We’d driven into the prairie, just like that. Tall grass, ghosts of bison herds. Wind. Soon, the flat land gave way to the vision of striated rock in the distance, ascending.
We were here because my sister was dying back home and I’d done what I always do. I left her hospice room, called Mick at work and said, “Let’s get out of here.”
In a few months, we would return home and find our things coated in dust. The front room filled with a sense of anticipation, as if a scene from the time of the Mount Vesuvius eruption. As if we’d been there one minute eating breakfast and left another minute due to some impending disaster.
As if we had fled.
Weeks had passed and I no longer charged my cell phone. I assumed that Misty was already dead. I assumed she was buried or cremated.
Maybe she’d had a sky burial as we’d discussed. I imagined her body placed out amongst the rocks in an arid land. The vultures flocking down to feed.
There was a dignity to it.
The motel was on a side street in Kadoka. The woman signed us in and beckoned us back into her house for change as her cash drawer was empty. Her husband slumped in a wheel chair. Attached to an oxygen tank, he questioned us. Where were we coming from and where were we headed?
We told him as much as we knew. We told him the truth. We came from the east and we were heading west.
The woman told us that the nearby diner was serving bison meatloaf. It was a popular item. We were urged to dine early so as not to miss it.
There were chairs in front of our cabin, which we sat in, drinking wine, discussing what we’d do in the Badlands. Even from far away, it was impressive. I expected to be wowed. I expected to be blown the fuck away.
A small dog approached and licked my outstretched hand. I petted it and it settled down at my feet. Misty didn’t even look at me that last day. Her eyes stared ahead, seeing something I could not see. Or maybe she was unseeing, all her past visions spiraling away like an unspooled ribbon. I told myself that she was already gone.
A child ran through the street in front of the motel dragging a scrap of red behind her on a string. She turned and turned and turned to look behind her. There was an expectation of joy. I sat forward to watch. The small dog stood and growled.
A breeze blew dust all around. The child ran harder and her kite took flight. A marvelous red fish in the enormous white sky.
We could live here. We could.
Myfanwy Collins has published a novel, Echolocation (Engine Books), and a collection of her short fiction, I Am Holding Your Hand ([PANK} Books). For more information, please visit her web site:http://www.myfanwycollins.com.