I’ll Meet You On Route 62
(A Disney/Pixar Cars fanfic)
“Breaker breaker, this is Gas Can. Got a leaky reefer here and I need the twenty on the nearest waterhole. Over.” Mack paused, waiting for a reply.
“Roger Gas Can, this here’s Rubber Duck. You’ve got a squat comin’ ‘bout thirty miles up. Over.”
“Yeah, keep your eyes peeled at yardstick eighty-nine and smile for the camera. It’s a raging slab and smoky’s thick out here. Over.”
Inside the trailer, Vee was listening to the conversation in amused silence. "Okaayyyy,” she spoke up at last. “That was all Greek to me. Can’t you truckers just speak English once in a while?”
Mack chuckled. “What fun would that be?”
“Did you even understand a word he said, or were you just being polite?”
“I understood him perfectly! CB talk is as natural as regular talk for us big rigs. While you’re learning ‘mama’ and ‘dada,’ we’re learning ‘ten-ten’ and ‘breaker breaker.’”
Vee laughed. “Well, I did understand a few words. ‘Smoky’ means cop, right?”
“And isn’t a reefer a refrigerated trailer?”
“That’s all I got, then. And I don’t think I even wanna know what a raging slab is!”
This time Mack laughed. “It’s just a straight stretch of road ideal for picking up speed on.”
Vee laughed too. “Riiight.”
“Honest! That’s all it is!” Mack insisted with a chuckle. “Basically he was just letting me know there’s a lot of cops with radars up ahead past milepost eighty-nine. And the next truck stop’s right up the road. We should be there in about, say, twenty minutes.”
“Great,” Vee replied, then fell silent. It was some time later before she spoke again. “Why’d you tell that guy you had a leaky reefer? Why didn’t you just say you were low on gas?”
“Eh, I dunno. We just like messing with each other sometimes. If I’d told ‘im I was running low, there’s a good chance he would’ve lied and said there was nothing out here. Some truckers get a kick out of watching others get stranded.”
Vee snorted. “Some sense of humor you guys’ve got.”
“Oh, we’re not all that bad. Even if a trucker does get stranded, other big rigs are usually pretty quick to help out. We like to mess with each other’s heads, but we always look out for each other. Most of us do, anyway.”
“Well, that’s good.” Vee heard Mack mumbling and strained to hear him. “I’m sorry, what?”
“Oh nothing,” he murmured, though he sounded somewhat troubled. “I was just saying that fuel’s not the only thing I’m low on right now. I don’t have a whole lot of cash on me, either.”
“Yeah. Shame we had to split town so soon. Today’s payday. Talk about irony!”
Vee forced a chuckle, though she found their situation to be anything but amusing. She thought for a minute, then cleared her throat. “Well,” she said quietly, then paused, hesitant to continue. “I know one way to make a fast buck.”
“Really?” Mack sounded hopeful. Vee didn’t answer him. There was a long silence, ended by a gasp. “No. No way! Absolutely not!” Mack said firmly. “I forbid you to even consider it!”
“It’s really not a big deal,” Vee murmured, though she didn’t sound nearly as convincing as she’d meant to.
“But Mack, we need money. You said it yourself! Wh - what are we going to do, then?”
There was a another long silence speckled with static as Mack considered their options. “I don’t know, but we’ll get by,” was all he said.
Vee wasn’t at all satisfied with that answer. “How, then? How can we keep going without fuel?” she demanded. “Unless you’re planning on stealing somewhere along the line, I don’t see how we’re going to get by unless one of us tries to earn some money. And no offense, Mack, but I don’t think you’re going to find a whole lot of vehicles out there who will pay you to do anything other than haul a load for them.”
“None taken,” Mack replied. “But theft is out of the question. And so is selling yourself. Now I don’t want to hear another word about it. In fact, I don’t want you to even THINK about doing that sort of thing ever again! You got that?” He winced at the sharpness of his tone and quickly regretted speaking to his friend that way. “I’m sorry, Vee,” he said softly. “I just - I just can’t stand the thought of you putting yourself out like that. Letting men take advantage of you. It’s wrong. You deserve better than that.”
Vee listened intently to Mack’s words. For a while she just stood there, frozen, not knowing what to say in return. A few times she opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came out except for an occasional sigh. Her eyes drifted away from the intercom and out the tinted window. The sun was gone now and the darkening sky was clear and blue. A full moon was just beginning to peak out over the ridge of the distant mountain range.
“Truck stop’s just up ahead,” Mack informed Vee a few minutes later. “I can see it now.” He started to slow as he switched lanes and drove down the off ramp. Neither one of them spoke while he pulled into the dusty, crowded lot and backed the trailer into a far corner between two other trailers. Mack unhitched himself and stretched, his frame groaning and creaking. He heard the thud of the trailer door hitting the ground and drove around back.
