By John Latta
Everything was hazy and cold. Then there was light and warmth, and he was standing on a cloud.
In front of him, instantly recognizable behind a marble podium with a large book and a quill pen, was a man with a long beard wearing a white robe. The old man thumbed through the book, stopped and ran his finger down a page, then nodded slowly.
“Trucker, I see.”
“Yes, sir. I guess I crashed or something.”
“Hmmmm. You’re an interesting case. Like most drivers, you’ve had some colorful days here and there. Let me just check into you a little bit more.”
St. Peter stared into his book, and the driver looked around.
“Sir,” said the driver, “these gates are really beautiful.”
“Yes,” said St. Peter, “they’re pearl, and they’re hand crafted.”
“Bet a trucker brought it here.”
“All that pearl. They are beautifully crafted all right, but the craftsmen had to have something to work with, and I’ll bet you it all came by truck.”
“I don’t bet, but I suppose you’re right.”
St. Peter went back to browsing the trucker’s record in the book.
“I knew there’d be trucks in heaven,” said the driver. “All new, I suppose. Driving on these smooth gold roads must be heaven.”
St. Peter finally looked up from the book with something of a sad look.
“You know, driver,” he said, “I see a lot of people who’ve die on the road. It’s very disturbing, most of them have not lived long lives.”
The driver nodded knowingly.
“You should see what we see every day,” the trucker said. “Too many of them make careless mistakes or die because of someone else’s mistakes. Some are just plain unlucky or victims of mechanical problems, but a lot of them just don’t realize the reality of the road. Too many of them drive angry, don’t slow down and cut us off. They think we can throw a tractor-trailer around like a sports car. We can’t.”
“I know, I know,” St. Peter said. “I go down every now and then and ride along.”
St. Peter tapped the book with his finger, then said quietly, “You haven’t exactly been a saint.”
The driver slowly shrugged his shoulders.
“Well, St. Peter, it wasn’t exactly an easy life. Sometimes you don’t have a lot of choices out there. The stresses and strains and pressures of living most of your life away from home in a little cab every day can take its toll. Sometimes it’s hard to stay strong. I’m not a bad guy, I’m a pretty average trucker. I drove solo for years then team with my wife, and I always tried to do my best even if I didn’t quite manage to do it. I always tried to be a credit to my profession, and that can be hard. There are a lot of people out there who treat us like second-class citizens.”
St. Peter kept reading, occasionally tapping his finger in the book and looking at the driver and back at the words in front of him.
“St. Peter, what I said, it’s not all true. I can’t really say always. I’ve tripped and I’ve fallen. There were times I kinda got lost and didn’t think about it much, and I guess I just up and did stuff I’m not really proud of. But I never deliberately tried to hurt anyone or to cheat them or make my life better at their expense. I made my living doing something valuable for other people. I really did try to be a good man, and I worked hard all my life and earned honest money. And I think I saved a few lives by driving safely.
“But I guess I could have done a little better.”
Suddenly the driver was alone in the whiteness, and he could hear a voice. The words were mumbled and jumbled until he could make out, “Wake up.”
“We’ll be at the truckstop soon.”
A vague echo of his dream came back.
“Do me a favor, honey,” he said. “Slow down.”
South Carolina truck operator Arnold Williams has been sentenced to time ...