Twenty dollars from your father’s wallet bought us hours of driving the unlit roads, bodies of bugs thwacking like kisses on the windshield. We had iced tea in mason jars and brownies from scratch, flowered dresses and orthopedic-looking shoes, heavy as books on barely-formed feet. Banjo music pulsed from the tape deck; we swerved for every possum and raccoon. We were rebels with the tastes of old ladies, howling like banshees across the farmland and the wasteland and the drained swamps of our childhood. Our knees were newly-blossomed things, loose as water snakes under the calico. We rattled and chattered along in my mother’s station wagon with its molting wood paneling and croupy engine. Armadillos peered shyly from the ditches. The soupy air frizzed our curls. You had never cut your hair. It was our emergency rope. My freckles formed a map of the country if I crossed my arms and legs just right. When we ran out of gas, we lay on the hot metal of the hood and waited for another car to come by. Invariably, some sweet boy or old man or potential serial killer would motor up and gallantly make us an offer. Our rule was to choose the third passerby, for luck, clasp hands to show we were dangerous in our own right, and then go with him, into the dark, as far as he would take us.
The Extinction Museum: Exhibit #521 (steel drum of gasoline next to brightly illustrated petroleum timeline produced for children by the government in the early 2000s)
Art by Carsten Stalljohann