Rita and the trucker

“I don’t expect you to be back again,” Rita said after they’d made love in an East Texas motel.

Les looked at her with his eyebrows furrowed; “This is the third time we’ve been together. Why do you think it will stop?”

She pressed against him, their naked flesh fusing. “It’s okay, sorry.”

Rita got up from the mattress and stood at the window facing the rear of the motel. A stream bent around the weed-infested ground. The rain had slowed, and clear drops penetrated the polluted water. A soaked cat walked underneath the small canopy, stopping momentarily to look into the room. Rita put her hand against the pane as if to touch the feral animal.    

Les came up behind her and put his hands on her shoulders; “This is my route once a week, and it’s too long to drive straight. I’ll have a reason to see you. Maybe not every time, but often.”

She turned and smiled at him.


When Rita entered the kitchen in the morning, her mother was cracking eggs over a sputtering pan. Neither spoke as they ate, her mother not questioning as she’d done in the past. “My ma is no longer the protector of my virtue,” was Rita’s caustic joke to a friend. But her mother’s anger accumulated, and like the air from a punctured tire released with a hiss until exhausted, Rita knew. The last outburst was nearly a month before, on a Friday evening, when Rita put money on the table and asked her mother for a receipt.

Her mother’s nostrils flared as if detecting a malodorous scent. “Why do you want a receipt?” she said as she fingered the bills.

“You treat me like a boarder.”

Later that morning, Rita’s mother came down the stairs dressed for church in a knee-length skirt and a doily resting on her hair anchored by a bobby pin. She didn’t ask her daughter if she planned to go to Mass.

Rita worked at a diner in the center of the sixteen-building town; pickup trucks were parked at a forty-five-degree angle, leaving a strip of rutted road for traffic. Rita took a countercloth from her purse and placed it on the corner of the Formica counter, tossing a food-crusted rag left from the early shift in a bin. An old man sat at a swiveling stool, drinking coffee from a ceramic cup and using the saucer as an ashtray.

Mark Kintrell, the owner and diner cook, came out of the kitchen rubbing his hands against his wrinkled apron. His shaved head shined with sweat. Standing beside her, he said, “Lilly can’t work late on Thursday; could you stay late?”

Rita shook her head. “Can’t; got plans.”

“That trucker again?”

Rita shook her head dismissively.   

She arranged to meet him at the same motel, chuckling when she noticed he’d secure the same room as the last time. Carrying sandwiches from the diner and a bottle of red wine she purchased on the way, Rita pulled up in front of the room Les mentioned. They ate sitting on the double bed, crumbs from the dry bread falling on the gray carpet. They had sex twice, once after eating and in the morning before Rita left.

The following week, Les called and said he had a new run north for a few days but would return to his usual route afterward. He told her he would look for a new job and talked about how he looked forward to seeing her again and having sex, described with such specificity that she reddened.

On her late Thursday shift, she rubbed the counter with a sponge when Kintrell stood behind her while putting on his jacket. “I appreciate you staying late. Lilly called in sick again, and I can’t get no one this quick.” After he left, Rita pulled the mop and bucket out of a closet off the kitchen, pushed the yarn across the wood floor to the entrance, and flipped the lock. While wringing out the mop in the kitchen sink, she heard a knock against the glass. Ambling on the damp floor, she squinted to see who was outside. A mild fog and the moonless sky muted the single light beam over the illuminated sign. With her face nearly pressed against the glass, she grabbed the door handle when she saw Les standing on the outside so close that his breath clouded the pane. Once inside, he embraced Rita, and she flung her arms around his neck.      

“Are you back on your usual route?” she asked, stroking his smooth chin.

“No, I took two days off and drove here to see you.”

“How did you know I’d still be here?”

“I stopped by your house. You told me where you lived, and when I knocked, your mother answered. I asked her if you were home, and she just stared at me, her eyes taking pictures. I haven’t been that examined since my Army medical.”

She kissed him so hard that a piece of tobacco that had nested on his inner lip transferred to hers.

“I have to clean up in the kitchen for a few minutes and change; I’ll be quick.”

Rita put on her jeans and sweatshirt hung near the storage room; she was stacking dishes when she heard music from the jukebox at the far edge of the dining area and the sound of chairs scraping over the cleaned floors. Returning to the dining room, she saw that Les had moved a few tables and chairs to leave a space in the center. He stretched his arm in a gesture of offering, and she folded into him. In the small square, they moved together in slow steps pressing so close that the edges of their shoes rubbed. When the music stopped, they stayed in the embrace until Rita saw someone peer into the door glass and turn around. 

Rita finished closing up, and they drove off, passing the motel where he had stayed on previous trips. She looked at him, “Where are we going?”

Les smiled at her. “I’ve got a room for the night at the Holiday Inn; I wanted to take you someplace better this time.”

Barely through the door, they rushed at each other and fell on the bed without turning down the covers. 

“Will your mama be wondering where you are?” Les asked.

“She knows you’re here; that explains.” Rita put her head on his shoulder. “My daddy died four years ago, and I remember he told me not to date sailors or truckers.”

Les laughed. “Your daddy was a wise man.”

“He said they can’t be trusted, too used to moving on. Are you like that?”

