As promised, here is the prologue of my upcoming 85k90 project. This is the story of Jackson Parish, a man with nothing left to lose.
Three weeks out and the last fifty miles seemed like an eternity to Jackson Parish. He had driven that stretch of I-72 between Champaign and Decatur more times that he could count. He could almost drive it with eyes closed. As tired as he was, he might as well be driving with his eyes closed. Technically he should have stopped in Kankakee for the night, but he was too close to home for that. He reached for his phone.
“Hey babe, I’ll be at the terminal in about 45 minutes or so” Jackson told his wife Becky when she answered.
“OK, We’ll be there with bells on. Junior made me promise he could help you drop trailer and get your stuff ready if the rain stops before you get here. You know he’s going to grow up just like his old man right?” She asked, playfully.
“Well, he could do better, but I guess he could do worse.” Jackson told her. “Love, you see you soon”
Hanging up, a grin crept across Jackson’s care worn face. He wanted a better life for his boy than he had, but more than anything else he wanted Junior to be happy with what he did. If driving a truck made him happy so be it. But then again, the whims of 6 year olds changed like the wind. Only a few months ago he had announced with a grave seriousness that he wanted to be a firefighter. Before that it was an astronaut.
Finally, his exit was in sight. Gently maneuvering his Kenworth around the curve of the off ramp he saw the light at the bottom turn red. “Figures” he thought to himself. One light between him and home and he had to hit it red. That was the way this trip had gone. Pressing on the brake pedal, Jackson heard the sound of air brake lines coming apart and knew that this trip had just gotten a whole lot worse. Unlike what you see in Hollywood movies, the sudden release of air pressure didn’t mean he was without brakes, it meant something worse. It meant that the emergency brakes just locked on because there was no air in the system to hold them off. With the roads slick from rain he lost traction almost immediately. Not only was he unable to stop, he was unable to steer.
As he slid out of control towards the red light his eyes darted back and forth. Fighting to get the rig under control he spotted a car moving towards the intersection. He took his left hand off the wheel to grab for the air horn cable. He had to try and get the drivers attention. They had a better chance of avoiding the collision than he did.
Mere seconds from impact, Jackson realized with a sinking feeling in the pit of his soul, that he knew that car. It was Becky’s station wagon. Oh gods no, please let her see me and stop, Jackson screamed as he fought to steer the Kenworth over the wet roads. He didn’t care if his truck impacted with the rail cars that sat on the tracks along the T intersection, as long as Becky got clear of the crash first.
Try as he might Jackson saw that he wasn’t going to be able to miss her car. His blood turned to ice in his veins. At the last second Becky turned her head to the right and saw her death approaching. Jackson saw her look up, saw the recognition dawn on her, saw her scream in terror. Jackson saw her disappear under the hood of his truck as he felt the impact shudder through his entire rig. Then the world went black as his truck plowed into the rail car, sandwiching the mangled station wagon between the two iron and steel behemoths.