Emmy & Maggie in the Southwest travel blog



Route 66

Route 66

Route 66

Rattlesnake Skin

You remember morning sun on your arm, two lanes growing out of the hood of the car, and asking how far it is to the next town. Look at the map, your mother says, and you remember crinkling paper, turning it upside down, searching for the right red dot and black line. Your mother makes you figure it out yourself and you sigh, but your love of maps is born on these cross-country trips.

You remember seeing buildings up ahead, bouncing on the car seat, hoping your mother will stop so you won't have to ask her to stop. You almost always have to pee. You remember the green dinosaur, your favorite place to get gas. You get out the little notebook in the glove box. It's your job to write down the date, the price of gas, and the mileage. Your father has entrusted you with this very important job and you almost never forget.

You remember the women in the diners who slide a paper placemat in front of you like they don't realize you're a kid, how they're different from your teachers or the women at church. What's wrong with her hair? you whisper when the waitress leaves the table. Hush, she'll hear you, your mother says. Her mouth curves up at the side. You like to make her laugh.

If there is pie under the glass on the counter you order grilled cheese or a hot dog. Always leave room for pie. After lunch the sun shimmers on the front window and you lower the visor. You swing your legs and read the map out loud. Where will we have dinner? Where will we spend the night? What's this dotted line? What do you mean, we gain an hour?

You wave to the first car on every train. Your heart leaps when the man waves back. You count the cars: ten, eleven, twenty, thirty-two. You feel sorry for the man in the last car because he has no job and you lean out the car window and wave like crazy to make him feel better.

You remember your eyes getting heavy and the air turning cool when the sun goes down, after dinner, meatloaf or chicken or chopped steak. You roll up the car window and feel the lump in your shorts pocket, the roll you snuck from the basket when you left the table. You eat it later in the bathroom of your motel room.

You remember seeing neon ahead and squinting to see if "No" is lit in front of "Vacancy." This is an important job, as your mother can't both drive and look for the sign. You have Sharp Eyes. You remember sitting in the car while your mother talks with someone behind the counter, wondering which room you'll get. You remember the key, how your mother turned it and—two beds! You don't have to share! You pull your pajamas out of your suitcase and hurry into them when your mother goes to the bathroom.

You remember hearing crickets in the vast field of grass behind the motel, a field full of secrets in the blackness. You remember a cool breeze fluttering the thin curtains. You do not remember falling asleep.

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