I’ve fallen in with a squad of Corvettes taking back roads from Laughlin to Barstow. We do a hundred miles an hour, pushing through faux-veneers of insane deserts. We glide past old icons and dead rivers. Grey skies and no ocean and swirling sand form lifeless contrails on the earth.
A song titled “Horsepower” comes on the radio as we spin in and out of the dust and mindless telephone poles and old embankments of islands-turned-mountains. My music is movement. Vibrato. Vibration. The pulse of forward motion.
We pull over for a train and drivers emerge from their cars. They stretch and call to each other and wipe off their hoods and explore the vast silence with cameras and move around their vehicles in orbit until all are back in place and we continue over the now unguarded tracks.
The tarred road is spindly and decorated by years of deterioration. Our trails kick up dust and the Corvettes begin to spread out. Intermittently I’m pelted with pebbles kicked up by the Corvette in front of me. Plink. Time and speed and sound and massive desert silence. Plink. Corvettes with wide flat tires built for racing throw rocks behind them. Plink. Santa-Fe is chugging and groaning to the right.
We turn a corner and stop at another crossing. An Astro van got mixed in. I jump out to snap photos of the train and an abandoned house and decide later none are worth keeping. They seem so cliche. I say, everyone has pictures of trains. Trains passing. Trains coming. Trains going and going forever.
And now the train is on our left. It passes in a morse code of color. Orange, orange, white, orange, green, green, orange, white, white, black. Streaks of war-paint on conquest through endless hollow valleys.
Ten minutes and we’ve out-run the train. Its conductor pulls the horn at our entourage when we pass. Through the plumage of grainy air we shift and grind and whistle through the empty heart of America.
Over a plateau or around it or crowning like a baby is the 40, endlessly reaching into the desert. We saddle beside it, then pass an oasis of RVs and blue kiddie pools, and turn to enter the beginning, or middle or end of whatever journey we believe we’re on, joining the truckers and Prius’ and fingerprint cars collecting dust and fading into the horizon of America. Every car carries small souls and children through their intravenous lives from destination to destination, pressing towards the sunset and moon and diamond night and into the days of now and past and future.
About the author:
Kevin Callaway is a graduate of Belmont University and winner of the 2013 Treadway Creative Writing Award. He lives in Milan, where he works as a linguistic assistant and educator. He has work forthcoming in SLAB.