The sky shifted from the pale blue you get as darkness robs color from a dangerous tone of orange. We were in a truck driving on the highway. Most of the other cars and trucks were clamped tight in the battle of traffic, but no one cared that evening. The smoke came onto all of us and it coupled with the heat of the highway from all that sun. We watched, the lot of us, our heads cranked and turned to the right behind the evergreens the highway people planted to absorb the exhaust and noise. Were those flames? Were they coming for us?
I remembered sitting in the station wagon, my mother at the wheel, the car dying. She struggled to steer it as the power left and we drifted across the highway. I remembered that smoke. And the emptiness of everything. You couldn’t just call someone. With a small child, she’d had to sit there by the side of the road and wait as the heat took over everything either of us thought about.
At the end of their marriage, she took me on the sailboat he’d bought for her after his mother died. As we motored out of the marina, she looked back at it, and I did too. She didn’t say that was the last time we’d do this, but we both knew. We sliced through the water and she had me raise the foresail and then the jenny.
by Hank Cherry