Wednesday, October 5, 2011


The Littlest Truck Driver

The family Holiday stood ankle deep in mud outside the gates of the graveyard. The sky rumbled and dark clouds rolled in. In the distance, lightning streaked the horizon. The tallest member of the family flung an arm upward in a futile gesture of frustration. There was an enormous crack of thunder that shook the ground and rattled the gates of the graveyard. The gates were not locked but the wind from the storm had slammed them closed in the night, and now the thunder shook the air, and the gates swung open. The man dropped his arm, startled at the coincidence. He rested his hand on the broad speckled back of his eldest daughter. He gave her a gentle shove. She was the first through the gate. Once on the other side, she turned towards her family and facing them broke into a short routine of light calisthenics. The rain began to fall, and after the applause she jogged towards her grandfather’s grave. The rest of the family followed, stopping at the gatehouse to retrieve the coffin. They marched in the mud with singular purpose through the storm, towards the open grave.
The grave was filled with water, and the coffin would not fit. The senior male member of the family looked skyward and signaled violently with his hands. Planes rushed over head in the distance. The slow pragmatic sound of heavy equipment could be heard. Temporarily the wind and rain slacked a bit. The dark sky hung above the muddy graveyard, and the Holiday family redirected their vapid gaze away from the scarred earth, towards the sound of approaching equipment.
The crew appeared, a flotilla of heavy machinery in the thick sea of mud. The tractor lost its balance and had to back up. “BEEP BEEP BEEP” it cried as it pulled itself free from the heavy mud. The driver had decorated the inside of his cab with cheery Christmas lights. The bulldozer behind him had lashed a pink Christmas tree to its grill and streams of blinking lights were dragged behind it in the mud. The truck with the sump pump pulled abreast of the two greater machines, but what the little truck lacked in stature it made up for in enthusiasm. The entire truck was outlined in lights and a deer shape comprising lights was mounted on top of the cab. It was a marvelous sight and a cheer went up from the Holiday family as they saw assistance approaching.
They were so eager to show their appreciation that they tore flowers from the funeral wreaths and stripped petals form the stalks, tossing them in front of the tractor. The operator was so moved that he leaned out of his cab, and steering with his knees, gave a gentle, magnanimous wave, coquettishly turning and glancing over his shoulder to the delight of the mourners, who laughed and clapped and cheered, until their joy turned on them and became a unified sorrow.
The Holiday family collapsed in a heap and began to wail, so that when the smug, festive little truck driver passed them, they threw no flowers and raised no cheers, and he took it to heart, and was wounded by their apathy. After all, he thought, I am the one who will drain the grave of water so that they can commend their grandfather to the earth.
He pulled alongside the bigger machines, exited the cab of his truck and approached the heavy equipment operators who were loathe to help him unload the sump pump. The heavy equipment operators didn’t want to know the driver of the little truck. They haphazardly helped him to unload. Then, they walked away without a word, leaving the driver of the little truck alone to complete the arduous task of drainage.
The family Holiday continued to weep as a group, finding consolation in their shared misery.
The driver of the little truck had to work furiously, against time, against the weather, all alone, soaked through to the skin, while the heavy equipment operators relaxed, waiting until they were needed.

*     *     *

At last, the grave was drained, and the driver of the little truck was exhausted. He slogged through the heavy mud to inform the Holiday family, who were moaning and flailing their arms in a demonstration of sorrow. But they had grown weary of their own show, and only wanted to get out of the elements, and when the senior member of the family saw the approach of the driver, he broke off from the group and met the man, rested a heavy hand on one of his shoulders and passed a damp twenty dollar bill into his hand. The little truck driver’s spirits were lifted. Anyone could see how empty the construction show was. People needed him. He should not get so down; he was the one people needed. He strode back to his little truck and hopped into its little cab and sped away from the graveyard. He moved so swiftly that the deer mounted on the top of the cab fell off, but he did not stop for it--only chased the rest of the morning through the graveyard gate, leaving behind the family Holiday, and the vainglorious heavy equipment operators.

© Callan 2011

Callan left Orange County, Ca. in 2007 and moved to the country to focus full time on her writing. Her work is featured at Six Sentences and her blog: theworksofjanecallan


  1. You had me at Holiday, mud and graveyard. Simple yet refreshing. I want to know more about the Holiday family. There could definitely be another piece about them.

  2. Richly descriptive. You manage to convey a world of characterisation tightly here.


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