Rob feels secure, yet incredibly sad and empty, in the truck he’s driven for years. The dry rolling valley, the insanely tortuous road that vanishes in the mist drifting up from the magnificent river far below, the beauty contrasting the destruction: it all seems pointless, addictive, hopeless, suicidal. There is no escape. He wipes away a trickle of tears, perhaps from the dust or perhaps from his mood, revs the engine, puts it in gear, releases the brakes and starts down the hill. He’s driven mountain roads thousands of times over the past seven years with butterflies in his gut and a load of logs on his ass: tons of logs chasing him down narrow roads that get steeper every year. Tips of the logs on Scott’s truck disappear around the first corner. Exhaust funnels from chromed pipes as Scott shifts gears and Rob wonders how the new truck handles on this first real corner with its first load of logs. The dust is six inches thick and Scott’s truck tires stir it into a soupy mist that hangs above the road. It will rise higher with every truck until it blankets the road like thick fog and creates a sensation of floating on a cloud: a hypnotic blend of fear and comfort that sucks the driver’s concentration into a dream-like distant void of memory and fantasy. What in hell am I doing here? Mum, I hope to hell you’re not watching. I promise you I’ll quit. I promise you, Mary, I’ll quit. Davy, don’t turn out like me. I don’t know what to do. A forest fire, that’s what we need. A raging fire will clear away all the mess logging has made to this valley and everything can start fresh and new.
A pickup with rifles displayed menacingly across the back window and three men heading up to kill deer, takes up far too much of the road. The driver is terrified by the sheer cliffs on his side of the road, but a blast from Rob’s air horn convinces him to move as suddenly the truck bearing down on him is far more frightening than the cliffs. Rob takes a corner that kicks back into another steep bend in the opposite direction then up a slight rise and now over a small hill then level into a short straight stretch before I run into the sharpest corner on the road. Man, I know this deadly road by heart.
He crests the hill.
What the fuck is going on up there? A camper van has stopped in his path and four people stand in front of it waving their arms. What in the hell are you doing? You bloody idiots get off the fucking road. I can’t stop this goddamned thing in that space! Rob starts to gear down. His reflexes press the brakes much too hard. The trailer brakes are too weak for the load. The trailer pushes him into a skid as it gains speed on the cab. A jackknife! Ease off the truck brakes. Straighten with just the air brakes. He wonders if the new truck has more braking power. He gears down as fast as the truck can handle, double clutching, shifting two levers with two hands. The engine strains as the truck slows. The weight keeps pushing the rig deeper into a jackknife.
People from the camper run for the banks. Frantically, desperately they climb. “Christ, there are two little kids! For God’s sake, people, run!” Rob screams, and shifts, and brakes, and fights with the steering. The family climbs as death gnaws at their backsides. “You god-damned idiots! Don’t you know you have to drive on the left side of these roads?” Rob screams and his voice echoes insanely-ineffectual inside the cab. “There are signs everywhere telling you. Jesus-fucking-Christ!” Rob’s mind functions far beyond his thoughts. It flashes a thousand images a second. His reflexes are agonizingly slow. The transmission is geared right down. His foot eases down on the brakes, harder and harder. The damned camper is right in the middle of the fucking road. I don’t have enough room to pass. That’s a two-hundred-foot drop. But, if I can get control, I might have enough room to get the cab past and hope that fucking van won’t tip the trailer over when we hit. Everything moves in slow motion. Rob has control of the truck just three-hundred-feet from the van and aims the huge cab at the narrow space between the camper van and the cliff. There isn’t enough room. No fucking way!
His mind is numb. The hood of his truck looms over the small, flat hood of the van. He stares inside the empty mobile home like a Peeping-Tom: an unmade bed, dishes in a tiny sink. The side mirrors of the truck smash the windshield of the camper. Huge wheel studs tear through thin steel. Metal shatters. Rob’s truck grinds away the sides of the pretty toy this idiot desk-jockey bought to take his family out to show them the forest. When the trailer hits that van I’ll be pushed over the cliff. The load of logs smashes the camper. Rob presses the brakes hard and fights to keep the wheels straight. The trailer slams the van up against the bank, and keeps on moving straight. Rob doesn’t feel the impact; the truck stops in a cloud of dust. He rests his head on the steering wheel. Good fucking Jesus! I hope to hell they all got out. He tries to open the door, but it’s jammed; he kicks with both feet until it grinds opens a foot, and he squeezes out.
“Is everyone all right? Did everyone get out?” He yells toward the van. The wreck lies on its side halfway up the ten-foot bank. All the steel on the topside has been stripped away: the seats and interior exposed. It has the look of a woman lying naked after she’s been ravaged by a savage intruder.
“Yes! We’re all okay, but look below!” Four voices answer in chorus as they point down the road ahead.
“Look below what?”
“The cliff! The cliff!” They yell and point toward the road ahead of Rob’s truck.
Rob walks to the front of his truck. His heart pounds; he can’t breathe. He looks down the road, trailer skid-marks dug deep into the dirt lead to the shoulder of the road and disappear. He yells. “Scott! Scott!” Rob runs to the edge of the cliff and looks over. Angus’ new truck lies two-hundred-feet below. It’s upside down. The cab has to be crushed like a small can by the tons of logs on the trailer. The wheels of the trailer are still turning. The air is full of dust.
“Oh, God, Scott, no! No! Scott!” Rob falls to his knees; his voice echoes around the little valley where the truck lies on its back.