From Voices of the Lost and Found
Wayne State University Press
$18.95, 177 pp.
Through the window I watch Michigan corn bleed into Ohio wheat, and pungent tobacco become flat miles of soy before we hit the rice fields of Mississippi. By the time we reach Biloxi I think Mason will drive until our threadbare tires are buried deep in the mud at the bottom of the Gulf. By then I don’t care, and Mason cares even less.
"You smell rank," I say.
Mason laughs. "Bang, bang," he says as he points his .38 at my left ear. "You’re dead, little man."
We grew up in Bad Axe. In kindergarten Mason cracked every crayon in my 16-pack box, in middle school he broke my thumb with a ball-peen hammer at his dad’s tool and die shop, and in high school he hacked into my locker and stole every one of my Hendrix tapes. So why am I slumped in the cracked vinyl passenger seat of his rusted Delta 88, four states from home and hurtling toward the end of the line? That’s a question I’ve asked myself countless times, although by now the answer doesn’t really matter.
Mason got me a gun, too, but I don’t carry it in my pocket. I leave it on the floor
in front of me, buried under the newspapers we buy every day. The seams on Mason’s
left pocket tore from the weight of his gun, so he shifted it to his right, where it pulls his jacket out of shape as it strains for the level surface of the seat. I liked it better when he
kept it on the left side, but I also like that I can see it at all times now. We haven’t eaten since stopping at a Taco Bell drive-through in Laurel late yesterday, and my body wants food even though the thought of eating makes me sick, makes me think about all the things we’ve done and all the things we shouldn’t have done. The husks in my teeth from the stale popcorn we ate in Memphis remind me of the Michigan cornfields, back when we were still just young and stupid. The flattened buns on the fast food burgers take me back to Ohio’s wheat fields, and I now imagine those tall, fuzzy stalks were waving at me alone, were planted there five generations ago for no other reason than to tell me to turn back. The Marlboros I’ve been smoking to take off the edge make me long for the tobacco fields in Kentucky, for the time right before it was too late.