A cloud of dust went up when the ramp descended. Some of it drifted into the trailer, causing Vee to sneeze. She waited for it to settle, then rolled cautiously down the ramp, eyes wide as she looked around curiously. She had never been to a truck stop before, though she recalled Darla from the escort agency mentioning how disorderly they tended to be.
Mack greeted her with a smile and moved aside to let two big rigs by. One of them glanced at Vee. She did not fail to notice the slight smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth, nor glint in his eye. She pulled up beside Mack and the two of them drove silently toward the fueling station on the other side of the lot. They were flanked by rows of unmanned trailers, their haulers most likely enjoying some free time up at the station. The few trucks that they passed on this side of the lot appeared to be asleep.
The faint sounds of talking and laughter drifted to Vee on the evening breeze as they neared their destination. They reached the end of the row and turned right. A mob of semis stood around shouting and laughing boisterously. Some were refueling at a row of gas pumps. Many were drinking beer. Vee shrank away nervously as they approached the crowd. Mack looked down at her and touched her tire reassuringly.
“Don’t worry,” he told her. “We’ll just fill up and go straight back to the trailer, okay? Just stay close and I’ll make sure no one bothers you.”
Despite his calming tone, he couldn’t help but glance around a little nervously himself. As at home as he usually felt at a truck stop, it hadn’t occurred to him that perhaps this wasn’t the best place to bring his friend. It wasn’t that a car like Vee would not be welcome, far from it, but it was a rarity to see a female vehicle at a truck stop that wasn’t a big rig. In fact, the only non-semi women that dared to enter a truck stop most of the time were prostitutes looking to turn a few tricks.
Mack’s hood burned at the thought as he remembered Vee’s earlier suggestion of earning them some money. He looked around frantically, half hoping to see a lot lizard or two to distract the men’s attention. A car as lovely as Vee would not go unnoticed here, he knew. As they drove through the crowd, he moved closer to her, letting everyone know by his proximity to her that she was with him and not to be bothered.
Just as he predicted, several trucks turned to ogle her as they passed. Some started murmuring and nudging each other. One whistled and another catcalled. There were even a few Hey baby’s.
“Don’t make eye-contact,” Mack whispered. Vee nodded. She stared straight ahead, doing her best to ignore the large trucks and the unsettling feeling of all those eyes on her. It wasn’t until someone honked at her from behind that she showed any kind of reaction to them. She half turned to look back. Three semis were laughing hysterically and two more honked at her when she turned away again.
“It’s your sticker,” Mack murmured with a blush. Vee blushed too when she realized what he was talking about. Ford Almighty, what am I doing here? she demanded of herself as they reached the station. Mack sped up and pulled up to a pump just as another truck was leaving it. Vee pulled up close beside him, keeping out of view of most of the other semis.
“Let’s make this quick,” she told Mack, who nodded in agreement. She filled up quickly, eager to get back to the trailer where it was safe. She looked up at Mack, who was still hooked up to the pump. “How much longer are you going to take?” she asked, unable to keep the nervous edge out of her voice.
“A while, at least,” he answered, giving her an apologetic look. “I’ve got two tanks, and each one is twice as big as yours, so it’s gonna take awhile.”
Vee sighed impatiently and scowled down at her hood. After a few minutes a large shadow fell over her and she looked up to see a dusty black semi pulling up beside her. He stared down at her, hardly taking his eyes away even as he hooked himself up to the gas pump. Against her better judgment, she made eye-contact with him. He returned her gaze with dark, heavy-lidded eyes that seemed to drink her in with a thirst far greater than his tank had for fuel. Vee tore her eyes away and edged closer to Mack until their front hubcaps were touching. All she wanted was to get out of that spot as soon as possible.
“Well hey there, darlin’,” the black truck purred. “What’s a perdy lil thing like you doin’ in a place like this?”
Vee rolled her eyes. Oh, brother. She did not look at him or acknowledge his words in any way. Instead, she pressed even closer to Mack, who glared at the other truck.
“She’s with me,” he answered, in a tone that said quite clearly that Vee was off-limits. He said nothing more, but mouthed a silent prayer for his tanks to fill up quickly. A minute later there was a loud ding from the pump. Finally! Mack pulled away, ushering Vee along ahead of him with a tire. “Quickly,” he murmured, nudging her in the direction of the trailer.
Vee didn’t need telling twice. With a nod she drove quickly back through the crowd, Mack at her side. Two trucks started brawling and they had to swerve to avoid them. Swears and howls of laughter erupted at the spectacle. Even during the scuffle Vee’s presence did not escape the men. Several of them were now leering at her instead of the wrestlers.
Vee was so absorbed in watching the fight in her mirror that she was taken by surprise when two semis, one green and one a dirty white, pulled in front of her and Mack, blocking their path. The way they smiled at her sent shudders through her chassis.
“Ahem! Mind moving aside, please?” Mack said impatiently. The green truck smirked at him and chuckled.
“Why, you in a hurry?” he asked smugly.