Les bit his lower lip. “I took you to this hotel. Cost me a couple of days’ pay. Does that tell you something?”

Rita sat up. “I don’t know nothin’ about you: where you grew up, your family.”

“That’s a good thing,” he answered. “It’s like my past is gone; things I did wrong disappeared.”

“Are you my boyfriend like I tell people? My friend Lilly says girls like me have a hard time getting a steady boyfriend.”

“I guess I am. You’re the only girl I see.”

“We don’t date like a regular couple. All we do is go to motels. Sometimes I feel like a whore.”

Les shook his head. “That ain’t true. Whore’s fuck; we make love.”

Rita turned her head slightly, then back to him. “What’s the difference?”

Le put his hands on the mattress and pushed himself up and to his feet. Rita grabbed his wrist and yanked him back to beside her.

“Your so-called friend is probably jealous. I’m goin’ to look for the job so I can be nearby. They’re always looking for drivers, and I’m good.”

Rita kissed him, her tongue diving into his mouth.

“When do you have to go back to work?” Les asked as Rita dressed.

“I left a note for Mark that I might be late. I don’t normally start until eleven.”

“Okay, I’ll take you to the restaurant across the street, and we can have breakfast. That’s a date, ain’t it?”

They walked across the four-lane road, and Les opened the door to the restaurant. Once inside, they looked around, and Les said, “Fancier than where you work.”

The hostess seated them at a table near a wide window; the sun was at eye level, and Rita squinted at Les, who had his back to the sunlight. The waitress wore a short dress that rose to reveal her stocking tops when she leaned over to place the check on a nearby table before she walked to where Rita and Les were seated. She handed them menus and spoke of the specials while staring at Les. He looked at her, and their eyes stayed connected until Rita asked about the tuna special. After eating, she directed him to a park just outside of town, and they sat in his car in a parking lot on a lake’s edge, watching the weak waves turn over on the dark dirt edge. Rita leaned against Les while he talked.

“We can get a place together; I could work for a distributor and deliver stuff to stores in the area. You could bring home food from the diner or make something—real domestic-like. We can make love whenever we want. He described her body with words she hadn’t heard since the whispering in her high school hallway.

Les drove her back into town. Rita rushed inside the diner and saw that most of the tables were filled, and Lilly was rushing about with plates. She hurried to the back to change, ignoring Kintrell’s stare. Later when the lunchtime activity stopped, the two waitresses sat at a table. Rita nibbled on a piece of dry toast.

“You with the truck driver? Is he good?” She asked with a laugh.

While chewing, Rita nodded. “He’s special, Lilly, I swear. Has anyone ever fucked you with his words?”

After her shift, she returned home. Her mother moped the kitchen floor, soaking up a brownish puddle and wringing the liquid into a bucket.

“Sorry, I didn’t call last night.”

“Didn’t expect it.”

“You met Les what—”

“That’s the right name for him.” Dropping the mop stick, she said, “He’s ordinary.”

“No, he isn’t; I’m ordinary; you’re ordinary; everyone in this town is ordinary. Les goes places and sees other towns and cities. Before this job, he traveled all over the country. Les is talking about owning his own business one day. He has ambition.”   

“Ambition means you’re not happy with what you have. I’m going to bed.”

The following Tuesday, Les called to say his boss was switching his route for two weeks. Rita asked if he could come down on his day off, but he said he couldn’t.

In the morning, Rita drove to work along the same worn path from her driveway to the stretch of interstate. Her car’s heater competed with the cold coming through the rear window that wouldn’t close entirely, and the bald tires swayed when riding over sections of ice that had formed overnight and wouldn’t disappear until mid-morning. Lilly was wiping the coated menus when Rita came in.

“You seeing the truck driver this week?” Lilly asked.

“His name is Les; you know that. You don’t like people calling you ‘waitress’ instead of your name,” she said, pointing to Lilly’s nameplate pinned above her breast.

“What’s his last name; do you know it?”

“Next time he comes to town, you can meet him,” Rita said before stomping to the kitchen.   

“I never met him, but I know his type,” Lilly shouted after her.

Les called Thursday and said his truck broke down before reaching her town, and he was driving back to the depot after a mechanic made temporary repairs.


Rita heard reports of an overturned truck on the highway that passed north of her town; the news vaguely hinted at fatalities. The following morning the regional newspaper carried the story in detail with photos of the crushed truck on its side. The accompanying prose explained that the police speculated that the driver, Les Morgan, was likely distracted and failed to turn at the curve in the highway until a final moment of realization, then flipped, attempting to compensate for the late awareness. The article added that the driver and a passenger, Eileen Reynolds, were killed on impact. The trucking company expressed regret but stated that passengers in delivery vehicles was prohibited by company policy.

Rumors spread that the truck driver who died in the crash was Rita’s boyfriend, and speculation formed about the woman killed with him. Rita said she’d heard the woman was hitchhiking because she’d fought with a boyfriend who told her to get out of his car. Les, Rita explained, felt sorry for the upset woman and offered to drive her to the next town when the accident happened.

Rita told Lilly at the restaurant. With her head lowered and eyes looking up at Rita, her friend said, “Do you believe that?”

“That’s what happened!” Rita repeated as she turned her back and walked toward the kitchen, “That has to be what happened.”