Fictionalizing the News is a writing exercise I set myself where I search the local news for an interesting but relatively minor piece of news and use it as a basis for a short story. I do not in any way purport to tell the truth of what happened, this story and the characters in it are entirely fictional. This installment of fictionalizing is based on this article, I call it Late Night Trucking
The dashboard clock showed 3:05 am, he tried to suppress a yawn then reached over and grabbed his cup of coffee. He took a swig of the drink, replaced the cup in the cup holder then stared out through the wind shield. He was alone on the road, not a single vehicle in sight, and all he could see was was the stretch of road lit up by the truck’s headlights and beyond that, darkness. The window was already open but he rolled it down even further, and opened the one on the passenger side as well. The cool night breeze, now blowing straight through the cab of his truck, made him feel refreshed and he could concentrate on the road once more.
Some twenty minutes passed before he had to suppress another yawn. The fresh air had helped but not much. The turned up the volume on the radio; he had stopped enjoying modern music at least a decade ago but at least the loud noise should keep him from falling asleep. It worked better than he had expected: he got so worked up over the atrocious sounds coming from the speakers that he completely forgot how tired he felt. It only lasted for a few minutes however, when the song ended and the host started listing off the song titles in a disinterested voice, he could feel his concentration dwindling. The situation was getting more untenable with every minute, he had to do something about it.
In her apartment in Massa, about 100 kilometers further down the road, Graziella was asleep in her bed. In little over half an hour the alarm bell would ring and she would have to get up and get ready for her trip to Prague. Preparing for a trip was always stressful for her but for now, she was sound asleep, blissfully unaware of what awaited her. As she turned over in her sleep the man in the truck pulled over on the hard shoulder and turned off the engine. He reached for his jacket that was slung across the passenger seat and fished out a small envelope from the inside pocket. He rummaged around a bit for something hard and flat and found an old CD case which he placed on the center console. He poured a little bit of white powder from the envelope onto the CD case then took out a credit card from his wallet and used it to shape the powder into a line. He rolled a ten Euro note into a makeshift tube, placed it against his nostril then bent down over the CD case. Sweeping from left to right he snorted up the white powder then sat back in his chair taking a couple of deep breaths.
When he felt the coke starting to kick in he turned on the engine and pulled out into the road. If he could make his delivery before it wore off he would be fine. He checked the dashboard clock again, 3:43 and over 100 kilometers to go, he’d better step on it.
As was her habit Graziella woke up a couple of minutes before the bell rang. Normally she would lie in bed and wait for the alarm but today she felt restless so she got up, turned the lights on – it was still dark outside – and walked to the bathroom for a quick shower. When she stepped out of the bathroom wrapped in her bathrobe she checked the clock on her nightstand: 4:11, she still had plenty of time. She applied some moisturizing lotion to her face then got dressed, putting on soft, loose fitting clothing that would be comfortable during the long bus ride. She then went to the kitchen to make herself some breakfast. She didn’t feel hungry at this early hour but knowing she would get hungry later, she forced herself to have a cornetto and washed it down with two cups of strong espresso. While she was finishing her second cup of coffee she checked the kitchen clock, it showed 4:34. She quickly did the dishes and brushed her teeth then started to check on her luggage, making sure that everything was in order.
About an hour after taking the first hit he could feel the drug starting to wear off. He could see from the road signs that he was just south of Massa; he had really hoped he would be further than that before he started to come down. He knew taking a second hit was a bad idea but he needed to make the delivery, he had to risk it – “just this once” he told himself. He pulled off the highway and entered the town in search of a quite place to take care of business.
Everything was packed, all of her things were in order, she was ready. She put on her jacket, dragged her suitcase into the stairwell and closed the door behind her, making sure it was locked before getting in the elevator. She strolled round the corner and the few blocks down the road to the meeting point at the super market car park, rolling her luggage behind her. A few people were already there waiting, she didn’t recognize any of them but she could see from their suitcases that they would be going on a trip. She asked if they would be on the tour to Prague and an older gentleman confirmed that they were, no one else said anything. The bus was supposed to be there but there was no bus in sight so she lit a cigarette and smoked while she waited.
The roads in Massa were all but empty, he was able to keep a much higher speed than he ever could in the daytime, keeping the needle of the speedometer steady at 60 kilometers an hour. He bypassed the very center of the town – there was bound to be people there that could become suspicious – and turned onto the road leading through a quiet residential neighborhood in search of a quiet place far from prying eyes; he figured a super market car park or perhaps a school yard should do.
Graziella was on her third cigarette when the bus pulled up, not on the actual parking lot as she had expected but a short distance away, on the other side of street. “That’s our ride” the old gentleman said and immediately began walking towards it. While the other people hurried to follow the man, she calmly took one last drag on her cigarette, dropped it on the ground and crushed it under her heal, then grabbed the handle of her suitcase and followed them.
At that moment the truck driver was just passing the supermarket, he took a right into the street where the parking lot was located and just as he came round the corner the headlights from the bus hit him square in the face and blinded him. He should have slowed down but his need for coke overrode that instinct he kept going, when the spots in front his eyes faded it was already too late. Graziella had just caught up with the old man at the head of the group when she heard the vehicle coming around the corner, she looked up and the headlights bearing down on her was the last thing she ever saw. The sound when the truck hit her was tremendous, like someone hitting a piece of raw meat with a baseball bat only ten times louder, followed by a chorus of screeching brakes. Her body was flung several meters and landed on the asphalt with a thud. When the truck finally juddered to a halt the driver just sat there, eyes wide open and and mouth agape, a single though on repeat in his head: “What have I done?”