The air wedge slid silently into the space between the truck door and the window weather stripping. Jonas pumped up the wedge just enough to fit a five-foot bendable rod through the narrow opening and into the cabin of the semi. With some finesse, the hook at the end of the rod grabbed the truck’s door lock, a small, vertical cylinder that, when pulled straight up, will unlock the door. He struggled to see clearly in the moonlight and carefully worked to avoid scratching the interior window as he pulled the rod up. Click! The door unlocked.
At the rest stop that Jonas had come to, there was only one sedan that left shortly after Jonas arrived. There were seven trucks and the one that he was working to unlock was the seventh in line. Now that the door was unlocked, that wasn’t the end of his job. He retrieved his air wedge and bendable rod, slipping them into the small red toolbox that he had sitting on the ground next to him with the words “Harold & Co.” scribed on the outside.
Jonas walked back to his tow truck and placed the toolbox in the passenger seat. He went into the popular truck stop and listened to the dripping of recently running shower heads and the shower curtains blowing in place from the cross breeze created by the opening at the front and back of the building. A quarter dinged its way down a vending machine and a stream of coffee started pouring into the disposable foam cup that Jonas set there. He took a deep breath in as the coffee assaulted his senses, evaporating the crust from his eyes and the oil from his creased, aged hands.
A familiar beep rang from the machine and the coffee finished it’s piddly drip into the cup. Jonas picked it up, placed the rim of the smooth foam on his upper lip and smelled the cheap Colombian mixture. He sat down in a stained green loveseat that was straight out of the 70’s and let the pointed springs poke his denim-covered thighs and ass and laid back into the stain of many locksmiths before him.
Again, he smelled the coffee, listening to the dripping and dropping of the shower heads, waiting for it to cool enough so as to not burn his mouth, but so that he could feel the heat inch down his esophagus. Several minutes passed and he dipped his pinkie into the rejuvenating serum. Just like the final porridge, it was just right. He smelled it one last time and lifted the cup to his mouth, tipping it back and swallowing the almost burning drink.
He pulled his flip-phone from his pocket and opened it. The time was 2:22 AM, and he had no messages. It was late but, with no family to be pulled from, Jonas didn’t mind coming out here at this time of night. Outside, he watched the flickering bulbs of streetlamps hanging overhead, creating a stream of light around the sidewalks that led him from the building to his tow truck and to the semi’s that he was equipped to unlock. With a second and last deep breath, he tipped the remaining contents of the cup into his mouth and put the cup under the nozzle of the coffee machine, adding another quarter.
Jonas pushed himself up from the dated loveseat with a grunt and his hands pushing from his thighs for support. He got up and stretched his arms into the air as high as he could, then bent down to touch his toes, then rocked left to right to stretch his core. He pushed the door open as the stream of coffee started pouring back into the cup. The cold breeze touched his face, his warmed body welcoming the change in temperature. He took in a deep breath, smelling the dew turn to frost on the unkempt grass growing along the sidewalks and buildings outskirts.
The seventh truck in line, the one that he had just unlocked, was unmoved. Jonas walked closer, examining the six trucks before and nothing caught his attention. He was almost done for the night and he had already finished the hardest part of this job. A semi blew by the stop, driving up the highway at 70-something miles per hour, but there were no other cars in sight.
He went back to his tow truck for the small red toolbox and carried it back to the seventh semi. Walking back to the truck, he thought about the cheap coffee waiting for him inside and hurried along, his walk turning to a trot. At the door to the seventh semi, he put down the toolbox and opened it, pulling out some jumper cables and a rubber mallet.
Quickly, quietly and carefully, he gripped the handle to the door and yanked it, the squeaking sound of a truck with well over 500,000 miles pierced his ears. He pulled himself up to the cabin and closed the door behind him gently. The door didn’t close completely, but it was closed enough so that a good gust of wind wouldn’t move it and cause noise, and so that no cool air would disturb the task at hand.
The cabin was dirty, but neat. The faux-leather seat was worn and rubbing off at many places. A stereotypical hula girl bobblehead wiggled slightly on the dashboard with the movement that he was causing. The odometer was at 673,993 miles and a minifridge, surely full of lunch meats, soda and beer (as so many of the independent truckers drove with,) was whirring its engine inside to keep everything cool. The microwave on top of it was black with wooden accents, and the smell of splattered foods flooded Jonas’ nose, making him crave the scent of the sweet coffee waiting for him.
There were two beds, organized one over the other towards the back of the cabin. The top one was used as storage for memento’s, such as a birthday card signed by the trucker’s daughter, a brownish orange stuffed fox and a collection of family photos. Jonas was surprised by the overwhelming beauty of the trucker’s wife, as most of the wives are sexy enough to be bridge trolls and only marry truckers because no one else will take them. He picked up a framed picture from the top bunk and pulled it close to his eyes to see better in the moonlight. Rubbing his thumb against the woman, imagining that he pushed her hair back, he fantasized about having a family with her and if he was the one with a young daughter at home, but then he shook the thoughts away, afraid to get caught up in the make-believe like he so often does when he’s doing his job.
He set the framed picture back down and his attention came to the bottom bed, which was inhabited by a snoring 40-something year-old man who was sleeping in Star Wars pajamas and a white blanket. The man snored, held it for eight seconds, then let it out, this time waiting only four seconds before he repeated the imperfect cycle. Jonas stared at the man’s balding head and kneeled down in front of him. The back of his hand rubbed his smooth head, and he savored every instance of touch that was gifted to him by himself. He ran his hands down the man’s face, pausing slightly when he stopped snoring, but continued when the snoring started again.
His skin was soft, and it reminded him of his childhood, when his parents were around to give him the cozy life that he wanted, but then those thoughts were replaced by what he had come here to do. He took the jumper cables and wrapped them around his hands as tightly as he could and held them above the man’s throat. He waited for the man to let out his last snore, and then forced the cables into his Adam’s apple. The man’s eyes shot open with bloodshot tiredness and fear in them, and he gripped for the cords, desperately pulling them back from his throat but to no avail, leaving deep cuts from his fingernails where he tried to rip them away.
The man reached for Jonas, but he was carefully positioned right outside of his reach, watching as his bloodshot eyes widened with the knowledge that tunnel vision was taking hold. Trying to lash out as hard as he could, the man reached for Jonas’s neck, almost getting hold, but Jonas was able to react fast enough and force him back into his small bed.
Defeatedly and weakly, the man reached his hands up and searched the upper bed for the picture of his family. He grabbed it with wobbly and unsteady fingers, and held it close to his face, moving it back and forth, obviously trying to focus in on the image of his beautiful family. Jonas knew the deed was done when the man dropped the picture onto his chest and it slid to the floor, breaking the glass covering his family.
He waited another thirty seconds, but then pulled back form the man whose eyes looked like they were about to pop from his head. Jonas reached down and got the picture from the frame and slid it into his chest pocket. He opened the door that he had come through and took a step out, taking one look back to see his handywork, and then, picking up his toolbox, walked back into the bitter cold, thinking only of the coffee that was waiting for him inside. He walked by the other six semis’, smiling at the thought of how productive this stop had been. He dropped the toolbox back off at his truck, happy that he didn’t need to use the mallet here and walked back inside to the uncomfortable green loveseat that he had been in before.
Jonas lifted the coffee cup to his upper lip and smelled the serum, then dipped his pinkie in to test the temperature. When he decided that it was cool enough, he took a sip and felt the burning inch down his throat, vanish behind the picture of the recently deceased trucker and his family, and drop into his stomach.