Sunday, November 4, 2012

Child's Play

Mid ‘40s Billy was a gentle sort, older than he looked, who drove his imaginary truck, i.e., a tractor trailer, a logging truck, or whatever, around town. We kids met him one snowy night, driving up the hill from the bridge to the main stores. We heard him humming the laboring motor long before we saw him. He came into view pumping the shifting lever, double-clutching and spinning his wheels.

“Can we hitch a ride, Billy?” I called from the sidewalk through cupped hands.

“Jump on!” he shouted with a grin from the open cab and motioned us to the rear. Without the truck stopping, the three of us shuffled across the downhill lane, careful not to slip under the double-duals, scrambled onto the flatbed and rode up the hill. The added weight gave him extra traction.

On the level by the stores, I yelled “Hey, Billy, slow down a bit.” He lowered his humming so we could hop off. “Thanks a lot, Billy!” as we waved and slipped and slid toward Jimmy Cawley’s lighted diner.

“Good night!” Billy hollered, and drove on home.

+ + + + + + + + + + Billy came into Jimmy Cawley’s mid-morning. His bulky latched overshoes, heavy plaid jacket, fur hat with ear lappers and bushy eyebrows were covered with snow. “Hi, how are you, Billy?” Jimmy smiled behind the lunch counter.

“My truck is stuck in the snow and I can’t get it out,” he blurted, his gloves tucked in his left armpit, blowing on his hands to warm them.

Jimmy went over to two traveling salesman sitting at the counter having coffee and donuts, “Hey, could you fellas give Billy a hand. He needs a push.”

“Sure, Jimmy!” They turned on their stools, hopped off and followed Billy, bare-headed and coatless, out the door. His truck was parallel parked in front of the diner. He climbed into the cab and started the engine. The salesmen, with a shrug of their shoulders and a “We’ve been had.” expression, mouthed a silent “You SOB” at laughing Jimmy in the diner window. Billy gunned the engine. The men dodged the snow spewed from the rear wheels, leaned against the truck tail gate, pushed Billy on his way and hustled back to the diner, laughing while stamping the snow off their shoes.


  1. Ira,

    Wow! This is one gem of a piece! All your characters are so kind and joyful. Is this a real place? I love the way you can say so much about character with relatively few words.
    I am so glad you shared this. I have been reading Life and fate by Vasily Grossman and re-reading and always admiring his masterful depeiction of characters, action, and scenes. I did not think I would run across the same sort of mastery so soon!
    Elizabeth Steiner Milligan

  2. Ira, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece. You developed the characters so well with such vivid detail. I really felt as though I was sitting in this cozy, friendly diner, observing the whole scene. I loved the tongue-in-cheek humor! An excellent piece of writing. What's next? Can't wait to read it!

  3. Well done with beautiful clarity.

  4. Ira, a story of community sweetly told. Made me recall the country travelers in my early life. Well choosen words, just enough information. Keep writing.