When my grandfather came back from the war in Korea as a Jeep driver for the Brass, he got a job as one of the four pumpers on a railroad pump car that made its way around the quarry fixing tracks that needed it and bringing tools and food to the other workers. He and the other pumpers worked six days a week, Sunday off, from dawn to dark and only stopped when the hand pumpers were retired from service in favor of motorized pump cars. Occasionally they were lent out to small railroads around the country that couldn’t afford motorized new ones.
He managed to find a wife and raise a family of five kids and all the while never missing a day of work or a day in the local watering hole near the job before going home to dinner and his rarely seen family.
At fifty-five he retired when there were no more pump cars being used to pump and got a job driving a pickup truck that had a big red and white sign reading “Wide Load”, following eighteen-wheeler flatbed trucks hauling modular half-houses and massive machine parts. He was sometimes away for several weeks at a time and it was during this period he picked up the nickname “Wide Load” that was to stick with him forever.
Gramps was forced to retire as Wide Load on his sixty-fifth birthday and he hung around the house and saloon until he got a winter job either leading or following the highway snow plows with a sign that read “Caution Snowplow”.
He and Grandma went to Maine in the summer and drove back to Connecticut for snow season every year. When he died at seventy-one Grandma had an extra wide casket made for his big man corpse and had a sign reading “Wide Load” on the back of the casket.
She said in her eulogy he had the moving around gene and wouldn’t be happy knowing they were putting him in the ground instead of hauling him around the country in a black hearse followed by a black car with the sign “Corpse Ahead” for all eternity. That’s what he expected.
Paul Beckman’s a Connecticut writer whose latest flash collection, Kiss Kiss (Truth Serum Press) was a finalist for the 2019/2020 Indie Book Awards. Some of his stories have appeared in Spelk, Anti-Heroin Chic, Necessary Fiction, Bending Genres, Fictive Dream, Pank, Playboy, WINK, and The Lost Balloon. He had a story selected for the 2020 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology and was short-listed in the Strands International Flash Fiction Competition. Paul curates the monthly KGB FBomb NY flash fiction reading series (currently virtual).