Little old ladies wonder the vast street shuttling floor lamps, empty picture frames, and souvenir tchochkes to their cars lining the road. There’s a man bartering unnecessarily over a $2 pan in the garage. The sleeves on his flannel shirt are at least three inches too short. In the living room, a professional-looking couple evaluate an end table. I’d love to tell them what my cousin did on that piece of furniture about ten years ago, but I don’t. I wave to my uncle. He’s eating a half-wrapped fast food burger. “Hey, here’s da paperwork. That should be ‘bout it.” I hand over the documents and he scrutinizes them.
After Grandpa died, relatives swarmed and started to bicker. I’ve been couch surfing since my uncle moved in “to take care of things.” When I moved out, he oversaw my packing to make sure I didn’t take anything of value. The whole bunch of them act like Grandpa was a noble member of the ancient landed gentry or something. I’ve seen the finances and no one seems to believe me when I tell them “there’s nothin’ ta fight over.” That just leads to my aunts accusing me of stealing some mythical treasure chest secretly buried under one of the rose bushes. So, when everyone moved in, I moved out.
“Where ya off ta now?” My uncle crams the last quarter of the burger in his mouth. The grease on his fingers notarize each document in his filthy hands.
“Uh, not sure yet. But, I’ll give ya my contact info when I know.”
“Mmm…” Good question. “Just in case, I guess.” No longer interested in our conversation, he starts harassing some woman who is apparently touching the cheap flatware too much.
I take one last look around the house. How many nights did I fall asleep on the floor gorging on popcorn drenched in butter? We’d watch old Westerns where “good” always triumphs. A grizzled man lugs up a toolbox that’s been in our family for five generations. It’s labeled “$3.” Most of the rooms are bare and echo with the slightest sound. The vultures circle around the last bits of the estate. They tear and gnaw at anything of perceived value. It is what it is.
Exiting the propped open front door, I park my ass on the stoop. I’m not quite ready to leave. The intensity of the sun beats down with a blistering heat. It’s been a long, dry summer that has scorched this once beloved lawn. “1… 2… 3… Rrr!” Down the street, a couple of scrawny kids heave my old amp into the back of their pick-up. I stand up almost in protest. They toss my guitar into the back and take off. I’m done. The golden grass of the subdivision crunches under my feet as I lazily drag my shoes to Main Street.
Sometimes, I feel like I’m meant for something if only I knew what. The speed limit is only 35 mph, but I watch as almost every vehicle does at least 50 on this country highway converted into a sprawl collector road. What are they in a hurry to get to? I have no place to go. I take a seat on the curb at the gas station on the corner of Brown Boulevard. A grey box covered in beer and cigarette ads. Again, I’m asking, “what should I do?”
“Nice shirt,” says a young man in a hoodie and punk band t-shirt. He packs his cigarettes as he rests against his rented moving truck. “Didja make it yerself?”
“Yeah. Thanks!” He doesn’t seem eager to get back on the road. “Where ya movin’ ta?”
“Ta Portland. My friends say they can get me a job out there. Had nothin’ else goin’ on, so I boxed up everythin’ ‘nd took off. Whadda ‘bout you? Goin’ somewhere?”
“Cool.” He reaches through the moving truck window and grabs an energy drink. “Where ya headin’?”
“Haven’t figured that out yet.”
“Really? Well, if ya wanna ride with me, ya can. I could use da company ‘nd ya can get out at any time. Gonna warn ya: this piece of shit doesn’t have a/c or a radio.” He kicks the tire in contempt.
“Thanks, but I can’t afford da gas ‘nd all.”
“No worries. I got that covered awready.”
“Are ya sure?” He nods. “Okay…” I brush myself off and climb into the passenger seat littered with all kinds of junk food.
“Let’s go!” and he peels out (as much as he can in this clunker) onto Main Street. He cuts off a couple of cars. “Don’t worry, I got da insurance on it.” Black smoke billows out of the exhaust pipe as the engine trembles. I keep my eyes on the endless prairie ahead.