An excerpt from Driving Lessons: The Adventures of Matt and Marty McCoy by J. M. Gleckler

Prologue: School Days

To be a safe driver, you need to know what’s going on around your vehicle. All drivers look ahead, but many don’t look far enough ahead.
Commercial Driving Manual

"All right!" Marty yelled triumphantly and banged her palms on the steering wheel. "Ow!" She rubbed her hands together at the sudden burning sensation. She looked around to see if anyone had heard or seen her. "All right!" she crowed again, this time at whisper level.

Just as Matt had told her a few days earlier: double clutching - the two-step process of depressing the clutch to move the gear shift into neutral and then depressing it again to move into the next gear in an eighteen-wheeler was just like riding a bicycle. Once you got the hang of it, it was like you’d always been able to do it. That he had been able to do it so much earlier in their truck driver training bothered her only a little.

Instructor Al’s face suddenly appeared in the window of her truck cab. "Finally getting the hang of things, girly?" he asked, gripping the window frame to steady himself. "Think you’re ready for the road?"


Marty gave her instructor a sweet smile. She didn’t dare mention her successful double-clutching.Staring fixedly at his usual nose-flaring, eye-squinting expression, she imagined his head secured in a vise, hairline and chin on the verge of merging. This helped immensely. "Not just yet", she said cheerily, her voice hoarse. "I’ll be sure to let you know when I am, though."

"Mmm-hmmm", Al murmured, taking a quick look at the cab’s interior. Marty wondered what he was looking for. Drugs he might have planted to get her thrown out of the class? Food, a virtually equal offense within the confines of the practice trucks for some reason? Staring at the man, she wondered for what may have been the seven-hundredth time why he loathed her. Especially since he seemed to like her husband so much.

Two weeks earlier, she and Matt had arrived at the truck driver training school from their home in eastern Pennsylvania. They’d closed up the house, arranged for a neighbor to keep an eye on it, and had their mail forwarded to a post office box for the six weeks or so that they’d spend in this little town in North Carolina. Things had started out fine that first morning of class, in Marty’s estimation, but something had gone wrong. As much as she’d hashed it out with Matt, she never could quite figure out what had set Al off, just what had made him dislike her so much, with redemption pretty much out of the question. Had it been her constant arm raising to ask questions? His first impatient look appeared about the time she asked how women went to the bathroom in a truck. Hour Three of Day One, she remembered. The situation had deteriorated from there.

Al dropped from view back to the hard-packed earth of the practice range and Marty looked around to find Matt’s truck. The other eight class members were each in their own truck cab, most of the cabs each occupying a lane on the range. The shiny blue cab with a trailer attached, over on the free-form practice ridge, looked like the one Matt was in. He appeared to be maneuvering like a champ. He had graduated to driving in reverse and was tackling the serpentine course, threading the tractor-trailer backwards through a series of orange cones. Someday that’ll be me, Marty mused. She pictured herself gliding backward between the cones, double-clutching with ease, her brown hair ruffling in the soft breeze, Al, her mom, and the rest of the class applauding her maneuvers.


Al sounded his whistle, signifying the end of the exercise and, with any luck, time for lunch. As Marty engaged the brake and quickly went through the routine of leaving the truck without shutting down, she thought about what might happen if Al swallowed the whistle. Emergency whistle-ectomy. Maybe it would make it all the way into his colon before they could get it out. She imagined him whistling Dixie in new, inventive ways.

"McCoy!" Al bellowed and Marty realized it was being bellowed at her. "McCoy, we are going to leave you here on the range if you don’t get your butt in gear."

She sighed and wondered about the feasibility of a self-defense plea if she helped him meet an untimely end.

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