I-80 Nebraska M.490-M.205 by John Sayles

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I-80 Nebraska M.490-M.205 Summary

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“I-80 Nebraska M.490-M.205” covers one night in the life of a big rig driver who calls himself Ryder P. Moses. No one has ever seen this larger-than-life trucker, but his voice rules the night citizens band (CB) radio on which the long-distance haulers depend. These eighteen-wheelers travel the highways, carrying their huge loads from coast to coast, and their drivers use their CB radios to warn one another of police cars (“Smokey Bear”) or errant passenger cars (“four-wheelers”) and to entertain fellow truckers with stories and information. All the truckers have colorful names such as “Gutslinger” or “Oklahoma Crude,” except for Ryder P. Moses, who in the last few weeks has come to dominate the thoughts and conversations of the other truckers. No one has ever seen him, which makes them suspicious when they see one another in the cabs of their trucks or at truck stops until they can identify one another, but he appears on the radio each night with powerful messages conveyed in apocalyptic language.

On the night the story describes, Moses first taunts other drivers with thoughts of where their wives or girlfriends may be and with what other men, and then he lets loose a rant on drugs such as amphetamines that truckers use to stay awake. “Sweetpea,” called the “Grande Dame of the Open Road,” tries to lure Moses into the open by suggesting over the CB radio that they meet at Bosselman’s, a truck stop on Interstate 80 somewhere between Lincoln and Grand Island, Nebraska, and when Moses agrees, all the truckers on that section of the road pile into the truck stop to see him, but it is soon clear that Ryder P. Moses is not there.

A boy at the Husky gas station three miles away later reports that he saw a cattle truck filled with dead cows getting gas, and back on the road again, the drivers hear Moses claim that he stopped at the Husky because the gas was a few cents cheaper. He continues his rant, westbound on...

(The entire section is 505 words.)