Title: The Darkening Dragons
Author: Sarah Everest
“I suppose you have a choice to make. You can continue along in the life you have been living, you can identify yourself with your job, but I see in your eyes that this is not who you are. This is not what makes you happy.”
After the death of his father, Tucker gave up his dreams to take care of his mother. Reluctantly he followed in his father’s footsteps and became a truck driver. Every day was as predictable as his truck route and Tucker slowly gave up his hopes for a different life until he finds a girl in the middle of the road.
Evil threatens to destroy Ravinna’s world unless Tucker chooses to believe her and accept her challenge to become a dragon slayer.
The one thing Tucker never wanted to be when he grew up was a trucker. Sure, like most little boys, he had been fascinated by the big rigs that blasted past his home on the winding country road. He had enjoyed pumping his arm up and down in an attempt to hear the resounding bellow of the classic semi horn. However, from the first time Tommy called him “Tucker the Trucker” in first grade, the idea of falling into that stereotype had appalled him. As much as he hated to admit it, he once hit a smaller classmate in the back of the head with a binder when he heard the dreaded nickname being muttered.
He had nothing against truck drivers as a group of individuals. After all, his father was a trucker for a logging company, and once brought Tucker out to the woods on a run. He was ten at the time and had spoken to his classmates of nothing else for several days in advance. They left home in the wee hours of the morning, bags packed with sandwiches and thermoses full of coffee for father and hot cocoa for son. Tucker had received the royal treatment by the entire crew. They showed him the inner workings of the process from start to finish, letting him sit up in the cab of the truck as the logs were being loaded.
The drivers were friendly, good old boy types. To them, the title “Tucker the Trucker” was more a privilege than a curse. With a name like Tucker Kenworthy, it fit. Tucker loved his father, and wanted the outing to be a success, but as the dreaded nickname was bandied about he longed for the day to end.
No doubt, Frank Kenworthy had dreams of passing along the family business when he was too old to handle driving the beast on his own. He said nothing on the delivery run, but waited for their drive home to ask Tucker what he thought about the day. Despite his desire to make his father proud, he gave only cursory answers. It was obvious that something had spoiled the outing, but being a man of few words, Frank was unable to discern what the issue was. The next time he invited Tucker to come along, the request was politely refused with no clear reason given. Rather than linking Tucker’s discomfort to what he considered good natured teasing, Frank merely accepted that he had failed his son.
There were a limited number of choices for kids growing up in the mountainous region of Northern California. Contrary to the popular belief that the state was jam packed with people in booming metropolitan areas, the vast majority of land was far from urban sprawl. When Tucker looked around at local career options he came up with an uncomfortably short list. He could work in the woods or on a road crew, but both of those jobs involved the dreaded trucks. He could have a little farm in the valley, or teach at the local school, but neither of those ideas appealed to him either. The only solution, besides moving to the trailer park and applying for welfare checks, was to find a way out.
Even before he entered high school he was planning how he would work hard in school, excel in sports, and earn enough scholarships to help him move on in life. He could see that his father was hurt by his attitude, but found it impossible to explain anything to Frank.
The Kenworthy family had been in the logging industry for generations. Frank had managed to save enough to buy his own truck, and made decent money for himself. He wanted the best life for his family, and believed that he was succeeding. To him, Tucker’s determination to move on in the world looked like disdain for everything he had worked for his entire life. If he had taken the time to talk to his son, he might have found the root of the trouble and patched up their relationship. Instead, he stepped back and let Tucker be. Despite all the work Tucker did to distance himself from anything even remotely concerning trucks, the nickname followed him. He had a solid build, even as a young child, and grew more compact with age. He was never overweight, but muscles stacked up, giving him a thick, powerful appearance. In short, he looked like a trucker. On the football field he was nearly unstoppable. It was impossible to escape the shouts of, “Keep on truckin,’ that followed him down the field. The wildly cheering fans were oblivious to the way their words propelled him to work harder to escape.
By the time he was a Junior in high school, he was the captain of the football team. It was a small school, but he did everything he could to excel. Those who knew him best could tell he was going places. He had a handsome, outdoorsy look, and an old school charm that increased his popularity with students and staff alike. But no matter what he did to distinguish himself, no matter how many activities he took on, the nickname refused to disappear.
Sometimes he wondered why his mother had chosen the name Tucker. There were thousands, maybe even millions of names out there to choose from. She could have called him something basic like Daniel, something old school like Milton, or something snobbish like Harold. He would have accepted a name connected to some other profession like “Hunter” or “Walker” or some inanimate object like “River” or “Sky.” Frank Jr. even sounded decent. But being Tucker the Trucker seemed the worst fate. It was a name that shouted to him that he was ordinary, through and through. It was like a stamp on his forehead stating his destiny.
At the end of football season, Tucker was busy sending applications to schools around the country. He looked at programs in physics and mechanical engineering. He sought out information about philosophy and art programs. He applied anywhere that had a quality football program that could potentially sponsor his fees and allow him to explore whatever dream came into his head. There were so many options once he got out into the world. Endless opportunities swarmed in his head. He would go somewhere far away. He would introduce himself as Tuck, or use his middle name, Wyndham, which was his mother’s maiden name. No one would have the chance to conjure up the old curse. It would be a fresh start.
Then, on a Tuesday afternoon in the middle of a history exam, his teacher put his hand on Tucker’s arm and told him he was to go to the principal’s office immediately. When he saw his mother standing there, her face white, her hands clenched, he knew the unthinkable had happened. He had never figured out how to tell his father that he loved and respected him. Now he was gone, and there would be no chance. They all knew the risks involved in the timber industry, but when it came down to it, the shock was more than Tucker had ever imagined possible.
The rest of the school year went by in a haze. He still worked hard in his classes, still filled out his university and scholarship applications, but there were days when he found himself staring blankly out the window for hours on end, unconscious of the passing time.
It was his mother who got him out of his funk. She needed him to step up and be the man now that his father was gone. There was no life insurance, and the social security payments were scarcely any help. There were house payments to make, and feeding a kid the size of Tucker was far from cheap. He was forced to get a job on a summer construction crew. Thankfully the pay was good, and the men were friendly. Living in a small community had benefits. Frank Kenworthy had been a well-respected man. Everyone wanted to help out his son in this hard time.
Even as Tucker worked on the crew he realized that he was going to have to fight even harder to pay for school. A full ride scholarship was the only possibility he had of getting out of the hole he found himself in now. He wondered what his mother would do without him, or if she would be willing to leave the home she had always known and move to the city.
Two weeks before the start of summer everything changed. Tucker was helping to prune some trees from around power lines when a branch swung the wrong direction and sent him falling twenty feet to the ground. The injury was not life threatening, but it was the end of his football career. He would be unfit to play his senior year, and there would be no opportunity for major scholarships.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sarah has been writing stories for as long as she has been able to form letters with a pencil. She has traveled the world, taking photos, gathering ideas and experiencing places and cultures that help to shape her creativity and landscapes. She currently lives in Oregon with her husband and their dog. She is also the author of One Week in November.
For more information about Sarah, you can connect with her through Instagram account @transientdrifter.
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