August 13, 2007

Kansas Clouds

By Susan B. Bentley © 2007

"I think we're stuck."


I looked down at the tire as Kat walked away. It was stuck in a three-inch layer of diarrhea coloured mud. The side of the car had the same colour spattered up the side, like a toddler's unfortunate accident or me after too many beers. Kat sat down on the side of the track, dusted off her hands. Kat was a big girl. If she couldn't move the car, I wasn't sure who could. She hung her head down and stared at the crud on her sandals. She mumbled something.


"I said 'stupid, frickin' ghost towns'."

"Oh," I kicked the wheel and leant against the hood of the car. Pulled myself up, lay flat out on it, staring up at the sky. It was a hot day but there were puffy white clouds zipping past, like an old movie, all fast shutter speed and no sound. I turned over, leant over the edge and grabbed my bag from the ground.

"What are you doing?"

"Recording the moment."


Click. I got a photo of Kat just before she gave me the finger. Lying back down, I moved the lens across the sky, trying to capture a cloud on its journey. I sat up and took a picture of the track ahead. Nothing but mud and dust, bordered by fields of corn slowly moving in the breeze, nothing but empty for miles ahead. I put the camera down and checked my jean pockets.

"Bum a smoke?"

Kat looked at me like I'd grown a second head, "you do realise we could be stuck here for hours?" She threw the pack at me, then her lighter.

"Then I'll smoke reaaally slowly."

"I may well have to kill you soon."

I blew out a smoke ring, kept staring at the horizon.

"Surely, in the interests of continuing the species, I should kill you? More meat on your bones."

Kat sighed and leant back, stretching her pudgy legs out, "I'm hoping I'm all gristle."

"Mmm, tasty."

"You'd really do it, wouldn't you? You'd eat me."

I coughed out a laugh, "Hhoney, you're really not my type."

She threw a handful of mud at me.

"Watch the camera!"

"Jessie, this is serious!"

I leant back and pulled my cell out of my front pocket, waved it at her.

"No coverage still? Jesus."

"You wanna walk back to the interstate?"

"Nope, I wanna find my ghost town but I think that's a wash now."

Kat pulled herself up and joined me at the front of the car. She leant back and we sank into the mud just a little bit more.


"Shut up," she grabbed my cigarette out of my hand. The breeze picked up and the smoke blew back in her face, her hand coming up to wave the plume away. "It's probably a mile or so thataway." She waved her hand in the direction the car was facing and I reached out and grabbed the cigarette back. "But..."

"But, it might not be, it might be the invisighost town, just like those other two. TripTik sucks."

"No shit. Over a thousand miles and only a giant ball of twine and an Elvis museum. Not a ghost town in sight."

"The museum did rock though, you gotta admit that."

"My Mystery Train-er Tots were heavenly."

"Exactly, and you can't beat a fifteen foot statue of Vegas Elvis in the middle of nowhere, belt a-glistening in the sun."

"Sure can't."

We both lay down, the hood creaking a little but holding under the strain. We were at least fifteen miles from the interstate and we were going to have to start walking soon, we were just delaying the inevitable.

"'Nother smoke?"

"Why not."

The wind was really picking up now, clouds rushing by, the sound of the breeze catching in our ears, no other sounds, just that effect where, if you cupped your hands to your ears, it sounded like waves crashing on the shore.

"What?" I took my hands away from my ears.

"I said 'what are you doing?'"

"Thinking about the sea."

I cupped my hands round her ears so she could appreciate the waves amongst the tall fields of corn, the surf crashing against the shoreline in the middle of Dicksville, Kansas.



"Ya wanna start walking?"

"Not especially. You?"

"I'm thinking snack time first, build us up for the long haul back."

I jumped off the hood and rummaged around on the back seat. We had enough old Easter candy to last us until Christmas, a side of beef in a cooler courtesy of Kat's mom and a ton of pork rinds, our nod to The Sure Thing. I waved a pack out the car door, "Pork rinds anyone?"

"Shut up."

I grabbed a bag of Goldfish from under the front seat and a can of warm coke.


Kat tapped the top of the can.

I stuffed a few goldfish in my mouth and walked to the middle of the track, listening for any noises other than the wind. Nothing. I looked up, chewing, held my arms out and started spinning on the spot, opening my mouth and singing a note out to the breezy clouds.

"You folks need some help?"

I stopped spinning and clutched the guy in front of me as my brain kept going round and round. Kat pulled my hands away from him, an old farmer in a cap that read Tom's Dry Goods'. He had the blackest moustache I'd ever seen. Kat beamed at him as I held onto her arm, the clouds and the track and the mud still spinning around too fast. The farmer shook Kat's hand and she smiled at him, her chubby cheeks widening.

"Yes sir, we surely do."

Susan B. Bentley is an aspiring writer who's lived in Berkeley and Brighton but dreams of St Kitts on a daily basis.

No comments: