Moose Ghost Story Part 1-3

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Moose Ghost Story Part 1-3

Postby titanmike » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:54 am

There are worse places to spend a weekend than Mount Laurel, New Jersey. That’s what John was thinking (with only a touch of irony) on a cool and cloudy Sunday morning in December as he sat on one of the extra firm twin beds in Room 112 of the Red Roof Inn. His back propped against two shapeless pillows, remote control in his right hand, he surfed through the few cable channels being beamed from orbiting satellites to the dish in back of the two-story building with the familiar red roof.
Pausing at the Weather Channel, John watched and listened as a fetching blonde weathercaster wearing a snug cable knit sweater described the big snow storm that was bearing down on the northeastern United States.
“Already Albany is reporting heavy snow at a rate of over an inch an hour,” she reported. “New England can expect increasing northerly breezes and wintry conditions, beginning late this afternoon in western Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont, intensifying tonight as the low pressure center moves off shore bringing in very heavy snow and high winds in its wake. Snow totals are expected to be over a foot in most places, with greater isolated amounts at the higher elevations. Winter storm warnings have been issued for all of New England with roads expected to become nearly impassable with heavy snow, high winds, and lowering visibilities through at least tomorrow afternoon. If you live in these areas and do not absolutely need to venture out, we encourage you to stay inside and tuned to the Weather Channel for the latest on this early season storm. After your local forecast on the eights, Paul will tell us what cities further south can expect.”
“That certainly sucks,” Moose commented from his perch on the other twin bed, “for them.”
“Shut up for a minute,” John snapped. “I want to hear what it’s gonna be like around here.”
“Well pardon moi!” Moose retorted, in that deep, rumbling, and moose-like, voice John always heard him speaking in.
The Local Forecast was considerably more benign. The current temperature in nearby Philadelphia was 42 degrees. A slight chance of showers was expected overnight with temperatures staying well above freezing. It appeared that the really bad stuff would pass well north of Southern New Jersey.
When the Weather Channel returned to their studios a tall black man stood in front of a map of the Mid-Atlantic States, depicting a region from Connecticut down to Virginia, encompassing New Jersey and Philadelphia, about fifteen miles west of Mount Laurel.
“South of the winter storm, conditions should be considerably better,” Paul began. “Right now, we are thinking that the rain/snow line will be just south of Hartford. The city of Hartford itself could be in for a period of freezing rain before changing to all snow after midnight. South of there…”
“Beepadeebeepadeebeepadeebee,” the shrill sound suddenly emanated from John’s Cue pager on the top of the dresser.
“I wonder who that is,” John said, as he muted the TV and pushed up off the bed.
Picking up the pager, he saw a familiar 800 number from an agent in Atlanta.
“Who is it” Moose asked.
“Maybe they got a trip for us,” Moose opined, “one going south.”
“Yeah, that wouldn’t be bad. Kind of odd they’d call on Sunday, though.”
John sat back on the bed and dialed the Atlanta office from the telephone on the nightstand. It was picked up on the first ring.
“Landstar Express America, Denzel speaking,” answered a laconic drawling voice in Atlanta.
“Hey, Denzel, it’s John, I got your page.”
“John, hi, I see you’re up in Jersey. We have a run for you, if you’re interested.”
“Where’s it going?”
“I don’t know exactly; Jenna’s handling it. I‘ll transfer you over to her.” Denzel immediately put John on hold.
John felt a subtle disquiet.
“Where are we going?” Moose asked John.
“I don’t know, but Jenna’s handling it.”
“That can’t be good news.”
“I hear ya,” John sighed.
From experience, John knew that when one of the men in the Atlanta office transferred his call over to Jenna it usually meant the load was a stinker. Of course, as an owner/operator with his truck leased to Landstar, John could refuse any load offer, although he tried not to abuse the privilege. Refusing too many loads did not engender good will with the various agents throughout the country whose job it was to keep freight moving and drivers like John earning money. But if it was really an ugly trip—low paying, bad location, etc.—John wouldn’t hesitate to politely tell Denzel (or any other male dispatcher) that he was not interested, thank you all the same. The rub came when Jenna offered a particularly gruesome trip…something she did on a fairly regular basis.
