Nov 23rd – The Dakota Plains

November 23rd – The Dakota Plains

08.13-08.23

“Just go down this road for thirty or so miles, then head north at the crossroads. Then you want to head west. You can’t miss it.”

Mike paid for the fuel at the gas station, along with some supplies for the journey, and headed back out to the car. It was early afternoon, and the sky was enormous. He knew what they meant about big skies. This was bigger than Stevenage.

“Well?”

Mike repeated the instructions to his girlfriend, reclined in the seat, bare feet on the dashboard.

“And which way’s north?”

“How the fuck do I know.”

That was the problem with road trips. The roads knew where they were, crisscrossing the country like black channels through an ocean of beige. The people they et seemed to know where they were as well, rooted to the country like incipient trees, pointing. Mike, Lou and the hire car, on the other hand, were tumbleweed, rolling with no sense of direction. Or a compass.

Their map, as maps went, was accurate enough. The problem with maps, in an age of satellite navigation, (“Why didn’t you hire a satnav? I told you we should have hired a satnav.”) is that unless you know where you actually are, working out where to go is a challenge. Lou had the map spread out across her lap. Occasionally she would rotate it. This didn’t really help.

“He said go along the road for thirty miles or so. Then we’ll make a decision at the crossroads.”

The other problem was that everything looked the same. Out here, in the plains, there was nothing. The odd farmhouse in the distance, mountains on the horizon that didn’t get closer the more they drove, almost nothing on the roads but them, in their hire car, with an indecipherable map, a speck of dust in an unoccupied barn.

Forty minutes later there was no crossroads. There had been no crossroads. There had been nothing, nothing but grasses and sky and a thousand country music stations on the radio, all playing the same songs. Their phones were out of range of anything.

“We must have gone the wrong way.”

“How the hell could we have gone the wrong way? This is the only way.”

After another twenty minutes they turned around. The sky still stretched itself out above them, yawning. The mountains were still unreachable on the horizon.

There was a different clerk in the gas station when Lou went in. He looked at the map, nodded, pointed with his finger.

“Just go down this road for thirty or so miles, then head north at the crossroads. Then you want to head west. You can’t miss it.”

“Well?”

“Just drive.”

Inspired by a prompt from here

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