A Deadend at the One-Stop Town

Carly and Bet felt like they’d been driving forever. Lunch at the rest stop already seemed like a distant memory. The landscape dramatically changed from the lush green and varied scenery when they dropped down out of the mountain pass and crossed the bridge over the river. The trees, leafy shrubs and meadows gave way to wide, flat plains of red clay, gnarly yellowed scrub and a seemingly endless cloudless sky stretching out all around them. Heat waves rose off the road in front of them. The farther they drove, the thinner the traffic became until all they encountered was the occasional semi headed the opposite direction toward the big cities on the coast. It was as if they were the only vehicle headed south on their stretch of highway.

Bet and Carly were on a trip to the barely-there one-stop town where Bet spent her early childhood with her grandparents. Bet drove. Carly was quiet, deep in thought with a permanent look of uncertainty since they’d crossed the river. Bet reached over and gave her a pat on the leg and smiled. Carly tried to return a smile, but couldn’t. She turned away, slouching in her seat and staring out the passenger window for the rest of the trip.

“There it is,” Bet said in an overly cheerful voice. The faded state highway sign indicated an exit for the town of Bergsland. Carly let out a long sigh.

In the distance the flat plain rose to an outcropping of several low rolling hills. As they got closer, a few dilapidated ranch houses dotted the sides of the road. Just as the countryside morphed into a desolate town center, a caution road sign read “Stop Light Ahead 500 Ft”

“It’s to the left. Funny how I remember that,” Bet said. As she turned their car at the blinking red light, Carly tried typing the address into her phone’s GPS app.

“So, no network out here?” Carly asked

“That surprise you?” Bet replied. Carly tossed her phone on the dashboard in disgust.

Bet slowed down as they approached the end of the road. Standing like a grand mansion at the end of a long dirt driveway was a fairly large home painted a bright turquoise with white trim and gables. Even from this distance, they could see the large picture window sill lined with what looked like various colored antique bottles. A dog lying on the stoop stairs sat up and looked expectantly at them. Bet stopped the car and turned to Carly.

“Ready?”


Prompts this week are: Gnarly; Antique bottles; Flowers wilted and dogs panted in the shade.

By the way, summer is my busy time at work, but the month ahead is particularly busy with a nephew’s wedding hoopla and then I’m going to take a little time off. You might not “see” me until August. But I’ll keep in touch, so you keep on writin’ and promptin’!

A Future, Past

“It’s Mama. She’s in the hospital”

When Laticia saw her brother’s number on caller-ID, she knew it wasn’t good news. Dwayne never called just to call.  

“What happened? Where’s Papa?”

“With her. She had a stroke, they think.”

“They think? Don’t they know?”

“That’s what Papa said they said.”

“OK, well, do you need me to come home?”

“’s’up to you, I guess.”

“Do you or don’t you need me there, Dwayne? Just answer the question!”

“Stay put for all I care. But Papa might like to see you, ya know?”

Laticia struggled to know what to say. “For how long, do you think?”

“Jesus, girl, it’s your Mama we’re talking about here! She had a stroke. These things are usually pretty bad. What you want to know, for how long?”

“I can, of course, come home, but, work, OK? I can’t just say I’ll be back whenever. And what am I supposed to do about Terrance?”

“That’s your business. Look, I called, and now you know. Make up your own damn mind.” Dwayne hung up.

Laticia stared blankly in front of her. Strokes are bad. Long recoveries. Many trips to the doctor and physical therapy. She couldn’t see her father being up to the ordeal, let alone Dwayne being anything other than the pain-in-the-ass he’d always been.

Would she be expected to move back home to help out? After all this time? Did they think she’d just give up all she worked for; the comfortable home and life she finally had made for she and her son? She’d have to bring Terrance with her. No way she’d leave him with his father, what with his crazy schedule these days driving a cab. The man hardly had time to see his son as it was.

Laticia hated herself for thinking this way. It would be bad, really bad, not to go home. She couldn’t subject her parents to the shame she knew they’d feel if she wasn’t there for them when they needed her. Her aunties and uncles would remind her of it, too, laying on the worst kind of guilt trips. They had their own troubles. And, as much as she felt like it was Dwayne’s fate to have to care for them, after all the years of living off their parents’ inability to cut him off, she knew it was a pointless argument. Dwayne might be sober now, but he was never able to manage his way out of a paper bag, regardless.

The thought of moving home to help care for her mother gave Laticia a sudden desperate sense of loss. She knew all too well what life in that godforsaken backwater of her childhood was like. Just the thought of the place, worse, of living there again, made her anxious and uneasy. It would be a tremendous set-back from which she feared she might not ever return. The future for her and her son, far away from that place, and one that seemed so solid just five minutes before, was already beginning to fade.


I incorporated the prompts a bit more indirectly this week. This week’s prompts are: A gypsy cab glided to the curb; It’s a shame about your future; She knows too much.
https://aooga.wordpress.com/2019/02/24/olwg-91-friendly-skies/

Dan

What a f-n cliché. Frickin’ corny, Dan thought. A windy fall day blowing giant orange, yellow and red fall leaves through the air. It was a scene right out of a cheesy chick-flick. All that was missing was a sweeping piano sound score. The thumping bass from the mobbed-up Honda parked at the far end of the parking lot did not match the postcard-perfect image. Dan shook his head. Something was always fucking up the picture.

Dan took a deep breath and stood up. Can’t sit here all day. He started walking south, not at all sure where he was going. Reaching for his wallet, he surreptitiously figured the bills in its fold. A hundred or more. The thought suddenly struck him: It was enough for a Greyhound home. And just like that, he turned west toward downtown.

The woman next to him on the bus was chatty, never drawing breath as far as he could tell. If anyone asked, he’d not have been able to tell what the fuck she was yakking about. He took off his coat, balling it up into a pillow, and lay back into his chair. He was asleep before she figured it out.

The walk home from the bus station was longer than he remembered. Passing familiar sights, Dan realized it had been a good while since he walked through the old neighborhood. He smiled when he saw Mrs. Stokowski mowing the lawn in front of her place. Dan gave a short wave as he passed, but Mrs. Stokowski only offered a tentative polite smile in return. Had it been that long? Dan thought. I wasn’t all that young when I left, was I? Am I that unrecognizable?

“You know, of course, Kitty never came back.”

Dan turned around. Mrs. Stokowski leaned over her mower and turned it off. “You know that, right?”

“I do,” Dan said.

“OK. Just sayin’.”

“OK.”

Dan gave Mrs. Stokowski another short wave and resumed walking. Why the fuck would she think he gave two shits about Kitty?

Anyway, just one more block, he thought, and it would finally, once and for all, be said and done.


The prompts this week are: A hundred dollars in her purse; loquacious; Kitty came home

https://aooga.wordpress.com/2018/11/04/olwg-75/