Diesel Mechanic School  didn’t “pan out”like I thought it would. I might have done better if I hadn’t used my student loan money to play poker 72 hours at time; but to be fair, – I was winning. I had been on an epic, two year long rush where it seemed like I couldn’t lose. There wasn’t a gut shot straight draw I wouldn’t hit. There wasn’t a two outer that I couldn’t spike on the river. I played on the come, and won day after day, night after night. The other players were perplexed, and some of them got spooked; they even brought in David Sklanski to cool me down, but even the man that wrote the book on Texas Hold-Em walked away shaking his head in the end. Too bad I was only playing 3-6 Limit.

“You can’t play like that and win forever, – you’re not psychic. The odds will catch up with you.”

Well, he was right about two things; I couldn’t play like that and win forever, – and the odds did catch up with me …

I had rebuilt the engines on a 65 Mustang Fastback and a 1949 Willey’s F-Head while I was at  Missoula Tech; and when I went bust at poker, I sold my cars, went to truck driving school in Rialto, California – and secured  a job driving over-the-road for Ellsworth Freight Lines out of Eagle Grove, Iowa.

I wanted to go out for a Missoula Club burger for my last night in town, but we were both too sad, and hurt, and angry to be out in public. When I was winning and had a pocket full of cash for bars and restaurants everything was okay, but I had been sponging off Celeste for too long, and even though she said she didn’t mind, – being a broke ass poker player with his girlfriend paying the rent ate at me.

I made a sign that said: CDL Licensed Truck Driver – Iowa. The plan was to hitch-hike to The Twin Cities, visit my mom, and then get a ride from her down to Eagle Grove. With tears in her big brown eyes, Celeste drove me out to the entrance of Interstate 90. All I had was a backpack with socks, underwear, a tooth brush,  one extra pair of jeans,  – and my hitch-hiker’s sign.

“When will I see you again”?

“Next Christmas, I promise.”

“But I’ll be in Youngstown for Christmas next year, – how can you say that”?

“I’ll work it out so that I’m driving through Ohio on  Christmas Eve, and I’ll see you … and meet your family,-  okay!”

“But you said you would never know where the next load  would take you! How can make a promise like that”?

“I just know.”

“But” –

“I’ll be there!”

And that was that. I don’t know why she believed me, but content with the fact that we would see each other again, she calmed down.

“Okay, … I love you”.

We kissed each other good-bye, and I walked up the ramp with my sign held high. I don’t know what made me make a promise like that, but I had a feeling that I would actually be in Youngstown, Ohio for Christmas next year. I don’t know how I knew that. I just knew.

The very first truck driver that came by gave me two blasts of his air horn, and pulled over. I turned around to wave good bye to Celeste one more time, and ran to up to the passenger side of the cab. The door flung open. I climbed up and was greeted by the smiling, bearded face of the driver, and before I could say, “Thanks for stopping” –  he yelled out …

“I’ve got two questions for you!”

“Alright”, I thought to myself, – boy you better get these right.

“Do you smoke weed”?

“Yes Sir, – I do.”

“Are you a homosexual”?

“No Sir, – I am not.”

“Well then get in, – we’re goin’ to St.Paul!”

My luck had changed. I got my mojo back.  All it took was a sense of confidence, a willingness to throw caution to the wind, and a devil may care attitude towards The Demons of What If?

I was free of the past, and everything was going great …

… [ to be continued ]


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