Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Ride Along

[start of audio track]

So...um...yeah.  This thing on? 

That’s the...yeah.  The red light.  Cool.  Good deal.

So.  Wanta know the best thing ‘bout me?  My name.  ‘Cause it’s a goddamn verb now.

And it ain’t ‘cause I’m a smith or a taylor or some such thing where you take the name a what you do.  The verb don’t come from nobody but me.

I’m a verb man!  A man of action.  An action man, who does things.  Hell, just look.  It’s what I’m doing right now.  Turpin’.  I’m out turpin’, ‘cause I’m the freakin’ Richard Lee Turping, and I am what I do.

That’s why y’all wanted this vid, right?  All that trouble gettin’ this cam to me, just to get to know me.

The man, the verb, the legend.  Heh.

Sure, there’s other words folks use asides from turpin’.  Robbery.  Grand theft.  Hell, that guy on the news the other day done call me a terrorist, and it ain’t the first time somebody’s called me that, neither. 

Terrorist.  Blessed Lord Jesus, I ain’t never terrorized nobody.  Terror.  Jesus.  I mean, sure, I scared more than a coupla few people, ‘till they know it’s me doin’ it, and then they know ain’t nothin’ bad gonna happen to ‘em lessen they get stupid. 

Heck, oncet people know you ain’t gonna hurt ‘em, it makes the job so much easier.  You think you’re gonna get killed, you’re gonna fight, I mean, I would.  But if you know it ain’t personal, and you know just to like sit tight and it’ll be OK?  You sit real nice like and let the good polite Mr. Turping go about his turpin’.

And yeah, there’ve been...well.  I sure am sorry about them.  But they shoulda knowed better.

Because every damn body knows who I am.  Richard Lee Freakin’ Turping.

My granddaddy, one I was named after?  Richard Lee Turping weren’t a turper.  Hell, there weren’t no turpers back then.   He was a trucker, long-haul, did that his whole life.  Worked for a buncha different big companies, then had his own rig for a while, contracted out with a coupla locals for shorter runs. Did this fuel run outta a Supercenter stop upstate, mostly, up to the depot and back.  It was this big ol’ Kenworth that was his very own. 

Man.  Grandaddy was like, I don’t know.  I remember I was like maybe four, and he weren’t drivin’ much no more, but he’d come rollin’ up in that thing and it was like he was drivin’ a goddamn alien mothership.  It’d be all lit up like--

[chime, repeating]

Hold up.  Just gotta check--nah.  Ain’t nothin’ yet.

Anyways, he’d come rollin’ up, and that ol’ Kenworth’d be lit up like Christmas mornin’.  And Mama’d holler at me ‘cause I’d go runnin’ out ta meet him, and she’s like sure I’m just gonna up and get squashed.  “Careful, Ricky, Ricky look out!” 

Like I was ever that dumb.  But you know how mamas can get.

So there it’d be, American steel rising up to heaven, diesel snortin’, paint blacker than the night sky above, chrome all polished, and them lights, oh man, all them lights like stars.  And the door’d open up, and there’d be Grandaddy with that smile shinin’ ‘bove his big white beard, and he’d say, “Hey down there,” and damn. 

It was like seein’ Moses comin’ down from the mountain, only he’s driving the damn mountain. 

And he’d say, “Hey Ricky, you want we should go for a ride,” and, hell, ‘course I did, I always did, so I’d climb way on up there and off we’d go.  And it was like, Lord, it was like he was some greek god, like, oh man, what was his name, the sun god, up there in his chariot, and there I was ridin’ high ‘bove every last thing.

And he’d tell me stories, ‘bout what he seen out on the road, ‘bout what it meant to be a man. 

Grandaddy was a proud man, a workin’ man.  And drivin’ that sweet ol’ rig weren’t easy, neither.  All them gears, Lord, that took skills.  But not just skills, it was like, you had to know who you was.   “You gotta have your head on straight, boy, you ever want to drive like your Grandaddy and your Daddy,” he’d say.  “It ain’t an easy life.  Whole buncha ways Satan gonna try to lead you astray.  Truckin’ man gotta know who he is, keep his soul right with the Lord and his body tight.”  ‘Cause he knew that…

[crackle, audible chirp, muted voice]

Hold up.  Bobby, what you got?

[muted voice]

How many?  Just the one?

[muted voice, crackle]

Say what?  You serious?  Here?  Who the hell drives that out this way at this time a night?

[muted voice, laughter]

I know, right?  Candy from a baby. Man, temptin’.  All by their lonesome, huh?

[muted voice]

I hear ya.  Totally.  But there’s gonna be bigger fish.  We wait.  You down with that, Dave?  Tyrone?

[muted voices]

Alright, y’all.  We good, brothers.  Hang tight.  It’ll happen.  Stay frosty.

So anyways, what was I goin’ on about?  Shoot.  Um.  Oh, right. 

Weren’t just that Grandaddy had skills.  It was like he got to use ‘em.  ‘Cause what’s the pointa bein’ alive, if like you cain’t feel like the Good Lord has a use for you?

That’s what killed my Daddy, sure as if it’d up and shot him.  Daddy drove, too, loved it like his Daddy did.  He weren’t a big personality like Granddaddy, more quiet-like, but he loved my Mama and treated her good.  Never cheated, never raised a hand to her, never raised his voice, not even when things got bad between the two a them.  Not even when.  Yeah.

Didn’t even leave a goddamn note.  Not like we didn’t know why.

