Frank stopped at his usual station for diesel, the constant stream of new staff kept the unnecessary chat to a minimum. For 10 years, Frank had stopped here going home and leaving for work, in that time one bright smiling young lass actually meant, “How are you today?” Of course, Frank never saw her again, the shop, the endless sea of snacks, the brand on the coffee machine had changed a lot over the years. The terrible coffee had not. These days Frank paid with a fuel card while he replied in a soft burr that he was ok before his now slightly unnecessary work-boots and work-wear headed back to the truck, his habitual visual check as effortless as blinking.
Tonight, as Frank climbed into his truck, pressed the button to close the door and placed his phone into the holder, things were different to normal. The oily puddles still reflected the orange and white neon in artistic distortion, the night was still as black as death itself and the day no more than an eerie twilight prelude. Tonight, Frank’s thoughts did not ponder how many days were left till permanent night would become day, instead, before Frank could click into gear, the phone rang.
It was Moonen. Frank had hoped Moonen would wait, that perhaps somehow this was not real, that the last twelve hours had been some sort of hallucination or bad dream, the reality was worse than his mind would ever imagine. Frank hit answer on the handsfree and began to drive away as if nothing was wrong, Frank drove like he always had and always did. Frank drove and Frank listened. Thirteen hours ago, Frank did not know Moonen existed, Frank was already sick of his voice, his irregular pauses and irritatingly inappropriate happy tone. Moonen spoke and Frank had to listen. Eventually, Moonen hung up. Frank carried on driving, seemingly the same Frank, and the same gadget filled truck that could have almost driven for him that Stefan, childhood friend turned employer, always made sure he had, Frank always had the best truck because Frank had always been the best driver, from karts right until … a tear fell from Frank’s eye.
The road stretched out before Frank, a conglomeration of ice and snow, blizzard and howling wolf winds that would instantly kill most of those that dared more than a step or two. Driving, the road and ravine were indistinguishable, as the night enveloped and swallowed any vehicle daring to traverse this way. Ten years, Frank had mastered this road, tonight would be no different. The road knew Frank, it respected him as he respected it, he knew the road was a bitter and vicious old man with no care, and the old man knew Frank was really his master and cared not for the old man or nostalgia. Frank drove, when he reached the border truck stop, the little light would blink, and the truck’s computer would come to life to tell him he had driven that day’s quota and had to stop. Frank would stop as he always did, use the restroom, get his sandwich to go, reprogram the truck and be on his way, except today, today Frank would not reprogram his truck, instead he would take some of his legally enforced rest time to start solving his Moonen problem.