All characters appearing in this story are mine of my own design.
This story is a work of fiction based upon nothing in particular.
Precious Cargo is copyright © The Silver Coyote
TMI (Too Much Information)
A familiar noise was drilling into his sleep state. His brain wasn't even
functioning yet, but somewhere deep inside his subconscious, which never
slept, he identified the noise invading his head as multiple copies of the GE
7FDL sixteen cylinder diesel prime mover from some brace of railroad
locomotives. He stirred in the bed.
Outside and across old highway 66, the newly reconstituted Atchison, Topeka,
and Santa Fe Railroad was earning money the old fashioned railroad way, by
pounding the steel. Since the breakup of the BNSF a couple of years ago, the
AT&SF had begun rebuilding their motive power fleet and upgrading their right
of way. And as an answer to millions of railfan prayers everywhere, the proud
red and silver warbonnet paint scheme had done the Heritage II, or "pumpkin",
paint scheme of the BNSF to death. While almost fifteen years old now, the
CW44-9s on the head end of this morning's manifest were dazzling in fresh red
and silver paint and at the peak of maintenance perfection. Turbochargers
whining in unison and throttled up for the run down to Winslow, four of the
machines took up the point on a mile and a half long double stack container
train eastbound out of Flagstaff.
Joe could feel the thump of the engines in his chest as they passed by across
the road. Rolling onto his back with his eyes still closed, he rejoiced in
the small adrenaline rush that feeling of unbridled mechanical power always
gave him when he heard and felt a locomotive nearby. Opening his eyes,
several things occurred to him at once. It was light. Annie wasn't in bed.
And he felt great. The rhythmic noise of the double-stacks passing by
outside seemed to get his blood pumping.
Rising up from the mattress, he noticed that Debbie was gone, too. The light
level in the room told him it was late morning before he was able to find his
watch and look at it. 0935! I've got to get going.
Fifteen minutes later he was showered and dressed, lacing up his boots. In
the process of accomplishing these things he had noticed that only his gear
bag was in the room. The bags belonging to Annie and Debbie were unaccounted
for. As he brushed his teeth he wondered where they might have gone.
As he stood at the sink he heard footsteps approaching the door to their
room. As his ears swiveled on his head to try and discern and interpret more
of the sound, the door opened behind him.
"It... is... ALIVE!" a familiar voice crowed from behind him. Turning with a
mouth full of toothpaste, he saw Debbie grinning hugely from the open
doorway. He waved at her and turned to finish the task at paw.
"Mom, your hero is awake!" he heard his daughter yell out the door. He could
not hear her mom's reply. Finishing with his morning routine, he tossed the
now dry toothbrush and a hairbrush in his gear bag and zipped it closed.
Grabbing the bag handles with his right paw, he strode towards the doorway
his daughter was still standing in. He picked up and put on his hat with his
left paw as he passed the dresser in the room. Debbie was facing outside as
he approached the doorway, and she did not hear or see him come up behind
her. He stopped at her back, avoiding her tail, and with his left index
finger ever so gently tickled her ribs just above her waist.
Debbie's shoes momentarily reached an elevation of about a foot off the
ground as she jumped, yelling "YOW!" Somehow she managed to turn in mid air,
so she was facing him as she came back to earth. She dropped to a crouch,
paws up in a classic karate defensive stance, smiling, and stared at him.
"Mornin', Blondie," he said easily.
"Don't mess with me, old fur," she teased in a loud, authoritative voice.
"You're up against the best indian fighter in all of Arizona!" she proclaimed.
She stood up straight, dropping her paws, and leaned forward to kiss her
father. "Hi daddy," she giggled quietly.
Joe chuckled in return. Taking his daughter by the paw he walked with her
towards their truck, parked across the parking lot. They could see Annie
placing items in the forward cab area as they approached. "Did you guys eat?"
he asked as they walked.
"Oh yes. We had a grand breakfast," she enthused. "Mom had a bacon and cheese
omelet, I had a muffin and some fruit. And daddy, we talked!"
He could hear the humor and excitement in her voice, and couldn't hide the
humor in his own. "Imagine that..."
"We had one of those real juicy mother - daughter talks." She smiled up at
They arrived at the truck, and he opened the rear door on the driver's side
for her. As she climbed up into the cab he asked her from the asphalt
"Anything I would want know about?"
She smiled down at him from her seat in the truck. "Let's just say you were
an active participant in the conversation's subject material." She laughed
out loud at his look of puzzlement.
He heard Annie giggle, also. Shutting Debbie's door for her, he then opened
the cargo hatch beneath the driver's door, tossed in his gear bag, and closed
the hatch. Opening his door, he climbed into the cab. As he settled into his
seat and arranged his tail comfortably his nose twitched slightly, he
detected the smell of food in the cab. As this registered on his mind his
pretty wife kissed him across the console between the front seats.
