Hitting the road.jpg

Delilah and Johnny in van on highway. A gulf between them. So much to say it’s hard to find appropriate words. Johnny gets to them first.

Grandpa says we’re going on a roadtrip.

That’s right. Up and over the mountains and out to the coast. I have a friend we can stay with. It’s a long drive. But it’ll give us a chance to, you know, catch up. You up for that?

Sure.

They go silent again. Johnny looking out his window. A sullen face. Doesn’t know what to make of this. Out of his element. Maybe worrying. Or homesick already. The world as he knows it exploding. Doesn’t know where his feet will land. What it’ll look like there. Delilah wants to tell him that everything will be okay. Wants to tell him everything. Instead she reaches over and pats his wrist.

You’re gonna be sixteen in a few weeks, right?

Yeah.

Means you’ll be getting your driving license soon?

Hoping to.

You been out driving with Grandpa?

A little.

He taught me too. In one of his old trucks. Ripping around the farm. I’ll bet he made you start with the tractor though, hey?

Yeah.

Did he tell you it learns you patience?

Johnny laughs a little.

Yeah. He’s funny with how he says stuff. We were out a couple days ago. Just on the gravels. Told me to ease the hands and not to look so hard.

Delilah laughs.

Did he say you’ll get there soon enough?

Exactly.

They laugh together. Delilah pats his wrist again.

You know, I was thinking, maybe I can let you drive a bit too. Like when we’re off the highway.

Cool.

The gulf between them has narrowed. She tells him they’ll stop for food by the next town. He asks if she has a map. She says there should be one in the glovebox. He looks. There isn’t. She says they’ll get one when they stop for gas.

You hungry?

Getting there.

Okay. We’ll hit a diner when we can.

He nods.

You like maps?

Yeah. Just looking at them makes it seem like I’m going somewhere.

That’s good, she says. Might just need you to navigate too. Been a long while since I come out thisaways. Haven’t seen the mountains in…I don’t know how long.

We went up into the mountains a couple times. When Grandma wasn’t so sick. But never got down the other side.

Ain’t no up without coming back down.

Grandpa?

You got it.

She pats his hand and asks him to find something on the radio. All around them the land is flat and the sky is blue and the sun is high and the traffic is free-flowing. On the shoulder a wide sign enumerates distances: 26, 114, 243. Where they’re headed isn’t listed.

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