I met the devil at the Crossroads of America.
I was fourteen. The last week of October that year, my father rounded up me and Mom and one carryon bag, stuffed with only a change of clothes for each of us and some toothpaste. We were confused, to say the least, at Dad’s sudden gusto for an impromptu road trip, and my mother balked at first: how could she explain this to the others at work?
“You’ve got sick days, don’tcha?” Dad had said. “Use ‘em or lose ‘em?”
I knew she was in the hole, as far as leave time went. She’d used up all her own (and a bunch more the other girls at work had donated to her) the year before.
But I kept my mouth shut. Being gone on Halloween meant I wouldn’t have to explain to my friends that I didn’t want to go trick-or-treating. I wouldn’t have to turn down any invitations to costume parties. All Hallows’ Eve had lost its luster for me.
We were aimless. Stopping at greasy-spoons for lukewarm meals, taking sulky photos at hokey tourist traps and bathroom breaks at rest stops – sleeping in pest-ridden motels or, some nights, in the car. Mom and Dad had both taken up talking in their sleep in recent months. Their uncensored consciousness spewing up restless laments, angers, melancholies. In the mornings I’d swear to them, bleary-eyed and hoarse, that I’d slept just fine while I took big chugs of Dad’s dark roast.
They barely spoke all this time. But that wasn’t new.
On the thirty-first of October we crossed the state line into Indiana. Dad shook me awake to announce our arrival, almost giddy.
“Here we are, Gert,” he said. “Crossroads of America.” Continue reading