We were standing in line at the bank. We got those new bills, the ones with the panoramas in them. I called her sister up, said hey look at these. She’d seen them before. Too old for that stuff, always unimpressed.
It wasn’t until I had the money in hand that I realized we were too late. The park was closing already. Her big sister howled. Daddy, you promised!
Gave them each a few singles. She gave hers away as we crossed the grass, heading toward town. One here, one there. Big hairy wino leaning over her with his hand out, her sister scolding from a distance. When it was all gone she ran down the little slope ahead of us.
It’s like she never stopped that day, just kept going on to those little towns. I’d get letters back, and I could see her through the screen door, standing in some kitchen, her cotton print dress blurred by the screen, her face nothing but a shape. I’d write back when I felt her wanting my hectoring, the questions. When are you coming home? Then she’d move again, find some other little town.
I had this dream. Travelling, and I could see the map I was driving over. New Orleans, Missouri, those little eastern states. Pennsylvania. When my desire, my impatience got stronger the map’d move faster, or suddenly I’d just be somewhere. At times I’d be more in the place—a crossroads, big bushes on the corners, both roads straight either way, that eastern heat, muggy and still, cicadas going nuts. At others more over the map, looking down, tracing my progress over miles, the car cutting a path through the trees.
It’s like that’s how she left. The bank, the wino, the grass—and then a blur, until she’s gone and looking back, a stranger in a print dress behind a screen.
Davis Oldham lives in Seattle, where he teaches English composition, literature, and creative writing. His work (fiction and nonfiction) has appeared in the Nebraska Review, Cranky, Z, The Stranger, Community Catalyst, Eat the State!, Washington Free Press, and elsewhere.