"Good morning, honey," she said quietly, smiling.
"Hi Angel. You guys ate breakfast already, huh?"
"Oh yes. And we have a breakfast for you, too." Reaching behind his seat, she
grabbed their thermos and opened it, pouring fresh coffee into the cup and
handing that to him.
"Thanks, sweetie." He took a sip. It was quite hot and smelled delicious.
Annie arranged herself comfortably in the passenger seat. With a slight smile
she asked "Are you going to sit here and contemplate the windshield, or are
we going to get going?" A single eyebrow was arched slightly. Her teeth and
fangs flashed briefly as her smile grew.
"You in a hurry?"
"We've got a long way to go..." she said, looking at the world on the other
side of the windshield, waiting for them.
Smiling and nodding in agreement, he put the cup down in the cup holder. He
removed his gloves from within the center console's storage cabinet, and as
he tugged them on she refilled his coffee cup. He placed the key in the
ignition switch and turned it, and then paused briefly to verify the correct
indications on his various instruments in the panel. He pressed the starter
and listened to the three hundred horsepower diesel engine below him churn to
life, and watched the various instrument indications climb to their normal
While the engine warmed briefly he consumed the next cup of coffee without
comment. Finally he turned to Annie and asked "Ready?"
She winked at him in reply. "Always..." she said with a lascivious glance.
Pressing the gearpad selector for low, he checked his mirrors and released
the brakes. As they turned towards the street the day's adventure began.
A very few minutes later they were up to speed on Interstate 40 when Annie
turned to Debbie in the back and asked "Think he's ready?"
"I think so. He looks malnourished and overworked," Debbie replied. They both
giggled at this.
It occurred to Joe that his females were suffering from a case of the giggles
this morning. Everything seemed to be funny to them.
Debbie handed forward a bag, from which Annie began to withdraw various
items. First was what appeared to be a linen napkin, which was draped over
the center console between she and Joe. On top of this was placed a plate.
Next came a closed container with what appeared to be orange juice, placed in
one of the forward cup holders. Finally Annie removed a left-over container.
Opening this, she removed several fat-taquito-looking things and placed them
on the plate between them.
"What's all this?" he asked.
"This, my love, is a driving man's breakfast. These little finger-food-
looking things are mini-omelets. They contain cheddar cheese, bacon, and egg,
wrapped in pastry. I had them made fresh for you this morning while Debbie
and I were eating our breakfast." Placing the container back in the bag and
placing the bag on the floor in front of her, she sat back and looked at him,
arms crossed over her chest, smiling.
"Well thank you, my love. How sweet." Using his teeth, Joe removed the glove
from his right paw and tossed it on the dash in front of him. While
continuing to watch the road, he picked up one of the bite-sized breakfast
goodies and bit off a piece. As he chewed on it, he became aware of his
daughter's head hovering to his right.
He glanced at both of his ladies approvingly and swallowed his food. "Very
good!" He bit off another piece of the omelet stick and commenced chewing
Turning once again to her daughter, Annie winked and said "He'll survive."
Again, they both giggled.
Debbie sat back in her seat. It's going to be a long day and a long ride
, she thought, I might as well get comfortable. Winking one last
time at her mother, she intentionally began to tune out of the conversation
going on up front. Reaching into her purse, she removed a tiny MP3 player and
turned it on. Flipping through the menus on the tiny plasma display, she
selected several tunes to start her day. She next removed her sunglasses from
her purse and placed them on her nose, adjusting the fit with her right index
finger. Finally she removed the ear buds for the player and put them in her
ears. Pressing the Play button on the player, she sat back and wriggled into
her seat, getting comfortable for the long drive. Slipping her sandals off
her feet, she put her feet up on the very back part of the center console. As
she wrapped her tail about herself so that the end of it was resting in her
lap, she looked out the window in time to see Interstate 17 drift under them
as they rolled westbound towards home.
She mentally reviewed the conversation she had initiated with her mother this
morning. It had been the first time she had ever spoken with her mother
"female to female" instead of "daughter to mother". Once over the initial,
momentary discomfort brought on by her opening topic, she had found her
mother easy to talk to about this particular subject. She felt they had grown
closer during breakfast, and that they had reached a new level of intimacy
and trust with each other.
The noise of travel was completely blanked by the ear buds, all she heard was
the music her tiny player provided her. The music and the motion of travel
worked quickly to lull her to a relaxed state as she watched the central
Arizona countryside drift by the windows. She daydreamed about her boyfriend,
and started planning her activities for their arrival home.
