“What makes you think there’ll be another time?”
“You like my stories. That’s what. I’d tell you that story but it’s late and have a sales call in the morning over in Tustin.”
“Too bad. This story just ends with you leaving Susan a four in the morning? What about her? Did you just forget about her after that? How many women are we up to now? Four, five?”
“You’ve been keeping track?”
“It’s not hard. Your women seem to have been the punctuation marks in your tales. And Susan wasn’t the most recent from what you said.”
“No, she wasn’t but I didn’t just drive off. I tried to hang on to her but couldn’t. She slipped away.
“For the rest of the summer she and I made the most of our time together but then when fall came our schedules just couldn’t match up. She was on the new Anchorage run and I was on the road for longer periods, Texas, Detroit, even Massachusetts . We wrote for a few months but the letters got fewer and fewer. It was pretty sad. So there’s your sad ending.”
By late fall, the fruit was all hauled and the trucking trips dried up. When the leaves were off, we started cutting firewood again. We cut through till late March when the sap started rising. We’d sold off all of last year’s dry wood during the winter at a nice premium. Roland shot two deer. We butchered them and hauled them to the freezer locker in town. We had dried and frozen fruit and veggies too. So we were warm and ate well but by April we were both broke again. So, it was back to mopping floors again at The Silver Spoon. Patty, the owner, could be counted on in a pinch.
After a few weeks of mopping floors, I got a local, union job driving a petroleum tanker and moved to the city. I stayed with my aunt for a time. A friend of Susan’s helped me find an apartment. The tanker business was hard work and long hours but it paid lots better than long-haul at a nickel a mile. About that time news of a civil war in Angola was reported briefly on NPR then disappeared from the news. I began hauling a dangerous aircraft fuel known as JP8 from the Naval fuel depot to Andrews Air Force Base near Spokane. I wondered if there was a connection.
“So Susan just drifted off into the dustbin of your memory?”
“Clearly not. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have told you about her.”
“How could you have told the Angola story without her?”
“I suppose you do have a point.
“One Saturday a couple of years later I bumped into her at the Co-op grocery near her house. She looked tired and unhappy. We talked for a few minutes, about what I don’t remember, then she said, ‘Have a nice life. I mean that!’ and walked off to her car. That’s the last I saw of her.”