Alan Falkingham

My daughter lies curled asleep like a cat on the backseat and through the windshield I watch the hood eat up the long white line in the headlight beam. Janey sleeps too, head resting on my shoulder as I drive. The radio started fading in and out when we crossed into Utah and all I can see above the horizon line is stars. For the first few hours I would reach beneath my seat to have my gun ready whenever I saw a car gaining in the rearview mirror. But as the hours passed, now cars slide by without me fidgeting. We stop at a roadside Texaco station and Janey stumbles out to buy coffee and cigarettes while I pump gas and check my phone. Sixteen calls from Catfish. He is mad beyond reason. I take the phone and hurl it with all my strength out into the blackness, the cicada chorus so loud I do not even hear it land. As I swing back onto the highway, Janey, hands me a Styrofoam cup and peers at the map in the dashboard light.

“We gonna be OK?” she asks huskily, blowing smoke through a crack in the window. She only has her doubts, her daughter and whatever she could throw in a suitcase in the five minutes I gave her to choose whether to stay or go.

The coffee is scalding hot and makes me blink. Or so I tell her.

“We’re gonna be OK” I say. And I try to give her a smile like I’m sure as hell.

She smiles back, acting convinced, settles her head back on my shoulder and watches the road. But as each hour takes us further away from the life that was killing us slowly, I think I might just be right.