Lincoln Michel

On and On

Driving out west in a rusted sedan, our thoughts slowed with each passing state. My Indian wife wore her wrist-watch with the broken strap. She was dialing up the radio.

“This used to be cowboy country,” she said, “a long time ago.”

There wasn’t much in the way of hazards for miles until we picked up a clean-shaven man by a dusty cliff. He was squatting with his head in his hands.

“Need a lift?”

“I lost the tour bus behind a chimney rock,” he said.

Dusk was seeping into the sky and I said we’d take him as far as town. He lay across the back seats.

“All by your lonesome?” My wife said.

She flashed the man a smile and then he sat up and blurted out the whole story: how his three hissing kids, full of important solitude, had dropped themselves into the dark crack of the cliff.

“They did it to spite me,” he said. “Their own father!”

“Am I supposed to turn around now?” I asked.

I was still driving on. The father frowned and sadly clicked his camera at passing objects.

“We’ll wait until daylight,” my wife said. “Missing boys always return in daylight.”

But just then another unpleasant surprise: a pack of dogs running past our car with the swishing limbs of children in their jaws.

I didn’t know what to do except keep driving.

There was a growing darkness in the clouds. My wife turned the radio down then back up again. The father didn’t pay anything any mind. He just growled and snapped all the way until all our mouths were struck with thunder.

Lincoln Michel is a co-editor of Gigantic and the Books Editor of The Faster Times. His work appears in NOON, The Believer, Unsaid, The Oxford American and elsewhere.

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