Jenna was an absolutely exquisite southern belle with an accent straight from the parlor of an antebellum mansion surrounded by acres of fertile fields. The fact that she was born and raised in hyper-expanding suburban Atlanta made little difference to John. Jenna’s physical assets matched the sugary inflections of her voice. She was drop dead gorgeous, as John found out two years ago when he stopped by the Atlanta office to pick up some paperwork. A tall brunette with small features and the complexion of fine porcelain, offset by aquamarine eyes, Jenna Blair was not the kind of girl a heterosexual male could just say no to. As sweet as a Georgia peach, she could talk you into just about anything. As Moose once indelicately put it, “Jenna could tell you to go to hell and all you’d do was thank her for the trip and ask where the load picked up.”
“Hi ya, John, how ya doin?” Jenna drawled when she picked up the line.
“Just fantastic, Jenna. And you?”
“I’m just fine,” she replied coquettishly, turning “fine” into a two syllable word.
“What can I do for you?”
“Wow, there’s a loaded question,” Moose said under his breath. That is if breath was a trait one could attribute to a creature comprised mostly of cotton batting.
“Well, dear, I have a little run that I need to get covered really badly,” Jenna said. “I was just wondering if you might be able to help me out.”
“I don’t know; what’ve you got?”
“Well, John, you’re kind of fortunate,” she began, “the load picks up in Mount Laurel, New Jersey. You’re showing on the Qualcomm only about two miles away.”
“Yes, I’m at a motel,” John said, noncommittally.
“It’s only two skids, about 3000 pounds, going up to a power station in Billerica, Massachusetts. It’s ready now and delivers straight through.”
“There’s supposed to be a nasty blizzard up that way,” John informed her, hoping she’d have mercy and find someone else but already knowing it was a fait accompli. He wouldn’t say no to the lovely Jenna.
“Yeah, I saw that on the TV but it’s supposed to be later tonight. I really don’t have anyone else in the area. It’s only 307 miles, though, and it’s all interstate, according to PC Miler. It shouldn’t take you any more than 6 hours.” PC Miler is a truck routing software that most of the industry used to set freight rates.
“Uh huh,” John said with little enthusiasm. He knew the way up to Billerica, a suburb of Boston, without PC Miler’s help. It would be the New Jersey Turnpike to I-95, over the George Washington Bridge and through the Bronx. From there it would be up to New Haven, Connecticut, where he would take I-91 to Hartford to I-84. I -84 would end at the Massachusetts Turnpike, which would carry him east into the Boston area. Billerica was northwest of the city. A miserable trip on the best of days, it was almost all potholes, traffic, and tolls. Today, he’d probably end up driving into a blizzard.
“It pays really well,” Jenna continued, probably sensing that he was hesitant. “$475 to the truck and we can add another fifty to help with the tolls. I wouldn’t ask you if I wasn’t really desperate, John.”
“Okay,” John said, acquiescing without much of a fight. He figured he might as get started. Being it was Sunday and not even ten o’clock yet, perhaps he could get there ahead of the storm. Traffic was probably going to be relatively light. “Who’s the shipper?”
“You’ll take it?” She sounded surprised. “Thank you, sweetie,” she gushed. “I’ll remember you.”
“Not a problem,” he said magnanimously.
He wrote down the addresses of the shipper and receiver, the particulars of the load, and then hung up the phone.
“Where’re we going?” Moose asked.
“Billerica, Mass.”
“For real?”
“Yeah, it’s a power substation,” John explained. “They blew a transformer or something and the electricity is out in the area. They need parts from down here to repair the thing and get the juice back on.”
“So we’re going into a snowstorm…on purpose?”
“Maybe not,” John said, hopefully. “We might get there ahead of the weather.”
Moose, who’d been trucking with John for almost eight years, knew the East Coast all too well. “We have to go through New York.”
“Yeah, I know, but it’s Sunday so traffic shouldn’t be that bad going up there.”
“Famous last words.”
Getting loaded was a breeze and by eleven that morning they were cruising north on the New Jersey Turnpike at a brisk 65 miles per hour. The roads were dry and the sun even looked like it was trying to peek through the high overcast. The radio was playing oldies from a station in Trenton. John and Moose were singing along with Sonny and Cher—‘I Got You Babe’. On balance, things were looking up, they thought. By seven, at the latest, they should be comfortably ensconced in a warm motel room near Boston to ride out the storm.
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Re: Moose Ghost Story Part I-3

