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Sunday, August 29, 2021

The Evening Commute: A Short Story

 Dwight worked second shift as a forklift operator at a warehouse in the township of Minooka, Illinois. The pay wasn’t all that great at a salary of $35,000 per year, but he had just gotten through his ninety-day probation period and had favor with his bosses. He had been out of work for over a year and getting this job was a blessing because he had a two-year old daughter with one in the oven. It was almost quitting time, and the end of a long and grueling week.

“See you next week, Dwight,” his boss said. “Great job today.”

“Thanks, Wayne,” he said. “See you on Monday.”

He said goodbye to the rest of his coworkers that were sprinkled throughout the warehouse and headed in the direction of the parking lot. It was the start of the weekend, and he didn’t have any plans other than going home and spending some time with his wife Joanne before retiring to bed. They were college sweethearts who met on Southern University’s campus in Baton Rouge, Louisiana and became a couple shortly afterwards. They graduated together and got married a year later, and Joanne gave birth to their daughter Kayla a year after that.

It was a warm and breezy summer night, so he rode with the windows down to soak in the fresh air. He clocked out with his ID at the security booth before exiting the parking lot and cruised down East Minooka Road until he reached the light at Ridge Road. He then made a left turn and headed toward Interstate 80 and hopped on the expressway in the eastward direction of home. They rented a two-bedroom apartment right off Sibley Boulevard in the Ginger Ridge Apartments in Calumet City, Illinois. It was roughly a forty-five minute and fifty-mile drive on I-80, and no sooner than he hit the expressway, his engine began to smoke. He had problems with the transmission shifting gears for the last two weeks, and he was trying to get to payday before he put his 2006 Hyundai Santa Fe in the shop. It was the SUV that he had since college and their only means of transportation.

“God dammit!” he shouted to himself. “What the hell am I gonna do now!”

The car’s engine had died, so he slowly pulled over to the shoulder on the right side of the highway. He let the car sit for a minute and tried to restart it, but the engine wouldn’t turn over. He sat about a half-block in front of mile-marker 122 and called his wife to let her know what was going on.

“Hey baby, what’s up?” she asked.

“The truck’s engine just died, and I’m stuck on I-80 right now,” he answered.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I’m alright. I think I’m gonna catch an Uber home and deal with the truck next week when I get paid.”

“How far are you from the job?”

“Not far…I’m right off the Minooka exit, so the Uber driver shouldn’t have a problem finding me.”

“You be careful out there, Dwight. I need you to stay safe and come home to me and our daughter.”

“I will, sweetheart. Don’t worry.”

“Okay.”

There was brief silence, and he asked, “What’s wrong, Jo?”

“Nothing,” she answered. “I was just hoping that you could bring home some White Castle…I’m craving some chicken rings right about now.”

“I got you. I’ll have the driver stop off at the one around the corner.”

“I love you, Dwight. See you when you get here.”

“I love you, too. Bye.”

He disconnected the call and requested an Uber. A driver in Joliet picked up the fare and headed in his direction. He also left the driver a note in the app stating that his truck was a half-block from the eastbound Minooka ramp and that he’d have his hazard lights on. He tried to shut his eyes for a brief moment, but a truck would zoom by and shake the entire frame of his vehicle every two minutes until the Uber driver arrived twenty minutes later and parked behind him. He then grabbed his book bag and stepped out the truck after he turned off his hazard lights.

“Hi, Dwight,” the Uber driver said after Dwight hopped in the back seat on the passenger side.

“Hey, Rick,” Dwight was weary.

“Long day, huh?”

“Yeah, you can say that.”

Rick was an older black man in his late forties or early fifties. He kept his late-model, black Ford Explorer clean and smelling fresh.

“What’s wrong with your truck?” Rick asked.

“I think it’s the transmission,” Dwight answered. “I’ve been having problems for the last two weeks.”

“Yeah? You might as well junk it.”