The western edge of Williams, Arizona was passing behind them. Interstate 40
wound through the forested hills of the Kaibab National Forest as they rolled
on towards Los Angeles. The plate on the center console was empty, as was the
container that had held fresh squeezed orange juice. The coffee thermos was
half empty, and Joe felt well fed. "So what's with the breakfast for a king?"
he asked his wife.
She looked up from the newspaper she had purchased in Flagstaff that morning.
"What do you mean?"
He smiled at her. "I mean, I wake up alone this morning, you and Debbie are
already packed and loaded and fed, ready to go. And then I get this great
meal while under way. OJ and omelet sticks, fresh coffee... What's that all
She grinned mischievously. "I guess you sort of overslept."
She lowered her eyelashes for effect. "I guess I sort of wore you out. You
don't normally sleep in late like that."
He looked at her, too long with her and too old to blush, but wondering if he
was blushing anyway. He grinned mischievously himself. "I wouldn't say I was
'worn out'. But I'll tell you something..." he paused. "I felt great
when I woke up!"
She smiled lovingly at him, and then her grin returned. "Debbie was kind of
fidgety this morning. She and I both woke up about seven. We cleaned up and
dressed and debated waking you, and then decided to get our stuff in the
truck and go eat while you slept." She stopped, looking out the windshield
briefly as she chose her words. She turned back to him and said quietly "We
woke Debbie up last night."
"What?" He stared at her, mouth slightly open. A rhythmic thrumming
sound from below their feet told them all that the truck had drifted onto the
center stripe due to his reaction and momentary inattention.
"You heard me," she said, the grin lighting up her face.
He considered this momentarily, looking back to the highway as he recentered
the truck in their lane. "How much did she see?" he asked quietly.
"I don't think it was a matter of what she saw as much as what she heard."
"Ah..." His grin was as large as hers now. "I told you to keep your voice
down. You certainly can get vocal at some interesting times," he teased.
"Me? As I understand things, it was your purr, or whatever that noise you
make is, that got her attention. Don't hang this on my neck!" She was almost
laughing at him now.
Suddenly some pieces of the puzzle came together in Joe's head. "Uh, how is
it, exactly, that you know precisely what woke our daughter up?"
She smiled sweetly, the picture of innocence. "We had to have something to talk about at breakfast!"
A gloved paw rose from the wheel to slap open-padded against his forehead.
"Oh my God," he exhaled. "So what, you painted her a picture?" He slid the
paw down over his face and returned it to the wheel. "I'm sorry, I didn't
mean that the way it sounded."
She took no offense. She was too busy trying not to laugh hysterically at her
husband's reaction. "Honey, you should know something about your daughter."
Again she paused to consider how much to say and how to deliver it.
As he waited for his wife to continue Joe selected another gear and stared
briefly at the instrument panel. The automatic wastegate on the turbocharger
was doing weird stuff, occasionally the boost indication would twitch into
the yellow range, and then settle down again. He watched the boost indication
for a few seconds, and then turned his attention back to his wife. "Yeah...?"
"Well..." she looked at him with a mixture of trepidation and mirth in her
eyes. She wasn't sure how he was going to handle this. "Let's just say Debbie
didn't learn much last night that she didn't already know."
His eyes grew slightly wider, and the toothpick in his mouth jumped slightly
as his teeth clenched around it.
His reaction was not lost on Annie. "Hold on, hear me out before you start
making judgement calls and getting on your soapbox." She reached out and
placed her left paw on his arm, and noticed an immediate calming effect
on him. "Our loving last night was only a doorway for Debbie and I this
morning. That's what started our conversation, but it was only the beginning.
She told me quite a bit about her own love life. She's shared a lot of
honest, intimate information with me this morning about herself and her
boyfriend Russell. Your daughter is no different than we were as kids, except
that she's a lot smarter about taking care of herself and being very
selective about who she shares her love with. She will not endanger herself
or disappoint us. You should be proud of her."
"I'm always proud of her," he growled. "But..."
"No butts!" she interrupted, smiling slightly at her own play on words. "She
needs no lessons or lectures from you or me. Honey, Russ is the only one, and
they're more serious than you or I could have possibly imagined." She saw the
gray in his eyes. "He was not the instigator, Joe. Don't throw this at Russ'
feet like he's the bad guy. Debbie told me it was her idea, her persistence,
all along." She paused again, but continued before he could interject
anything. "Apparently they have discussed a 'long term relationship'.
"She's just turned seventeen!" he hissed between his teeth. He was not liking
where this dialog was going.