Postby titanmike » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:55 am


They had just gotten through the tollbooth near the Meadowlands when their brisk 65 miles per hour pace abruptly became zero miles per hour. All lanes of traffic had come to a complete standstill. It was just before twelve thirty.
“Nuh oh,” Moose spoke, looking out at a seemingly endless queue of illuminated brake lights.
“Oh, great,” John fumed, reaching up to turn on the CB radio. “I wonder what this is all about.”
Channel 19, the truckers’ channel, was awash with a babble of voices. A few minutes of listening and they were able to ascertain from truckers going south on the turnpike that the northbound lanes were temporarily shut down for a jackknifed tanker.
Over three hours later the sky began to spit chilly raindrops down on the windshield and they had moved a grand total of about two hundred yards. John sent yet another message to the Atlanta office on the Qualcomm informing them that he was still stuck by the Meadowlands. Atlanta responded with instructions to let them know when they’d gotten back underway.
It was 5:10 P.M. when traffic finally began to move—slowly. Adding another twenty minute wait for the tollbooths of the GW Bridge, it was nearly six before they crossed into the Bronx. The usual death march that was the Cross Bronx Expressway took up another forty minutes with each pot hole jarring John’s full bladder. He had to piss like the proverbial race horse but that had to wait until the first Service Plaza in Darien, Connecticut. By the time they exited I-95 for the plaza it was a little after seven and pitch dark outside.
They pulled the truck off to the side of the parking lot, setting the air brakes with a hiss. Climbing down from the cab, John made his way across the wet shiny asphalt reflecting the sodium lights to the building that housed restrooms, a McDonalds, a TCBY Yogurt, and a Sunoco service station with a convenience store. The wind was beginning to howl from out of the north and John was dismayed to see that the sideways raindrops were turning into sideways sleet.
Moose stayed in the warmth of the cab. Naturally, John thought. Moose was a big believer in climate controlled comfort.
After a pee for the ages, John went to a bank of payphones to call Atlanta. Denzel let him know that he was still 179 miles from Billerica while informing him that the power station in Massachusetts wanted an estimate on when he would arrive. “It might be a while.”
“Do you think you’ll be there before midnight?”
“All I can do is try. Better late than in a ditch,” he added.
Denzel, of that rare breed of dispatcher who believes that a driver’s safety is more important than an on time delivery, replied, “You just do the best you can and keep me posted. It looks bad up there on the TV so be careful.”
“I will. Talk to you later.”
In just the few minutes John had been in the Service Plaza, the parking lot had begun to freeze over. Climbing back into the truck was a precarious adventure as the steps were getting glazed over with a thin film of ice. A glance at the thermometer on the dashboard reading 29 degrees outside temperature only confirmed what he already knew: it was getting colder very quickly. The roads would soon deteriorate.
Moose climbed out of the sleeper bunk and took up his usual position in the passenger seat.
“Hey, check this out,” he said, “I just heard on the CB that the roads are turning into a skating rink.”
“I guess we’ll have to be careful,” John answered.
“No, actually I have a better idea.”
“I can hardly wait.”
“Why don’t you call Denzel and tell him that the roads are impassable?”
“We don’t know that.”
“Yeah, well, neither does Denzel. I was thinking we could stop by a liquor store, get some provisions, and find a motel.”
“And then what? Get falling down drunk?”
“Well, now that you mention it…”
“Fine! Don’t bite my head off.”
“We’re going to Massachusetts.”
I-95 was wicked slippery when they reentered the highway. Vehicles were moving at no more than 25 miles per hour. Every few hundred yards cars and trucks had skidded into the median or off the shoulder. In a word, it was treacherous. John leaned forward squeezing the wheel in a death grip and trying to see through an iced over windshield that the defroster could barely keep up with. Twice he had to pull over to clear the ice of the wipers by hand.
It was nearly 9:30 when they reached the interchange with I-91. Shortly after getting on 91 North toward Hartford, the roads began to marginally get better. The sleet and freezing rain had given way to all snow which improved the traction, so much so that they were able to maintain a steady 45 to Hartford.
Leaving Hartford on I-84 East, the north wind was hitting them broadside and the snow picked up as they gradually ascended the rolling hills of northeast Connecticut. Just past Willington, John noticed that his truck was having difficulty maintaining even 45 MPH on the upgrades. A look at the thermometer gave him a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach: 16 degrees. No, check that: 15 degrees.
“Oh, no,” he exclaimed.
“What’s wrong, John?” Moose asked.
“I think our fuel filter is freezing up.”
“What about the anti-gel?”
“I didn’t put any in when we filled up,” John told him.
“What?! Why not?”
“It was 70 degrees out.”
“That was in South Carolina.”
“I know. I was going to fill up again tomorrow at the Petro in Bordentown and put the anti-gel in then. I didn’t think we’d need it today.”
“Outstanding foresight,” Moose cracked.
“Shut up.”
“What’s the temperature?”
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Re: Moose Ghost Story Part I-3