“Yes, I am, as a matter of fact,” Mack replied. “I’m on a very tight schedule. Now if you’ll excuse me…”
“Whatcha pullin’?” asked the other truck.
Mack stared at him a moment before answering. “Ten-thirty-five.”
“That means I can’t tell you.”
“Ah know what it means!”
“He’s full of it!” the green truck declared. “The only thing he’s haulin’s this gal right here!” He pointed a tire at Vee, who recoiled slightly. “Saw her come out of his trailer. Say pal, you got any more where she came from?”
Mack sneered at him. “Sorry, but this is the only one and she’s spoken for. Now if you would kindly move aside, we’ll just be on our way.”
The two trucks exchanged glances. “Whatever you say, pal,” said the green truck as he backed away, watching Mack and Vee drive by with a smirk.
When they reached the trailer, Vee wasted no time sealing herself up inside it. Mack wasted no time, either. He was hitched up before the trailer door had closed behind her. He pulled out quickly, maneuvering around a pair of trailers that stood nearby. On the other side of them he found himself face to face with a gang of big rigs. Along with the two that had confronted him a moment ago, there was the black truck from the station and a fourth truck who was the same shade of red he was.
Mack backed away, startled. “Uh, excuse me,” he mumbled, trying to sound indifferent to their sudden appearance. He gave his engine a slight rev and moved forward a little, indicating that he wished to get through. None of the trucks moved so much as an inch.
“What’s the rush, pal?” asked the green truck, who seemed to be the leader of the group. “Why dontcha stick around awhile? Just kick back, relax, and let that little lady of yours out for some fresh air.” He rolled forward, closing the gap between Mack and himself and grinning deviously. “You don’t wanna keep a pretty thing like that locked away now, do ya?”
Mack tensed, forcing himself to remain still and not back away. He knew that to show any sign of fear would only make the situation worse. He said nothing, letting his loathsome glare at the green truck speak for him.
“Now why dontcha let ‘er back out and we’ll have us some fun tonight. Don’t worry, we’ll take real good care of ‘er, right fellas?” A rumbling chorus of chuckles answered the green truck, and his smile grew more confident as he awaited Mack’s reply.
For a moment, Mack was at a loss. His engine raced as he realized that both he and Vee were trapped. He opened his mouth to reply, but at first only stammered. He might have given up then and there if it was only his own safety on the line, but there was no way he was going to let anyone lay a tire on Vee. He puffed himself up, rising on his axles, and huffed an angry breath through his grille.
"I found her first, you lowlife," he growled. "And I'll be leaving with her, too. What, are you all so pathetic that you can’t even get your own lot lizards? You have to stoop to begging more attractive trucks for theirs?" He snorted. "Fat chance! Now move it!”
The green truck blinked at Mack in surprise and backed away. “All right, buddy. No need to get all huffy about it. I’ll move…” and he pulled aside to let Mack pass. The other three trucks, not nearly as brave as their leader, backed away and gave him a wide berth. The green truck waited until Mack and the trailer both had passed him before springing into action.
He lunged at the back door of the trailer, ramming it with his nose. Another hit and it started to open. Vee jumped at the loud banging. She gasped when the door fell open and the green truck peered in at her.
“Heya, baby!” he purred.
“MACK!” she shrieked, backing away from the door as far as she could.
Mack froze, engine racing. In seconds he unhitched the trailer and zoomed around to the back of it, charging straight at the green truck. Before he realized what he was doing, he had rammed into him as hard as he could, jarring both the truck and the trailer. Vee yelped at the sudden jolt and moved to the entrance to see what was happening. Mack backed up, seeing stars, his entire front end stinging horribly as tears formed in his eyes. The green truck had a large dent in his side and was now staring dumbstruck at his assailant.
Mack blinked back his tears and glared daggers at the truck. For a moment he looked too terrified to move. Then, suddenly, he caught a glimpse of Vee peeking out of the trailer. This seemed to embolden him. He rose up on his axles, returning Mack’s glare. With a shout, he plowed forward. Mack met him halfway, throwing him sideways and right into his three cronies. The green truck spun around. Mack braced himself for another attack, but it didn’t come. His adversary merely gaped at him. His dark eyes flitted to Vee, but a deep growl from Mack made him look away again.
“Fine!” he huffed, frowning at Mack. “Keep the bitch.”
Mack lunged at him and shoved him hard against a nearby trailer. He growled, baring his teeth and raising a tire as though he was going to strike him with it. Vee watched in horror from the trailer door.
“Mack!” she shouted, and Mack lowered his tire. He continued to glare at the green truck for a long moment, letting his threat sink in. Then slowly he backed away.
He closed the trailer door, hitting it a few times to make sure it was sound, then hitched himself up. Then, without a word, Mack drove forward, the four trucks giving him a wide berth as he passed. A minute later he was back on the highway, grille filling with the sweet scent of autumn. Mack breathed it in deep with a contented sigh. He had never been more glad to be back on the road.
Chapter Twenty-Seven: [link]