the sleeper he noticed two kids. Brothers, probably, though they were not both the same color. The younger one was metis, by the look of him. The driver asked where he was headed. Prince Rupert I think, he said. Maybe the Charlottes.
I can get you to Jasper at least.
Cool. Thanks.
Name's John. These are my sons. Matt. Luke.
He thinks to himself, Matthew Luke and John. Who's missing? Mark. But he says, pleased to meet you.
The boys are shy at first but their rambunctiousness wins out eventually. They are on an adventure with their dad, and strange hitch-hikers just add to the fun. They ask him all kinds of questions, and he answers them till their dad tells them to leave him alone. Luke, or maybe Matt, though, gets in one more before they comply. Do you have any kids?
Not yet. Wife's expecting, though.
John beams. No kidding? Congratulations man! Kids are the best thing ever happened to me.
Jasper is four hours away, and they spend the time telling jokes. The kids in the back love knock knock jokes. He tells them his favorite.
Knock knock.
Who's there? they both shout.
Bearp
Bearp who?
You just said bear poo!
They laugh, and then they discover the plenitude of permutations of this single joke, each more hilarious than the last. Cowp! Dogp! Giant Squidp! Gorillap! Tyrannosaurus Rexp!
John buys them all lunch in Edson. While the kids eat their burgers and giggle, John asks about the baby. When it's due. If he's excited. Scared yet?
Soon John starts talking about his own kids. He says being a trucker's hard on a marriage. So he takes the kids when he can. The wife doesn't ever come though. But at least he's still married.
Later, in Jasper, when John drops him off so he can turn south on the 95, he jumps out of the truck there on the side of the road. The kids are sleeping.
It was nice meeting you, man.
You too. Thanks for the ride.
Listen.
Yeah.
When your baby comes. You love that baby. Take care of him. Her. Whatever. They're the most precious gift god will ever give you.
I will. For sure.
Maybe you noticed Luke and Matt aren't full brothers.
No I never noticed.
Well, they aren't. Luke is my son. One time I came home early from a two week haul. There was a strange car in the driveway. Well, you know the story. But you know what? I believe in the bible and I forgave her. Matthew is my son and I love him. I'm a lucky man. I really am. And so are you.
John held out his hand and he shook it. John got back in his truck and drove away.
He stuck his thumb out.

 

- Nathan Waddell