Reads: 176

 

Marvin gallops through the grass and snaps his jaws at blackflies.

“Gittum!” she shouts and laughs at him.

Scraping her boot heel on a stone, she dials Ashley’s number. The knot in her gut tightens as it rings, rings. Rings just long enough for somebody to view the number and ignore the call. Jess frowns but decides it’s probably for the best. It’ll be better in person when she gets there later. She hopes.

And now there’s tears on her face but she can’t imagine why. She wipes them away and shudders and whistles at the dumb dog to get in the cab. He obliges with delight and together they drive an hour before stopping for gas and a piss. In the station she buys a big greasy hot dog and winds up giving most of it to Marvin. It’s good, but she’s too anxious to eat.

By the highway grasshoppers clack and dance in the sun. Jess wipes the sweat from her neck and pulls out her cell. Dials Ashley’s number again. It rings and rings. Eight times.

Back in the Ford they go. They trace the Viking Trail with oil droplets and the roar of radio bleeding out the windows. The engine chokes hungrily on the fuel and they rumble on down the way. To her left, the folds of the northern mountains lean like hunks of toppled layer cake. Black soil rests paper-thin on blocks of granite big as houses, and the trees look like moldy growths in the distance. On her right, the gulf reflects the sky in hazed perfection. The clouds dissolve into reflection and the sea is calm, so calm.

After an hour or so she stops by a bend of dunes and lets Marvin out to shit. He rolls in the sand and sneezes before bouncing off to find some privacy. This time Ashley’s phone just keeps on ringing. After a while the voicemail kicks in.

“Hi. It’s me. I’m on my way. Be there soon. Bye.”

Onward. Southward. Homeward.

The mountains lean closer, looming ever larger from across the glacial bed. Parties of geese bob in marshy pools, twisting their necks as they drive by. Their eyes glisten red with light. A van of tourists from Kentucky is creeping along at a sloth-like pace, and she revs up at the next straight stretch. Sunglass-guarded eyes peer out and her and the driver honks and waves. Jess smiles back, but the horn doesn’t work. Marvin barks at them. After too long the old truck catches its breath and they surge forward, leaving the Kentuckians rolling in a cloud of exhaust. She laughs in spite of herself. Stupid, she thinks.

While they round the bay, she pulls over about an hour away from Small’s Cove. Opens the door for Marvin to get out but he doesn’t move.

“Wake up. We’re nearly home.”

The dog looks up at her. Jumps out and walks around for a bit. Dribbles out a half-hearted piss in the dust. He gets back in the cab without her calling to him. It’s time, she thinks. I can’t put it off any longer.

Together, the mutt and her make the final stretch and it’s over before she can catch her breath. The houses appear as though by magic, sprouting from the hillside and harbour like multicolored erratics. A few lonely boats bob in the harbour. Old men stare from the wharf. Kids scratch their asses along the roadside, hypnotized by smartphone screens. She passes the stream. Over the little one-way bridge, and out around the point to the back end of town. She passes Al’s childhood home and wonders if he’s there yet.

And there it is. The house. Seven cars, no less, fill the driveway and yard, arranged in a puzzle of metal and glass. The windows are open and the curtains and moving in the breeze. And there is her mother, sitting on the step. Smoke in hand, she stares at the Ranger as Jess pulls up. When she realizes who it is behind the wheel, she starts crying and runs over.

“Mom…”


Submitted: March 01, 2017

© Copyright 2021 keithdaniels. All rights reserved.

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