She used to make fun of her dad whenever he’d take their family down all those back country roads during summer vacations. Shunning the heavily trafficked interstates, he would say that the old roads had character, that they were a time capsule of a quieter, slower time. Along the way he would point out various historic markers. If he saw a field of round straw bales, he would try to pull off the same joke.
“Hay! Get it?”
All she thought of when she was a teenager was how monotonous it was to ride down narrow, two-lane roads at 55mph, where you saw nothing by open farmland, or one-traffic-light towns in the middle of Bumfuzzle, Egypt. Days, upon endless days, without a single mall or decent place to eat, let alone somewhere with free WiFi, was torture.
An auxiliary charge cord for her MP3 player, a good pair of headphones, and a distracting playlist set to continuous loop were the only things that saved her from mind-numbing boredom.
All grown up now and on the run, she drove through those same rural farming towns, down lonely, deserted roads so familiar to her, like an old friend guiding her home.
To the east she could see a break in the dark clouds. Driving in rain made her think of the old TV westerns her dad forced her to watch with him. She remembered how a deluge would blur tracks left by movie characters trying to escape some sort of enemy. She imagined all evidence of her passing being washed away by the last summer storm. The brilliant azure sky emerging in the distance was a welcome sign of brighter days ahead.
A gas sign appeared over the rise in the road. Looking down at her tank gauge, it was well below E. The old pumps meant she’d have to go inside the store once she finished filling up. Maybe there would be a cooler of sodas.
Sunny skies may mean better weather, but it also meant heat, and humidity. She shirt was soaked in sweat by the time her car was ready to get back on the road. Pulling to far side of the parking lot, she went inside to pay for her gas and get a cold drink.
Before climbing back in her car, she went around to the trunk. She opened the lid after scanning the empty lot, checking the contents inside to make sure everything was secure.
The interior of her car was markedly cooler, but she still turned up the air conditioning full blast as she pulled out of the parking lot. Accelerating too quickly, the package in her trunk shifted, thumping against the lid.
The sound made her jump, then giggle at her nervousness.
Another ten miles down the highway, there was a dirt logging road. Deserted and leading to nowhere, it was the perfect hiding place. Local teens used the road enough as a midnight lovers’ lane, that the grass was already worn down, camouflaging her ingress. A wide turn-around at the end of the road gave her room to back her car up against the encroaching brambles.
The air was thick and sticky, making her work harder. Hauling the oversized bundle from her trunk would have been impossible if she wasn’t already running on adrenaline. Thorns tore at her jeans and bare arms, but she ignored the pain, dragging the bundle as far into the underbrush as she could go.
Tearing at the plastic bag, she kicked over the body that was inside so she could pull off the last shred of the bag. She wadded the trash into a tight ball, then bent down to look at him one last time.
His eyes had gone milky white, and his skin was yellow and waxy. A dark, maroon clot was caught in his tangled blond hair. Already in rigor, his arms and legs remained bent from being inside her trunk, making him look like he could have just fallen out of a chair. His cracked and bloody lips were parted as if he was going to speak.
“Hey? What’s that you said, dad?”
Straightening, she kicked at the body again, her shoe leaving a dirty print on his ribs.
“That’s what I thought. You don’t have nothing to say to me.” She stood over him, hands on her hips, shoulders back and head held high.
She tossed the torn, and bloody trash bag into her car trunk, slamming the lid. Once in the car, she sat quietly until she could get her breathing back to normal. As she drove away, she watched in her rearview mirror, the pale glow of his skin a stark contrast to the abundant green of the brambles.
Back on the main road, she laughed to the point of tears, picturing the next young lovers to park back in the woods, and the surprise they’d find if they got out of their car. It’s the stuff of urban legends.