January 05, 2009

Flight #22 to Denial

By Sean A. Donahue © 2008

I was driving on the way to pick up my kids and the skies opened up. Down the rain came, washing my car but making it impossible for me to make any progress. I pulled over to the side of the road and saw a man.

I drove up to him as the rain continued to pour; my eyes were amazed as he sat on the only dry area around. It rained everywhere I set my foot as I got out of the car, but he remained sitting surrounded by bluebonnets.

"Why are you sitting here? And how are you staying dry?" I asked as the rain poured down my face.

"I sit here because I can," he said, "and I am dry because I choose to be."

I looked at the freak, but something was not right.

"You choose to be? It's pouring rain out; you can see the people, all on the side of the road. How is it that you are in the only dry spot around for miles?"

"Because I am dry and I choose to be."

The rain began to let up and I walked back to my car as I couldn't make heads or tails of this man.

I got in and started to think.

I couldn't figure out what he meant. My trip continued and the sun finally came out as the rain faded away.

I drove on and on with not a sign to tell me where I was, or where I was going.

Mile after mile I drove; looking at the gas gauge and seeing it was still full I continued.

After what seemed to be hours, I looked again and it was still full. I saw a sign for fuel and pulled off the highway to this small grocery store in the middle of nowhere. There were people everywhere as I tried to pull up to the gas tank.

I watched as a girl of ten, wearing a pink dress and her hair in pigtails came up to my car.

I rolled down my window and said hello to her.

"Welcome, my friend. My parents will be glad to take care of your needs."

I was tired, hungry and wanted to check my gas tank because it felt like I had been driving for days.

I was directed by the girl to an empty pump and was surprised to see a boy of 17 in a white uniform come out.

"Fill it up and top off the fluids sir?" the boy said as he started to take the gas cap off.

"Take care of it son. Where can I get a bite to eat?"

"Inside sir, mom's cooking up a helping of Love Loaf," the boy said to me

"Love Loaf?"

"Yes sir, she puts a lot of love in that meat loaf, so everyone calls it Love Loaf!"

"Can you tell me where I am son?"

"You are off the highway sir, at the station of the Henry's. We've been in these parts for years."

"And what state am I in son?"

"Denial," he said as he popped the hood.

I looked around and was puzzled, but didn't think to answer his confusing answer with another question. I went inside and sat down at the counter. My senses were on overload. The colors were so vivid, the smells so wonderful.

"Can I get you something, son?" the grizzled old man said to me as I sat on a stool that was ripped from a 30's diner.

"What's the special?"

"Well that would be Mama's Love Loaf, best in the entire county!"

"The entire county? Which county are you speaking of?"

"Denial County, the best county nobody ever thinks of."

I sat puzzled and ate the meatloaf that was presented to me with a heaping serving of mashed potatoes and brown gravy.

"Hun, did the loaf fill you up?" an older woman had come in front of me asking. "I make it fresh every day."

"Sure, I guess." I had eaten the entire plate but never really remembered swallowing anything. I felt full and it was just what I needed. "How much do I owe you?"

"Well hun, you can get the bill from Minet, over there. Come back now, ya hear?"

I walked over to the cashier’s stand and saw her. Her eyes were black as the night. Her black hair cascaded near her high cheekbones and tanned complexion. Her body wasn't made for sin but for pleasure, and the glasses she wore on her head framed her face perfectly. The only thing that didn't make sense was that it was raining over her head.

"Excuse me? Is there something wrong?" I asked as I looked at the clouds that shadowed her.

"Wrong? Why would there be something wrong? Why does everyone think there is something wrong?"

I looked at her, took the bill from her and paid.

"Have a nice day," she said sarcastically as I walked out the door.

I got into my car and started to try and find the on-ramp for the highway. But it was nowhere to be found. I took the feeder roads around and watched the sun slowly start to set.

For hours I drove next to the highway looking for an entrance and I was exhausted.

I drove up to a hotel and got a room.

I couldn't sleep. My mind was going a mile a minute and I didn't understand anything, or everything.

I took a shower and dried off. The lone tear that fell from my face couldn't be stopped.

I lay down and fell asleep.

When I woke up I checked out of the hotel and found the entrance to the highway. I got back on and started to drive.

Slowly, the signs that were blank the day before were filled with words, but none of which I could understand.

I filled up the car and drove the day, without a reason in the world, and without knowing where I was. I drove to keep going, not knowing what I was running to or running from.

Finally the signs started to make sense to me and I arrived right where I had intended to be.

Then I looked up and saw my gravestone.

I wasn't looking at the date of birth, but of the date of death. It moved and changed, like an old airline departure board. It moved forward and backwards, went blank and started over again. It slowly came to a stop... when I woke up.

Sean A. Donahue is a radio personality and freelance writer. He is divorced with two children and lives in Lubbock, TX. His writing can be found on Instant Tragedy.

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