And we’re back! It’s been a bit of time since my last post, but for good reason.
I’ve been incredibly busy working on competition entries, deadlines, collaborations and various other projects that have kept me away from my normal schedule. With that in mind, I wanted to drop by and give a little preview of one of my competition entries that I’m particularly proud of. Please, give a read and let me know what you think!
The skeletons of abandoned vehicles lined every lane along either side of the highway. The faded black pavement baking in the late morning sun as waves of heat rose off of everything in sight. More than anything, it was the heat that could kill a person out along those barren roads. It was why they needed off that broken stretch of road and into some kind of shelter.
“You were right, should’ve gotten off at that last exit…” Bill mumbled quietly.
Jo walked alongside him, eyes fixed straight ahead, “I know, I tried to tell you, but no. We’re better off keepin‘ on the highway.”
“I know. We were jus’ finally makin’ good time, didn’t want to stop before the sun broke.”
“Of course not, an now,” she threw a hand up toward the sun resting high in the sky and shook her head. A look of disgust fixed firmly to her face.
Jo glimpsed a vein bulging from Bill’s forehead, but it was his fault they were still out there. It was his idea to take to the highway in the first place. A straight road, he said. There’d be fewer people to worry about than in the suburbs, and road signs that could tell them how far they’d gone and how much further they had to go. Never-mind it was miles between exits and nowhere to hide out from that awful sun and it’s unrelenting heat, but without a better idea herself, it was the best they had.
The radio on his hip coughed, a sudden fit of static hissing through the speaker. They both stopped, as if moving might scare-off the signal.
They stood in desperate silence, exchanging glances, hoping something, even just more static, might come back. A warm breeze rolled between them, a gentle nudge to remind them that the cool early morning air had already given way to the stuffy, midday heat and they were still out there on that the road. Now wasn’t the time to fight.
Jo looked down the ramp as it seemed to stretch on for miles in front of them. A sea of colors across the congested intersection at its end. Cars sat abandoned however far they’d made it before they ran into the web of traffic. At the sight of it all, her feet burned and ached as they remembered each step of the long walk from the night before, dreading the steps still to go. A small brown leather backpack hung between her shoulders like a cement block weighing down on her. As short as she was, it felt like the sun had made the extra effort to reach down just to color her face with pinkish-red hues. Jo spun her wedding ring around, rocking back and forth on her heels and glancing over to her husband who seemed busy plotting their way ahead.
He was silent as his eyes walked the roads, tracing routes in his head. That was just who he was. She could try to push him, try to get them moving, but that had never led to anything other than more arguments and more wasted time. She didn’t have it in her. She wasn’t even sure she had it in her to walk the full way down that ramp.
Jo pulled a folded map from her back pocket and wrestled it open when the radio on Bill’s hip began to hiss and crackle.
“Get to Cleveland…we have shelter and-” the message cutoff, drowned in static. Bill slapped the radio with his palm, then twisted the tuner back and forth. He held it up to his ear, listened for another second, and then shrugged. It was gone. He slipped the radio back into the case and resumed scanning the roads.
“C’mon,” he waved for her to join him as he started to walk.
Jo nodded, her eyes following him as he went, and folded up the map and stuffed it back into her pocket. She wasn’t sure where he was leading them, if he’d decided to give in to temptation and make the last push to Cleveland or if they’d be spending another night among the dusty confines of someone else’s past. It was the closeness that poisoned their thoughts. Even if he wouldn’t say it, they both felt the gambler’s itch. The draw for one more mile, one more hour, always just one more, and damned be the sun if it tried to stop them.
Down the long ramp, passing through the graveyard of cars, the buildings towered up over them like great walls of brick and glass and concrete. The building’s shadows clung tightly to grass covered bits of sidewalk, letting the open road freely burn under the gaze of the sun. Behind the wall of office buildings, a row of houses sat neatly tucked away down one of the side streets.
“Saw a few places up ahead,” Bill slowed for her to catch up, “maybe there’ll even be one with hot water.”
“You do stink,” she said, hints of laughter showing in her eyes.
He lifted one arm, tucked his nose into his armpit and drew in a deep breath, “That’s just the smell of a man, baby.”
Bill grinned, “You love me.”