‘The Trucker and the Professor’ by Phil Yeats

Welcome to The Spot Writers. This month’s prompt is to write a story where water plays a role. It can be a lake, a river, the sea; rain or just some water to drink.

Today’s post is written by Phil Yeats. In December 2019, Phil (using his Alan Kemister pen name) published his most recent novel. Tilting at Windmills, the second in the Barrettsport Mysteries series of soft-boiled police detective stories set in an imaginary Nova Scotia coastal community is available on Amazon. https://www.amazon.com/Tilting-Windmills-Barrettsport-Mysteries-Book-ebook/dp/B07L5WR948/

*****

The Trucker and the Professor

by

Phil Yeats

The weather-beaten old-timer watched from his front porch as the vivacious young woman skipped along the path to his house. She wasn’t wearing the formal attire of a lawyer, a government bureaucrat, or a corporate PR executive, or the informal shorts and T-shirts of a student. Somewhere in between, casual but less Raggedy Ann than most students. But her footwear was inappropriate for walking across the rough path they’d cleared through the landslide two hundred metres from his house.

If she encountered the road-smothering debris by accident, she’d have turned around. Therefore, she had a purpose, and that purpose involved him or his property. He and his neighbours wasted months fighting to get their road rebuilt. It ended with the government’s outright refusal to accept responsibility or even allow the residents to excavate and rebuild the road at their cost. Reopening that worm bucket would accomplish nothing.

“Good morning, Mr. Jenkins,” she said in an overly cheerful voice. “I’m Ashley Granger from the University’s Geography and Urban Planning department.” She climbed the steps and handed him her business card.

He glanced at her card and tossed it onto a table. “Assistant Professor? That mean you’re a professor’s assistant?”

“No, sir. A professor in my own right, but early in my career. The progression goes from Assistant Professor to Associate Professor to Professor.”

“Well, Assistant Professor Ashley Granger, what can I do for you?”

“I’ve come here to ask you for access to the daily rainfall records you and your father collected at this location.”

He snorted. “Why bother. The government experts deemed them of no value.”

She pointed to a chair before sitting facing him. “I don’t understand. The meteorological community has long recognized your father’s dataset as the longest, best-maintained rainfall record for this area of the coast. Research studies recognize it.”

“Perhaps your articles in academic magazines accept our measurements, but the public inquiry, when it mattered, dismissed them as irrelevant foolishness collected by rank amateurs.”

“Amateurs! Your father was a respected professional meteorologist. The Canadian Meteorological Association recognized his outstanding contributions to the craft in 1965. But what’s this about an inquiry?”

He rose and disappeared into his house. He returned with a sheaf of papers held together with a large binder clip and passed it to her. She studied the first few pages without comment for several minutes before making a notation on her phone.

“I need to study this more carefully—”

“Take it. I’m happy to shed that damn inquiry report.”

“I have the citation so I can download it. And you may find you need your copy.”

“Why?”

“Gets me back to the reason for my visit. We’re conducting a study of variability in precipitation records and wish to use the record you’ve collected.” She looked up, smiling. “All good academic stuff, and we’ll acknowledge your data and your father’s contributions to the field in any papers we write.”

He pointed at the inquiry report. “How is that relevant?”

“A quick look suggests the government based their refusal to accept the resident’s position on general knowledge of high precipitation levels in this area before anyone settled here.”

“Bullshit. The government expanded the road thirty years ago because they wanted to develop the area. They knew about the rainfall, but it didn’t deter them. Now they refuse to repair their road, saying we should have known better and not built here. If that’s the case, they shouldn’t have upgraded the damn road.”

She sat back, shaking her head. “I’m not qualified to propound on legal or political arguments, but if our study discovers relative variability increases with increasing precipitation, their arguments lose credibility.”

“Esoteric academic arguments about relative variability, whatever that is, won’t change the government’s mind.”

“A court may see it differently and reverse the inquiry decisions. But enough of that. I have two simple questions. Will you give us access to the one-hundred-year-long precipitation record you and your father collected? And second, may we set up a collection station to cross-calibrate your recent measurements with ours?”

He sighed before giving his consent. After high school, he began working for a trucking firm and never attended university.

His father instilled an appreciation of scientific research. The boffins couldn’t improve the road, but they wouldn’t make it worse. And together, they’d stick it to the pretentious environment department bureaucrats.

*****

The Spot Writers—Our Members:

Val Muller: http://www.valmuller.com/blog/

Catherine A. MacKenzie: https://writingwicket.wordpress.com/wicker-chitter/

Phil Yeats: https://alankemisterauthor.wordpress.com

Chiara De Giorgi: https://chiaradegiorgi.blogspot.com/

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