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  • Writer's pictureSarah Gibbs Underhill

Cleaning Out the Truck

Updated: Jul 23, 2022

On Beginnings and Endings 1/19/19

It's a raw, gray late January day, with a knifelike east wind blowing and a big snow storm on the way. I am cleaning out Dave's truck, a 1995 Chevy pickup which has been parked in the driveway since his death a year and a half ago. The bed is blanketed with a layer of dead leaves, the tires are muddy, the cab is dusty and full of all the things he kept handy as he went about his work day as a carpenter, a repairer of wooden boats and old houses. I'm cleaning out wrenches, lengths of rope, bolts and nuts and wrench sets, rags, business cards, sea shells, rolls of duct tape, odd bits of copper and wire.

When I first met Dave I loved his pickup truck and the careless way the dashboard was strewn with all these sorts of things. It was part of his mystique: he was a carpenter! Worked with his hands, made a living, older and wiser and more worldly wise than I, a bashful 20 year old girl at the time. I found him sexy and attractive and interesting, a bit edgy, dangerous , fascinating, and that reeled me in as surely as a bluefish on a line. He was also drop dead gorgeous. I experienced a physical rush, of hormones no doubt, when I first saw him. He was handsome on the verge of being beautiful, blond, slender, ever so slightly feminine. That combination I found irresistible. An older man of 32, with an ex-wife and a daughter and a cabin in Canada. These things were glamorous to me. I was crazy about him and found his truck sexy and I loved to ride in it with him.

Forty years on, I contemplate with the clarity of experience and the glow of nostalgia, as I gather up the mementos and tools of his last work years and put them in a milk crate, preparatory to selling the truck at scrap metal price to a guy who is willing to give it a home. Everything is quiet and gray and cold and still. It took awhile for the kids to agree to part with the truck. It still ran for awhile and we used it to haul firewood around in the yard, and to move our boat to a different spot. But the brakes are shot, the suspension is all rust, the power steering leaks like a fountain. A fan belt went flying off last time we had it running and is now curled up in the cab like a dormant black snake. One of my sons asked me for money for some legal expenses he has and I bargained the truck being sold for helping him out. We need the room in the driveway. I don't have the money to restore the truck to being road worthy. Time to let it go.

Cleaning off the dashboard (matches, paint scraper, pipe tobacco, a condom, a giant magnet, nails, screws) I remember the first dashboard and the joy of riding together. We managed to ride together for 33 years in various trucks and boats until the stresses of life and the coldness set in and we split up. I have a few regrets but I'm glad we did it. Ride together, that is. I have a solemn driveway moment, contemplating the truck leaving as he left, not to return. It's been in the driveway keeping up the appearance of someone being home even when no-one is, a useful service sometimes on a quiet country back road. Now there will be times when there is no vehicle parked here, and the house appears as it is, temporarily deserted by its living occupants, empty, quiet, waiting for the next chapter to begin.

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