I’m Bob. My long name is Robert but there ain’t nobody that uses it but my mom. And she uses it when she is mad. These days she is mad. I made a big mistake. But I think there was nothing that could be done. My friends call me Bobby sometimes. I haven’t seen them in a while. You can call me Bob. In here they call me Bob, or 108. 108 is the number written by the County on my shirt. It’s a prison shirt, cause that’s where I am. For a few more months anyhow. I didn’t hurt nobody. I hurt mostly myself. I have lots of time on my hands these days, so sometimes I write. I don’t think anybody would want to read my stories, but I write em down anyhow cause it takes up the time. Let me tell you what got me in here.
I am a line truck driver. I was anyhow. That means I drive the truck for the county that paints the new lines on the road, – them yellow lines. Someone once called those the dee-mark-at-tion lines, but I don’t know what that means and I never met anyone named Mark that worked for the county yet so I think that man was mistaken. I just call em the yellow lines. It’s me and, well, was me, and another fella paint those lines. He was good for a time, but he had elbow trouble. Mamma says elbow trouble is when you got the thirst to drink too much and you bend your elbow lots so as to get what you need to your mouth. There is even another kinda trouble called nose trouble, and it aint about being nosy. But I neva met anyone with that kinda trouble.
Anyway, The other guy started to swerve sometimes and you can’t be swerving with the lines. So, they sent him to a program and hired a new one. I was the training the new one when all the trouble done begun. See, I was good at my job, and even had it so we had a little asphalt road outside the edge of town that we painted the lines on. For practice. You gotta practice. The new guy was doing well. In fact, we had a new truck, a new line truck, and the summer months were just beginning…
It was a Wednesday night and I went home after painting the lines on a new road. Darlene, my wife,- well, she not my wife no more- she was all dressed funny- like in her Sunday best, and she had a suitcase.
I said, ‘Darlene. You look good. But where you goin’?
And she come with,’ Bobby, I’m leaving you. The line truck gig you do just don’t make enough money. And besides, I’m sorry, but it aint an exciting life. It aint what I had in mind Bobby…’
But I was speechless. I thought we was fine. She said a few other things, – about a girl wantin’ excitement in her life, and not just yellow lines of paint and to wash them coveralls all the time. Then she went out to some car and it drove off. She said before she got in, ‘ …your dinner is in the fridge Bobby. Its meatloaf. Your favorite. But it’s the last one. You can warm it up in the oven. And Bobby…don’t be trying to folla’ me. I aint coming back.’
And that was it. Someone else was driving. I thought right there it was a fella, some fella she met. Cause I knows her sisters car and her mammas car and that no good friend Louise’s car who always been tellin’ her things, been putting rotten things into her head. Its cause Louise left her fella too, so she wanted it to be the fashion. Playing with peoples’ lives, like hard working line truck drivers, – so it could be a fashion.
Well, I didn’t know what to do. I got myself right drunk right then. I was drinking beer and then I went out and got myself tequila. After a few hours with some parts missing, I was driving my line truck. I more upset than a frog about to be squished by a wanderin bear claw. I started driving, and I started painting lines. I painted yellow lines across the roads back and forth.
Then I painted some more.
I drove through all the back streets I could find. Then I refilled the paint, and I got the idea to go on the big streets. I drove through the whole county and across to the next. There was hardly anybody out and it was three in the morning on a weeknight. I drove in circles. I drove backwards and forwards and onto boulevards, through the local Safeway, onto the sidewalks, across bridges, through business plazas, and right down the one lane highway. The whole county and the next were full of nuthin but yellow lines. I dint stop till the paint ran out.
That’s when saw a light. I thought it mighta been the sun coming up from behind.
But it was the law.
And the law took me away.
It was unhappy with me. The whole two counties were.
You could probably say they hated me.
I’m the most and only hated line truck driver in the history of line truck drivers.
But I was broken hearted, and somebody had to know.
The way I ended up fixin it, cause of my own elbow trouble that night, – it came so everybody knew.
Regular business and travel was held up for weeks while they did the repairs.
All cause of Darlene. All cause of that friend of hers I bet, – Louise.
And me to. I shouldn’t a done what I done I guess.
I have lots to think about here.
So I do.
And I write.
But only in pencil.
They wont allow me markers.
And I aint allowed to paint either for some reason.
I hoped Darlene would come back.
But she didn’t.
She sent a letter though. She said I shouldn’t o done what I done. And she asked me to sign some papers. Divorce papers.
I tell everyone I’m sorry. And for the most part I am. But at night, alone, sometimes, – when I think about Darlene getting into that car. And that way Louise used to smirk. And the bad meatloaf they have here…things get to me. I tell them I am fine, and smile.
But sometimes in those nights I think about that car driving off. About that moment. And I think, but don’t say, – When I get outta here, I’m gonna get me to a bar and drink myself full of pops. That’s what we call drinks around here, we call ‘em pops. And I gonna show the world what real elbow trouble is, and I gonna drink with both hands like nobody aint drunk before.
Then I gonna go find my old line truck- cause I know where they keeps the keys and how to get em.
And then I gonna do it all again, cause my baby didn’t come back to me so I don’t care not one bit. I gonna paint lines clear across everything and the world be damned.