by Jim Farrar (1984)

I worked in a grocery store for a couple of years, loading and unloading trucks that came from the company's distribution center in Layton, Utah. Though the work was physically demanding, it did pay well and it didn't require a great deal of skill or responsibility, a perfect situation for a twenty-year-old boy who was terminally burned out on college and just wanted enough money to party.

Working with trucks meant working with truck drivers, a lot of them. Through constant contact, I got to know most of the drivers quite well--as a group and as individuals--and I cultivated friendships with some very unlikely people. One in particular stands out, a big bear of a man named Bill.

Bill looked formidable. He stood about six foot five, weighed close to three hundred pounds, had thick flowing brown hair that curled in a series of long and lazy and graceful curves far down below his shoulders. He had a full beard and a silver tooth and piercing blue eyes that reflected a street-wise intelligence that was surprisingly articulate. He wore a gold earring long before they became fashionable and in all the years that I knew him, I never saw him wear anything other than olive drab pants and a pinstriped shirt that had "Bill" monogrammed above the left front pocket, just like a gas station attendant's. He looked like an illegitimate cross between a Russian novelist and a Barbary Coast Pirate. A jolly roger in a semi-truck, as it were. His friends called him Tiny; I called him Tiny.

Tiny hadn't always been a truck driver. He was from Detroit, where he'd been a color-wearing member of a motorcycle gang. He quit the club when the stakes got too high, when they started to kill one another. He'd been a witness to a shooting at a club picnic on the Fourth of July. Another member of the club, fueled by jealousy and booze, had taken a sawed-off shotgun and blown away the man who'd been making the move on his wife.

Tiny was used to fights. After all, that's basically what motorcycle gangs do. Or at least that's what the motorcycle gangs that he was familiar with did. But murder was another thing altogether. After the shooting, he quietly left the party, called the police, and stopped riding with the club. Soon after that, he moved to Utah and started driving truck, leaving his old life behind him, though through his appearance he still maintained the biker image, which he liked.

Trouble seemed to follow Tiny, however. He liked to drive the long haul, usually from Salt Lake City to Miami, though he would make an occasional trip to New Jersey to pick up a load. It was on one of those rare trips to Jersey that Tiny had his second brush with homicide in as many years.

He'd gone to a cold storage facility somewhere in the industrial section, a rough part of town on the outskirts of New York City, to pick up a load of Australian beef bound for Utah. Given his size and appearance, I don't think Tiny had much to be afraid of in the city, though he tells me that big cities, especially New York, always give him a strange sense of anxiety and a dull and unexplainable feeling of fear. That's the reason he moved out West, he said, because small towns are so peaceful. For him, that sentiment seems rather strange, especially coming from a man who was born and raised in Detroit, a city he says he loves, and a city which hardly qualifies as the nation's gentlest.

But in this instance Tiny's instincts were correct. After loading in New Jersey, he headed west, home towards Utah. He stopped to eat at a truck stop in Pennsylvania, in the dead of night. Before going in the building, he went around to the back of his truck to check the temperature in the trailer, to make sure that it was no more than twenty degrees in there. He opened the side door and there on a meat hook, toward the nose of the truck, was a body. It was a young man, somebody had put him in there while he'd been on the dock back in New Jersey. He'd been shot in the head.

Tiny was, as he so eloquently put it, scared "fuckin' shitless." He didn't know what to do. Calling the police was out of the question. He might be delayed, he might lose his job, or he might even get blamed for the murder. He didn't exactly look like a law-abiding citizen; he looked more like Charles Manson than he did a truck driver. So, no, the cops were out. They might ask the wrong questions.

He shut the door and went inside the restaurant and ate. "Can't get rid of a wasted dude on an empty stomach," he told me. He was scared, but he hadn't lost his appetite.

Somewhere near Harrisburg was where he got rid of the body. He tossed it off a turnpike at about five in the morning. I'm not sure whether or not I believe him, but then again, he really had no reason to lie to me, and I'm sure he wasn't trying to impress me. Just looking at him made a big enough impression on me.

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