She really couldn’t tell where she was. They’d been driving for days. State after state went by. Often they’d fight. It could be violent. But he was tall. He was her age. He didn’t care how she made her money; and she didn’t care how he made his.
Yesterday, they’d stopped at a lake. He had wanted to visit his mom in Wisconsin. He said she had cancer. She understood. She thought it was sweet. They had so much in common. Small town. Fucked up childhood. Perfect.
They rented a paddleboat. She was a good swimmer because she learned the hard way, thrown in to the water again and again. But she wouldn’t swim if she couldn’t see the bottom. This water was milky green. She felt safe though, and the vodka helped. She jumped in.
The water was warm. She didn’t think about much, but she remembered some things all at once, like the camping trips at the lake with the neighbor boy. She loved that neighbor boy. They’d lie together in their underwear and laugh till they cried. How old was she then? It had to be 12.
Pleasantly drunk and stoned they stopped a campground. They started a fire. Drying out as the sun faded she wondered what else she should ask him. Everything had to be a secret.
He stood over the fire and she admired the tattoo on his chest, the word “COOKBOOK” just like the book and at just that angle right between his nipples. He put on his shirt. She loved his tall, sinewy, white body. The black letters stood out on that white skin.
“We need to be off for a while,” he said. “And we need to put some money together.”
She wanted to make him happy almost as much as she hated everything and everybody.
“We’ll do whatever we need to,” she said. “You know I’m down for whatever.”
“Really?” he asked. “Sometimes I wonder about you, whether you believe this shit or what.”
She sort of panicked. So she blurted something out.
“You know, my parents are cousins,” she said. “Yeah. It’s like that. I’m never going to fit into this shit.”
He lit a joint and looked at her over the fire.
“Well, that’s fucked up I guess,” he said. “What’s that mean?”
She realized it was a stupid thing to say.
“When we started fucking things up,” she said, pausing to take a hit. “I decided I’d just start to own all this and be honest. Like really honest.”
“I get it,” he said. “You’re X’ed out of their world.”
They laughed at the reference.
“Yeah,” she said. “Fuckin’ X’ed out.”
Then she said something really stupid.
“But that doesn’t mean if we had kids they’d be all fucked up,” she said.
The fire crackled. He looked at her sternly. Then he laughed. He laughed so hard he fell off the stump he was sitting on and curled up. She couldn’t figure out what this meant. She thought she’d been too vulnerable.
“Fuck,” she thought. “He thinks I’m like another girl who wants to get pregnant. Fuck”
He gasped for air.
“Jesus Christ!” he said. “I wouldn’t want to have kids unless they were totally fucked up. Look at us!”
This is why she loved him. This is why she was taking all this on. She was wrong because everything else was wrong. She wasn’t doing sabotage she was sabotage. She wanted to be the wrench that fucked up the whole machine.
After they stopped at the lake they crossed into Minnesota. She’d never been there. When they didn’t fight they’d talk about what they’d do. Later it was a haze. Maybe he said what he had done, maybe not. She didn’t care. He was tall and her age. He didn’t care either.
When they hit Hutchison he’d decided. He’d picked his bank.
“Hey, dude,” he said.
Roused she looked at him.
“I’m gonna hit this bank.”
They had parked. He had the backpack on his lap. She’d packed it with first aid things and it had the gun she’d acquired. After checking the backpack’s contents and poking around in it, he opened the door, stepped out, and walked toward a bank on the other side of the street.
The keys were in the ignition, but he’d turned the car off. She sat there, in the passenger seat. So many things flashed through her head. Thoughts formed then faded. Her heart beat faster.
She grabbed the pipe. She took a long draw and held it. Where was she?
Then she moved, stepping over the shifter and into the driver seat. It was pushed way back. He was tall. She reached under and pushed the seat forward. She turned the key. She was leaving, but she hesitated and then stopped. The engine was running.
“I can’t leave him behind,” she thought.
But, for a moment, her mind raced ahead. She’d make a call. Get help getting home. Forget all this happened. Start over. Again.
There was her dad’s voice and her mother’s. How could they do this to her? How could they make her happen? And when they did, why didn’t they care?
She thought of her son. What would happen to her son? What about her life now? What about his?
It was too late. He came running up to the car, his long pin wheeling legs surely drawing attention on the sleepy street of the small town. Surprised to find her in the driver’s seat, he ran around to the other side and got in.
“Drive!” he said. “Straight ahead.”
“You’ve gotta go faster,” he said.
They had company. A black car was following them close. She new it was a police car. She’d seen enough police cars in her mirror to know.
“C’mon, you gotta go!” he ordered.
She did. The black car kept pace, finally turning on its lights.
She signaled a turn and then hit the gas hard. The black car, now flashing, fell back.
Another signal and another turn. Her foot down hard on the gas. She had no idea where to go. She didn’t know where she was.
Another signal and another turn. Cornfields, with high growing stalks were all around now. She passed a car. He told her to turn again. She signaled her turn, the tick-tock of the turn signal punctuating the roar of the engine.
She saw someone throwing something into the road. Stop sticks! She swerved around them, wildly crossing into the opposite lane.
The black police car that had been closest to their back bumper, almost touching it, ran over the stop sticks. Robbers 1, cops 0. But their lead wouldn’t last.
Accelerating, she signaled another turn. She floored it. Now there were more cars and trucks with flashing lights. There were so many.
On a long straight strip of road all the cars and trucks seemed to disappear. So she missed them; another set of stop sticks.
Front tires first. Then the rear. She was stopped. The sound was an explosion of air and metal. it smelled like burnt rubber. It was the first time she heard the sirens. They were loud.
He opened the door, stepped out, and looked at her. She’d always remember that face and that moment.
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Then he ran into a cornfield with the backpack.
A voice behind her said, “Hands in the air!”
There were a lot of voices and noise and he melted away into the field.
It was Minnesota. It was July. She’d known him for a month.