Postby titanmike » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:55 am

Part 3:

Thirteen…no, wait, twelve; it’s going down fast…shee-it.”
“I’d say we need it.”
John eased the truck on to the shoulder and came to a stop
“What’re you doing?” Moose asked.
“I’m going to have to change the filter.”
“Sounds like fun. Could you keep the heat on?”
“Moose, you know we have to shut the motor off to change it. Deal with it.”
“Geez, don’t get your shorts in a knot.”
Trucks went by precariously close, buffeting John as he changed the iced up fuel filter. His hands were frozen and reeked of diesel fuel when they got back on the road at a quarter till midnight. He tried to send a Qualcomm message to Atlanta but the satellite was out of range in the hills of rural Connecticut. At least the CUE pager was out of range, too; he didn’t have to deal with what undoubtedly was a boatload of futile pages from Denzel. It was also snowing like a bitch. The roads were practically deserted.
At the Sturbridge Isle Truck Stop, a sprawling property surrounded by dense woods and duck ponds just over the border in Massachusetts, they stopped for fuel. John made sure to add a couple of pints of anti-gel to the big tanks before filling them with diesel.
His fill up paid for at the fuel desk, John went to the back of the Trucker’s Store to a bank of payphones along the back wall just outside the Men’s room. After staring into a dark tunnel of snow for the last three hours, his eyes were having trouble adjusting to the bright fluorescent lights of the store. Rubbing the back of his stiff neck with one hand, he lifted the receiver off one of the phones. No dial tone; the phone was dead. So were the other fifteen.
Murmuring a profanity, he happened to look up at a wide bulletin board over the phones. In among the advertisements for used truck parts, towing services, and freight brokers, a poster with a color picture of a missing sixteen year old girl stood out. Her name was Alexis Hite and she’d disappeared last summer (July of 2000) from a church picnic at a local park not too far from Sturbridge. Something about her face caught John’s attention. She had a pretty, all American look about her, blue eyes and fair skin with just a dusting of freckles on the bridge of a cute little nose. Her pageboy styled blonde hair was relatively short with bangs hanging down over her forehead. A face of pure innocence, her soft features made her appear more like twelve than sixteen. She was described as five foot ten inches tall and last seen wearing a green one piece bathing suit, a white terrycloth robe, and flip-flop sandals. John immediately felt a twinge of guilt. He was having a bad day—and no doubt about it; this trip sucked—but compared to Alexis Hite and her family, he really had nothing to complain about.
He washed his hands in the Men’s room, purchased a large black coffee and a pack of cigarettes and headed back to the truck. Approaching the passenger side, he double-checked the fuel cap, making sure it was on tight.
“That your co-driver?”
“Huh?” John turned around.
A salt and pepper haired man in billowing anorak was standing by the pumps while he filled his truck up. His hair was spackled with snowflakes and he looked as miserable as John felt. On the side of the red cab two lightning bolts and the word “Toxic Shock” were painted on the sleeper.
“The moose,” the man said, his smile belying the awful conditions, pointed up at Moose in the passenger seat. “Is he your partner?”
John returned his smile. “Yeah, something like that.”
“Well, at least he doesn’t complain, I’ll bet,” the man said.
“More than you’d think.”
“If you say so,” he replied good-naturedly. “Hey, you’re not going toward Hartford, are you?”
“No; Boston.”
“Well, it’s a good thing for you. I guess there was a pretty bad wreck down that way somewhere. Did you hear about it?”
“No, I haven’t had the radio on.”
“Somebody parked on the northbound side of the road got hit by an eighteen wheeler and then the rig lost control and crossed the median into oncoming traffic. They said there are fatalities.”
“Wow,” John exclaimed, “when was this?”
“No more than an hour or so ago.”
“I just went by there. I didn’t see anything.”
“You must’ve just missed it.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Well, you have a safe ride up to Beantown.”
“You be careful, too.”
“No, man, I’m done for the night. I don’t have to be in California until next week.”
