I wrote this in the morning as I went to work. It was something I was planning on writing for a flash-fiction contest I was in, but never got around to doing it. (I won with another entry.)
The farther away I got from MT, the more distant my memories became, the less insistent I felt. I wanted to capture as much of the feelings I could while I still had them in my mind.
They call it “Highway Hypnosis.”
Driving along 210 out of the mountains and into the rugged flat, you can read the prehistory of the Earth. The rims in the distance form a shore of a million year old sea. Your truck would be deep. Ancient fishes and mollusks would slip by in silence, with curious eyes locked on a drowned artifact, misplaced in time.
The road stretches out, straight as a compass line or a bullet’s path, into the east. The heat rises from the ground in shimmers. The air catches flashes of skunk that linger and fade at 85 miles an hour, whether or not your A/C is working. With the window down you get hit with the dry scent of hay and sweetgrass.
Your truck will pass them, sometimes one, sometimes in clusters. Markers for the dead. Rusting white crosses on metal poles along the highway, adorned with dry, crisping flowers, or faded plastic wreathes, bleached away by the relentless sun.
You won’t find them along the Interstate. The feds take them down as soon as they go up. State highways are where you’ll find them, like mushrooms among the dead logs in the high country. And like them, they prefer the colder roads, the shady places, where the highway curves and sways like a frozen snake.
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