Bobby Rose strapped down the pine logs stacked high between the bolsters of his trailer. The resin smell of freshly cut trees circled the truck as Bobby secured the flat hooks. Before tightening the final straps, he paused for a breeze and caught the whistled song of a field sparrow.
The sparrow halted its call and the clearing carved out by the logging job went quiet. Bobby felt his senses sharpen. They inhaled every bit of information to identify the disturbance. His peripheral vision clicked.
A man dressed in fatigues and carrying a rifle darted from the tree line at the forest’s edge. He stopped thirty yards away, set up and fired a shot into the heavy logs above Bobby’s head on the trailer; “Freeze, grandpa,” barked the man. “I ain’t fuckin’ around.”
Bobby flashed back to his crotch-rot in Vietnam. A two-year tour of packing munitions and driving scared through jungles marks a man. Bobby locked in and recognized the nervous, erratic energy of this would-be soldier. A dangerous man in danger, thought Bobby. A man on the run without a plan.
“I hear you, son,” said Bobby, feeling steady, “Loud and clear.”
“Load up,” said the man, circling the front of the truck while keeping his gun on Bobby.
“Okay, let’s do it. Call me Bobby,” he said as the gunman swung into the passenger seat.
“Drive it, Grandpa Bobby. Get to the bypass.”
Bobby nodded, put the truck in gear and bounced down the forest road. He drove many jungle paths for Uncle Sam before decades of pulling loads for logging outfits. Looks like I’m back to carrying armed passengers, thought Bobby, glancing to his right.
“Where we headed, soldier?” asked Bobby.
“Don’t dick with me.”
“Wouldn’t think of it,” said Bobby, shifting gears.
At the bend, both men spotted the Sherriff’s cars double-stacked across the logging road just before the paved county bypass. A dozen officers pointed handguns and rifles at the oncoming truck; “Ram ‘em, old man. Clear the goddam road!”
“Sure thing,” said Bobby, taking his foot off the accelerator and mashing the brakes. When the brakes bit, the engine stalled and physics took over. Each freshly cut loblolly pine in his load, slick in sap and barely secured, became a four-thousand-pound battering ram obedient to inertia.
Bobby leaned left and slammed into the steering wheel. His startled rider bounced off the dash as two logs from the trailer behind drove through the back of the cab. One log detached Bobby’s right arm before crashing through the windshield. The second log cut the gunman in half, carrying his torso through the open window towards the fleeing deputies.
Bobby felt clearheaded as he turned towards the pulped midsection in his passenger seat. It reminded him of carrying dead friends, stacked like cordwood, back to base, and the senseless illogic that puts men in these situations.
Through the chaos and shouting of deputies outside, Bobby listened for birds and other signals of what lay next. A soft breeze found the shattered windshield of his cab and delivered a touch of calm.
I won’t get these logs to the mill, thought Bobby, who experienced many a near-miss in his forty years behind the wheel and in the trenches. Still, he felt peaceful and ready when the Sheriff and his team, all survivors thanks to Bobby’s sacrifice, circled the truck.
Bobby, his vision blurring, dropped his head and closed his eyes.
Brooks C. Mendell writes and works in forestry near Athens, Georgia. His stories have appeared in venues such as DSF, Storgy, Spank the Carp and Mystery Tribune. www.brooksmendell.com