‘Cause he always figured he’d live like Grandaddy did.  Work honest and work hard.  Drive ‘till he could afford to retire.  Maybe get his own rig, though Daddy more liked fishin’ when he had the time.  Get himself a boat, go out on the lake, just sit there on the still water nice and quiet.  He’d a liked that.

Well that didn’t work out.  We all know how that rolled.  Jesus.

Them goddamn corp’rat ticks took that all away.  Oh, sure, we all know what they said.  It’s the future, they said.  It’s progress, they said. 

Lyin’ thievin’ sonsabitches.  It was just them, takin’ what was ours for themselves.  Parasites.

And it all happened so damn fast.  Yeah, there was talk.  But you don’t believe it till it’s there, you know?  It was like, one day Daddy was drivin’, then they called ‘em all in, told ‘em they were downsizin’.  New rigs, freakin’ ‘bots, drove themselves, didn’t need no driver.

But they was hirin’ “monitors.”  Sit in a cab in a big convoy of ‘bots, watch screens all day long.  No pedal.  No hands on the wheel.  Hell, you don’t even see the road. 

Just a damn screen and a damn keyboard.  Somethin’ goes wrong, you press a button, another robot comes, takes over, fixes it.  No skill.  No pride.  Just a goddamn babysitter for robots.

And ten jobs?  Nah.  Now there’s one job.  That pays half the pay.  Half the damn pay, while those bastards who made ‘em get their billions by taking it from us.

It weren’t like Daddy didn’t try to find work, neither.  He woulda driven for anybody, anywhere, but all the companies was buying these new robot rigs, gotta stay competitive, can’t get undercut.  And like every last trucker out there was scramblin’, ten to every job.  Millions and millions of us.

And Daddy tried.  Lord knows he tried.

But hell.  Quiet man, keeps to himself, don’t like to impose on nobody?  You know, you got to know people in this world you want to get ahead, and Daddy just...well.  Didn’t know the right people.  Didn’t brownnose.  Couldn’t.  Weren’t who he was.

So, yeah.  And what else was he going to do?  So he tried.  Six months?  A year?  How long before you see the writin’ on the wall?  Before all that rejection jes wears down your soul?

I was, what, seventeen, then?  And all a sudden Daddy was home all the time, just sitting there on that ol’ sofa.  There in the mornin’ when I left.  There in the evenin’ when I got back. Sometimes the tee vee was on.  Sometimes not.  Then he was drinking, just like drinking all the damn time.  Weren’t a mean drunk, hell, even when Mama was freakin’ out about money and medical bills and cryin’, Daddy didn’t get mean.  Just kinda folded on into hisself, like one a them black holes up in space.

And yeah.  I was the one that found him.  Came home from school, and…

[Silence.  Rustling.  More silence.]

Like, look.  There goes that sonofabitch.  That’s the one Bobby was talkin’ about. 

Look at him go. 

Shoot, I’m of a mind now to take him down just for the principle of the damn thing.  Middle of the Tennessee night, big fancy Mercedes runnin’ alone through the Smokies, Jesus, that thing’s gotta be doin’ one ten.  And that’s, what, two hundred thou?  Hell.  If it’s got the security augs and the uparmor and the run-flats, more like four.   Maybe five.

You just know there’s Nashville money in the back, doin’ business with business, rich as all hell, couldn’t give two craps ‘bout the rest of us.  So damn tempting.  I mean, runnin’ ‘em down is the easy part.  It’s a pain in the butt to crack the accounts, and even if you leave ‘em standing by the road in the middle of Tennessee nowhere it’s only like an hour or less afore those damn computers shut everything down.  But Bobby’s real good at….heh.

Did I say Bobby?  Did I say that before?  Guess I did.  Well.  We’re usin’ code names.  Hear that?  Code names.  Heh.  Jesus.

‘Cept for me.  I want y’all should know who I am.  I am Richard. Lee. Turping.  Tee You Are Pee Aye En Gee. 

And yeah, sure, maybe I am a thief.  Maybe that’s what my name means these days.  But I’m a man, Lord Jesus help me, and God made a man so’s he can do something with his life.  It’s them coders and fat cats and elite sonsabitches who’s the real thieves, takin’ away the right the rest of us got to live in this world like there’s some reason God put us here.  I don’t want your damn handouts.  I want to live as an honest hardworkin’ man, and if the only way I can do that is go turpin’ all your stuff, hell.  That’s what I’ll do.

And yeah, I get how weird that is, when the only honest work is stealin’.  I ain’t stupid.  But I didn’t make this ass-backwards mess of a new world.  Never wanted it.  I only ever--

[crackle, chime, muffled voice]

Bobby, what you got?

[crackle, muffled voice]

How many?

[muffled voice]

Seven of ‘em?  Damn.  Nice and fat.  Sweet.  How many drones?

[muffled voice, crackle]

Yeah, got it, totally doable.  And just the one mountie?

[crackle, muffled voice]

Cool.  Mats are go.  EMPs are charged and prepped.  Dave, Tyrone, you gettin’ this? 

[muffled voice, crackle, muffled voice]

All right.  Fire it on up!  Let’s do this, boys.

[rumble, sounds of vibration]

Hoo.  So here’s where the fun starts, and I just know y’all are dyin’ to see me work, but, yeah.  Don’t wanna be giving away any trade secrets, now, do I? 

‘Cause I’m the kinda man who takes his job serious.  Man’s got to have some pride in what he does.

Catch y’all on the flip side. 


Um.  Yeah.  Um.  Which button turns this thing off again?

[vibration, sound of engine, end of audio track]