“I know, but I have to figure out how I’m gonna get it back home.”

“A tow will cost you at least five hundred bucks to haul it back to Cal City from here.”

“Yeah, five hundred bucks that I don’t have…we’re living off my salary alone right now.”

“Married?”

“Yeah, three years. And you?”

“Divorced, ten years.”

“Kids?”

“Two daughters and a son…all three of them are grown.”

“I have a two-year old daughter with one on the way.”

Interstate 80

“You happy?”

“Yeah, my wife and I have a great relationship.”

“That’s great. My wife and I were good at first, but we grew apart over time.”

“Do you have any advice for a young couple?”

“Yeah, never stop working at your relationship. Once you lose that connection, it’s almost impossible to get it back.”

Rick then sighed and asked, “So, what do you do for a living, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“No, not at all,” Dwight answered. “I’m a forklift operator at the Grainger warehouse.”

“That’s cool.”

“Yeah, I’ve been there a little over three months.”

“You like it?”

“It’s okay…pays the bills, you know.”

“I hear you.”

“Do you like driving?”

“It’s cool. I have my good days and bad days.”

“Rude customers?”

“Yeah, sometimes, and the traffic gets on my nerves, too.”

“You drive out here mostly?”

“Nah, I usually stay in the Loop…my last fare brought me out here.”

“Well, I’m thankful that it did because I just knew I’d be waiting at least an hour for somebody to pick me up.”

“Me too, two big fares in a row. I’m gonna call it the night after I drop you off.”

There was momentary silence before Dwight asked, “How long have you been driving for Uber?”

“Not long…about six months.”

“Do you make good money?”

“Yeah, on the weekends. It’s usually dry at the beginning of the week for me except during rush hour, but I prefer to work evenings while I search for a job in the mornings.”

“Makes sense.”

“Yeah, I used to work in banking, but I got laid off a year ago.”

“I was just in your shoes…it took me a year to find this job. It’s rough out here.”

“Yes, it truly is.”

They arrived at the Sibley exit in a little under an hour, and Dwight asked, “Do you mind stopping at the White Castle on the corner? My wife is craving for some chicken rings.”

“Sure, no problem,” Rick answered.

“You want anything?”

“Nah, I’m good. White Castle doesn’t agree with my stomach.”

“I hear you,” Dwight laughed.

Dwight ordered his food after a ten-minute wait to reach the menu. There was usually a long line of cars in the drive thru on Friday nights. Rick then pulled up in front of Dwight’s apartment and said, “It was good talking to you, Dwight. Thanks for keeping me awake.”

“Likewise, Rick, and you’re welcome. Take care.”

“Goodnight, Dwight.”

Dwight exited the back seat and slowly walked up the stairs to his front door on the second level of his complex. He rated Rick a five and left him a ten-dollar tip in the app, and Rick subsequently drove off. Joanne was waiting patiently in the living room when Dwight opened the door.

“Hey, baby, you got here so fast!” she jumped off the sofa and kissed him passionately.

“Missed me, huh?” he asked after they let go of their embrace.

“Of course,” she kissed him again on the lips.

“Hear you go,” he said proudly as he handed her the bag of chicken rings and fries. “It’s still hot.”

“Thank you for remembering me…I know that you had a long day.”

“Yes, I did, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it,” he plopped down on the sofa while she grabbed one of their tray tables from the dining room and some water to drink from the fridge in the kitchen.

“Tell me all about it, baby,” she said before she unfolded the table and placed her food and bottle of water on top of it.

“Well, my day started off great with an excellent written evaluation from my boss…”

4 comments:

global pk news site said...

good story

The Indie Crime Novelist said...

Thank you Global PK News Site.

angequipmentsg said...

Thanks for sharing the best information and suggestions, it is very nice and very useful to us. I appreciate the work that you have shared in this post. Keep sharing these types of articles here. Telehandler

The Indie Crime Novelist said...

You're welcome, Telehandler.

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