Friday, June 17, 2011


Marcus had been driving for three days. He had left the East coast on a bright and clear spring day, heading south and west through green rolling hills, skirting the low mountains always to his right. The first night he had stopped in a town that only tangentially contacted the interstate - three fast-food restaurants, two gas stations on opposite sides of the freeway, and a chain motel, clean but unremarkable. Marcus parked in a space directly below the door of his second-floor room and spent no more time there than it took for seven hours of sleep, a shower, and the span of time required to put his worn clothes into his small suitcase. He was back on the road by eight-thirty.

The second day was more tedious. The green had given way to brown as he crossed into the drought-stricken states away from the coast; the hills had become smaller and more infreqent until the road became a straight line vanishing into the distance ahead of him. He alternated between running his air conditioner at high until the interior of the car was so cold he was chilled, and turning the radio up to just past the comfort level - first, a classic-rock station, then alternative hits, and finally when he could get no other stations, hip-hop that hissed in and out. When that eventually disappeared completely he clicked the radio off and drove for a time in silence.

The second night he determined to push through as far as he could get. He drove until almost three, occasionally slapping his cheeks lightly or smacking the back of his neck to try to keep himself alert. When he finally acknowledged that he was past the point of safe driving he pulled into a rest area and stretched out in the back seat, his head on his sleeping bag. He slept fitfully for five hours, waking frequently to the sound of trucks rushing by. When he decided he'd gotten as much sleep as he was likely to he washed his face and hands in the stainless steel sink in the rest stop facilities and climbed back into the driver's seat. He merged back onto the freeway and continued on his way - south, and west.

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