“Good for you,” John responded, turning away. “You take care, now.”
“Yeah, you too.”
John climbed back into the truck.
“What time is it?” Moose asked.
“About quarter till one.”
“Holy crap, dude, it would have been faster if they had just driven the freight up from New Jersey on the hi-lo.”
“Bite me, Moose.”
“Hmm, witty rejoinder.”
“Sorry, Moose,” John said without a trace of remorse.
Changing the subject, the Moose asked, “Did you see the poster for the missing kid?”
“Yeah—kind of sad, I’ll bet her parents are worried sick.””
As a stuffed animal that had gradually developed his own personality over the years, John no longer gave much thought to Moose’s impossibly wide breadth of knowledge. Whatever he experienced, Moose did too. If John saw a poster, Moose did, too. But Moose seemed to have his own take on things, apart from John, which often surprised and troubled John. He knew on a logical level that the animal was no more than an extension of himself, like a child’s imaginary friend. Still, Moose seemed imbued with a completely separate personality, that of an anything-for-a-good-time ne’er do well with a heart of gold. Moose was a happy go lucky, wildly emotional, combination of Mister Ed, ALF, and Beavis and Butthead, which was far removed from John’s more conservative bent. At times, like right now, John wondered if he didn’t suffer from a unique form of schizophrenia. Most of the time, though, he kept those thoughts at bay with the notion that talking with a stuffed moose was just a silly mind game to make the long hours alone on the road more tolerable. And with all he had to contend with on this particular night—the weather, the exhaustion, the lateness of the hour—that would be about all the do it yourself psychoanalysis he’d allow for the time being.
“Did you get ahold of Denzel?” Moose asked.
“No, the phone lines are down from the storm,” John replied. “That’s what the guy at the fuel desk said.”
“Wow, I’ll bet Denzel’s shitting bricks about now…the people in Billerica, too.”
John shrugged. “Hey, it can’t be helped. I’m not going to get myself killed for this load.”
“Like those truckers down in Connecticut?”
“Yeah, you heard about that, huh?”
“It was on the CB. It sounds like it happened near where you stopped to change the fuel filter.”
“I think it did, probably not too long after we left.”
“Right,” Moose said quietly.
Maneuvering deliberately through the rows of parked trucks, their running lights marking their outlines while drivers slept in cozy bunks, John was struck by how much snow had already fallen. With the blustery winds it was hard to tell for sure but he guessed that it had to be 7 or 8 inches. If it kept up until the morning, most of these trucks would be buried. It was one ugly night.
“Stop the truck!” Moose hollered.
“Why?” John asked, but stopped all the same.
“Maybe we should reconsider this. It’s getting really crappy out.”
“What’re we supposed to do?” John said, rhetorically. “They’re without power in Billerica.”
“I was thinking that we should just park, get a good night’s sleep, and then go on in in the morning. I bet things will look a whole lot better by then.”
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Re: Moose Ghost Story Part I-3

Postby titanmike » Mon Apr 24, 2017 7:56 am

Send MOOSE an e-mail address if you want to read the rest.
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Re: Moose Ghost Story Part 1-3

Postby Tacitus651 » Tue Apr 25, 2017 1:54 pm

You write well, Moose. You could give some much needed grammar and punctuation lessons to people on this board. Have you ever posted your stuff on Amazon self publishing?

I was stuck at DCA airport today after making some yuge deals for work and this helped pass some time.
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Re: Moose Ghost Story Part 1-3

Postby MooseGuy1 » Wed Apr 26, 2017 10:29 pm

Tacitus651 wrote:You write well, Moose. You could give some much needed grammar and punctuation lessons to people on this board. Have you ever posted your stuff on Amazon self publishing?

I was stuck at DCA airport today after making some yuge deals for work and this helped pass some time.

Thank you. I enjoy your writings on the forum, too. Good stuff and usually gives me a laugh.

If you want the rest of the story, PM me an email and I'll send it. I'm biased, naturally, but I think the rest of it is better than the sample part. Only take about 10 minutes out of your schedule. :D
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