The air was unusually warm so early in May and the pastrami on rye was unusually mediocre. Generally, Nick’s Delicatessen made a wonderful pastrami on rye but they had recently hired some new counter help. The air conditioner didn’t work in his rusted and worn Dodge Ram Charger but the radio did. Every single day at noon Ted would sit outside in the machine shop parking in his truck, eat a pastrami sandwich, and listen to "get the LED out" on KPSW, "The SAW", for an hour before returning to his position at the milling machine.
Ted never won anything in his feeble workaday existence. Not an argument, not a scratch off, not a game of cards, not a three legged race, not a thumb wrestle, nothing. He didn’t remember dialing but he remembered the DJ yelling exuberantly in his ear.
“GET READY MUDBOY, YOU’RE GOING FOR A RIDE IN DIRTY MUD DAWG AT THE TWO THOUSAND ONE IDAHO MONSTER RALLY HOW DO YOU FEEL?”
“Oh my god dear sweet god. I feel so blessed! Thank you so much!” he bumbled out, his thunderstruck brain unable to process what had just occurred.
On June 9th Ted would report to the Peoria Civic Center to receive his Dirty Mud Dawg "I'M A MUDBOY" T-shirt, Hat, and a helmet, which he wasn't allowed to keep, to be worn whilst riding in the behemoth machine.
Four weeks later, on June 7th, Ted’s mother suffered a fatal heart attack while driving to meet her friend Tammy Rineblatt for a game of gin rummy and some tea and pie. She became unconscious at the wheel and the small toyota she was driving veered into a creek, killing a turtle. They say she could have been saved, but she wasn't found for another two hours. The wake would be held on June 9th at Panusky and sons funeral home.
Dressed in his ill-fitting rented suit, Ted sat on the edge of the bed, looking into the mirror. He was a loser again. His wife called to him from downstairs, it was time to go. He took a deep breath, he got in the car, he drove to the funeral home. Running about fifteen minutes late, he and his family got out of the car and walked up to the door of Panusky and sons. He stopped. She stopped.
“Can you just give me one minute?”
She hugged him and ushered the children inside. Ted stood alone, staring at the door, thinking about what was behind the door. His deceased mother lay in a casket, his brothers and sisters with their children sat in unquenchable sadness, family members he hadn’t seen in ages and probably didn't really care so much for his mother thought about going home. Sadness, anger, loss, death, heartache. They were all in there, waiting on him to start the service.
About 30 miles down the road stood the Peoria Civic Center with 20 monster trucks revving their beast like engines and ready to crush any lesser vehicle so unfortunate to be found in its path. In one of those towering monster trucks was a seat with his name on it. Happiness, excitement, life, jubilation waited there.
“She would have wanted me to do it”, he told himself over and over again as he barreled down the highway toward the Peoria Civic Center and to his seat in the Dirty Mud Dawg, right next to Dirty Dave himself. His wife had called him over and over again but Ted had already thrown his cellphone out the window of the hurtling automobile, so it was not of much use. He arrived and checked in. He was quickly ushered into the arena and suited up. Ted climbed up into the Dirty Mud Dawg and gleefully shook hands with the one and only Dirty Dave. Never had there been a happier moment in his life. He all but forgotten all about his dead mother. The crowd cheered as Dirty Mud Dawg rolled out, it's engine blubbering along. The announcer called out his name “TED DINKLE”, electricity coursed through his body. The gargantuan truck made a lap around the exterior of the course. Then Dirty Dave said, "Thanks Ted, hope you liked it! The pit crew will help you out."
He was baffled; the Dirty Mud Dawg hardly got over fifteen miles per hour. They circled the arena maybe once and crushed zero cars.
“What? Go again! Crush a car or something. Come on! This is fun! I'm having fun!” Exclaimed Ted, the ecstasy giving way to confusion.
“Sorry Ted it’s just not safe to have another person in the truck while performing those stunts."
“No, you're joking. That was for kids, come on. Listen Dirty Dave, you listen to me. I fuckin' missed my mother’s wake to be here and I would really appreciate it if you-“
There was a very long pause. The motor of the great machine idled, continuing to profess it's unstoppable power.
Ted found himself again in his rusty old Dodge Ram Charger, with no air conditioning. The night was especially cool so it was OK that the A/C didn't work. But Ted wasn't thinking about that anyway. From inside the Civic Center he could hear the muffled roar of the monster trucks as they demolished compact cars and school buses without bias. Ted exited his car, laid on the pavement, and cried himself to sleep.