Oh, Trucker Sue.
“Five-foot-two, eyes of blue, name of Sue,” she rapid-fire spits through the
nubs of her teeth, mostly gums really, sticking her wiry hand out to shake mine.
She smokes Seneca Menthol 100s, the kind she picks up on Indian reservations
as she makes her way through the country, hauling loads of God-knows-what in
her shiny white truck.
She lives in that truck, all her worldly possessions on the top bunk, and shares the
tiny bottom one with her two cats. One of ‘em blind, both of ‘em fat.
Not Sue though. Skinny as a string bean, short grey hair cropped close to her
head. When I meet her she’s got on an oversized tie-dye hoodie, offers me a
cigarette. We sit at a bar studded with keno machines, sipping Budweisers in the
Gold Strike Hotel in Tunica, Mississippi.
Tunica — a flashback to Vegas before what happened there stayed there, back
when the casinos all had low ceilings and windowless walls that boxed in and
recycled the endless smoke from cigarettes balanced between gnarled fingers, un-
We were down there for a truck driver convention, but we snuck out, bored as
hell, and found the bar by the lobby. We drank beers and smoked the Senecas
while she speedily barked out her past: She had been a crack addict and a
prostitute. She had two children, whom she saw sometimes. One of them had
been what she called a “trick baby.” She said this with some measure of sadness,
but matter-of-factly all the same.
Sue was shriveled up, a tiny woman, and she was self-conscious about her teeth-
nubs. She looked right at you when she talked, hard blue eyes. She was smart; she
could read a situation, and although she came off as having a few screws loose,
she gave me the impression that she knew herself well.
She did not look like the prostitutes I’d seen; imagining her a crack addict was
easier to do. She had gone to rehab and cleaned up, although we were tucking
away beers at about the same pace.
“Wanna see my truck?” she asked, her body vibrating like a guitar string just
I took a last swallow of Bud and trailed her out of the dank and dim of the Gold
Strike to a big dusty lot about a half mile away. Hers was the only truck parked;
the lot was edged on one side by a cotton field. Her truck was shiny white, freshly
She changed her clothes, pet her cats, put her tie-dye sweatshirt back on. Trying
to give her some privacy, I looked out the window, and watched the balls of
cotton bob in the breeze.
We ditched the rest of the evening and headed next door instead, to another
casino Sue said had much better odds. Quite the odd couple, us two, toothless
Sue teaching me the ways of the blackjack table, with sly glances going all around
I played into it; giggled with doe eyes at her barking out cues. She won something
like a hundred dollars, gave me a $25 chip.
Later, a live band played at the casino bar. I requested George Strait; she hopped
around and danced. Told me she was a lesbian. I drank a Jim Beam, neat. People
She told me about the time she was driving solo out of Dallas in heavy traffic,
hours past her driving limit and lost on her way to Richmond. She radioed a
driver in a truck behind her, asking for help with directions.
“He told me ‘I’ll guide you through lil lady,’” Sue recalled. She talked with him for
a while on the radio, and he recommended that she get out at a truck stop and get
some coffee to wake herself up. They stopped a few minutes later.
“When I climbed back up into the truck, he climbed in on top of me,” Sue told
me. Startled, she grabbed a tire thumper on the floor of her car and whacked him
“Did he get off you?” I asked.
“Well,” she chuckled, “he was unconscious. I pushed him out, caught a gear and
left.” Sue paused to light her cigarette. “I don’t know if I ran over his legs or what.
It was a bumpy parking lot.”
Later I bought her a slice of pizza. I had to beg her to eat it because she was
embarrassed about her teeth; she ended up smashing two slices together and
eating them like a sandwich. I thought then that I’d like to call her a friend.
The next day as I was packing up, I felt guilty that I’d let her give me that $25
chip. I checked out and met her in the lobby to give it back to her. She took it, we
hugged. She snapped a picture of me outside the casino on a bench. In it, I’ve got
a big wide grin, and I’m waving right at her.