"Joe." She looked at him, her eyes willing him to settle down. "Do you
remember how she handled herself at Cameron with that indian?" Thinking about
that, she considered that the Cameron example might not be the best. "Do you
remember our conversations about the modeling issue and how I mishandled
that? Don't make the same mistake. Our daughter is a big fur now, a female
almost grown. Sure, she has a lot to learn about 'relationships', but who
doesn't? We're still learning." She smiled warmly at him and squeezed his
paw. Their fingers interlaced and she rested their paws on the center
"I remember," she continued, "a young coyote who wasn't particularly bothered
by the 'recommended decorum' of dating and relationships." She saw the gray
in his eyes diminish somewhat. "Honey, she's OK. Don't worry about her.
Rejoice with her that she's found someone to love. Life could be worse." Her
expression turned warm but serious. "Trust me on this, Joe. You know how
protective I am about our pups, especially Debbie. I wouldn't have chosen
this path for her, but I'm OK with this."
He looked at her for a long moment. "Annie, I trust you. I'll keep quiet and
"In a nutshell, she and Russ have agreed to keep things relatively light as
they go through college. Each of them is fully aware that the other may find
someone else in college, and they don't want to make any formal commitment to
each other at this early stage of the game. However, they do love each other,
and if they are still seeing each other when they both graduate, then they
plan to make it a formal declaration and set a wedding date."
"Hell, that's five or more years in the future!" Joe exclaimed, more in
wonder than anger.
"She's got your head for planning. Look again at all the thought she put into
the modeling thing before you or I ever heard about it. She had that all laid
out, every step, every option in detail, in her own head before we knew
anything. This girl is smart, tough, determined, and beautiful. The fur who
can measure up to her will be as good a fur as the one I have." She smiled to
him as his head turned to face her. Compliments like that were unusual.
He exhaled again, slowly. "OK. So where does that leave us? What do we do
now?" He was wondering what kind of discussion he was going to have to have
with his daughter.
"Where's that leave us?" she repeated. "It leaves us in love, just like we
have been. We do nothing we haven't been doing all along, providing our kids
with the example, the role model, of how it should be done. No lectures, no
accusations, no recriminations. I have my love, you have yours, and now she
has hers. We answer her questions when she asks, we listen to what she has to
say, and we love her unconditionally, just like we always have. We're here
for her, just like we're here for each other." She released his paw and
brushed her bangs away from her forehead. "Can we have a little air? It's
getting warm in here."
Joe pushed the little blue button on the dash labeled "A/C" and dialed up a
figure of seventy degrees on the display. Cool air issued from the vent
registers in the dash almost immediately. He returned his right paw to the
wheel, placing his left arm on the armrest of his door. He considered all his
wife had said, and the things she had related about their daughter. Of course
she was right, absolutely on target. He was once again impressed with her
ability to drill down through the unnecessary emotional garbage and arrive at
the correct decision and run with it. Debbie had already taken that big step
on her own, nothing any of them could say or do would undo that. Their job as
parents was almost done, but their job as individuals who respected and loved
their child was just beginning.
Ash Fork looked forlorn in the windshield. The Interstate bored through the
little town like it wasn't there, and within moments the town was in the
mirrors and receding. The boost needle twitched a bit. The All-Terrains
whined on the concrete and the diesel engine rumbled, their music soothing to
Eventually he concluded that the best course of action was to be thankful
that a little indiscretion on their part last night had led to a new level of
trust and love between his wife and their daughter. He felt good about that,
the trust and love. And, truth be known, he felt pretty good about what had
led to the "indiscretion", too. His wife's amorous notions and abilities
still left him in awe sometimes. She was truly a remarkable fox. And it
seemed that their daughter had mixed the best of both their personalities and
physical makeup and attitude. She was a natural force to be reckoned with,
just like her mother.
Annie placed her paw once again on Joe's arm. She was worried about him,
he'd been silent for a few miles now. He turned to face her momentarily at
her touch, once again the manicured nails catching his attention. "Too much
information?" she asked.
He smiled, turning back to his highway. "Nah." He paused briefly, and as she
began to think that was all she was going to get out of him, he continued. "I
was just reflecting on what a gem you really are." She looked down briefly at
that. "I mean, here is this stuff that you and I could get all distraught
about, but you drill down to what matters and see things for what they are.
I'm so fortunate to be with you, and I'm doubly blessed that Debbie has
acquired the best of your character traits."
She leaned over the center console, placing both her paws on it, and kissed
him on the cheek. Seeing a significant stretch of relatively straight and
level, unoccupied roadway ahead, Joe took the opportunity to turn towards
her. For a few hundred feet they shared a passionate kiss that was suddenly
interrupted by a commotion from the back seat.
Debbie had been scrolling the menus of her MP3 player, and happened to look
up as her parents kissed. Sitting up suddenly, she dropped the player on the
seat next to her.
"Hey!" she yelled playfully. "Who's driving the truck?"
As her parents separated all three of them were laughing.
To Chapter Twenty One: Mojave.
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