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Highway by Zeke Ross from Vantage

Chevy was Dry

He’d driven 65 miles in 65 minutes. Four towns, four exits. Morgantown, Frostburg, Cumberland, Flintstone. Each exit screamed at him. Bed. Food. He had stopped at none of them. If he kept the pace he could be home by morning.

He was in a ‘67 Chevrolet with 200,000 miles and no bumper. It had been his father’s. When he was learning to drive, his father would sit shotgun. Nod when he did it right. Reassure when he did it wrong. When he was 16, he had crashed the car driving home late from a party. His father said it was alright.

He glanced to the seat beside him now, only to see a stack of National Geographics. There was a polar bear on the cover. The air conditioning needed fixing. He rolled down the window. The wind whipped at him and he ate it up. He put two cayenne peppers in his mouth and ate those as well. He had one hand on the wheel. Dangerously close to losing grip. But only a little faster and he’d be up to 70.

An hour later and he was flying through Sideling Hill and into Washington County. Civilization was encroaching. Road signs advertising temptation appeared more often now. Hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts. He’d come out of the mountains and was in flat farm country. At least if he fell asleep at the wheel he wouldn’t drive off a cliff. 75 now. He was speeding.

A Ford pickup went by him. Where was the driver going at four in the morning? Was this man’s reason for being on the road more important than his own? More tragic? He picked up the pace to a solid 80. He wanted to talk to the man in the Ford pickup. He’d been on the road for nearly two weeks and hadn’t had a meaningful conversation in that time.

He lined up behind the pickup. Nobody was passing nobody. 85. He was swerving slightly but in control. He could remember, no, hear his father cheering him on at little league. Eye on the ball, kid. Two more cayennes. 90. He smiled, in case the pickup driver turned back to look. He wanted to make a good first impression.

The pickup shifted, lowed, and turned off at the Boonsboro exit. He tried to follow suit but his father’s Chevy let him down. It couldn’t handle the sharp turn, couldn’t handle 95 miles per hour. The Chevy was dry. It skid, flew on the shoulder and through the barrier. His forehead rammed the horn. The National Geographics flew off the seat. He was too wired to panic. Too glued to do anything. He would have kept rolling forever, but luckily his father’s car was on its last legs. It sputtered to a stop 500 feet from the road.

He rolled out through the passenger door. It had been unlocked to the whole trip. The first rays of the sun congratulated him on his survival. He felt strangely invincible. He’d been holding off on the ibuprofen for a couple days now for fear that it would make him drowsy. A wrecked car seemed like as good an occasion as any. He popped the trunk. When he looked inside he let out a moan and fell to his knees.

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