By JD DeHart
Nolan remembered her country way, her porch swing voice like butter melting on cornbread and light white blouses, but now all he could see was the picture of her, baby in tow, and the yokel on her arm. I could have been so much more to her, he thought, and had been a thousand times in his mind.
He tried instead to focus on his work, carefully editing papers, but all his mind would do was ravel and unravel the image: the girl, the baby, the yokel. Finally, he called the only person who could save him from his drudgery.
Morgan was a raven-haired knockout and he would have tried to date her, but she was off-limits, meaning she would punch his teeth in. He had known this since they met their ninth grade year.
“You’re worried about who?” she cried over the phone, clearly on her way somewhere. He heard the tires squeal and she swerved. “I’ll be right over.”
“Where are you?”
“In-bound for you,” she said, and was at the front door in minutes, idling anxiously in her little red car, jagged flamed roaring on its shiny sides. She could have been on the other side of the county, for all he knew, and booked it to his
door. “Get in.”
A few miles away from his house, Nolan said, “Where are we going?”
“A bluegrass festival,” she said, pulling a plastic bag out of her console. “Want some seaweed?”
“No, no, thank you,” he said, watching her put the stuff in her mouth, chew with a crunch, make a face, and then toss the bag out the window.
The bluegrass festival was nothing much, especially since he did not like bluegrass. There were bulbous men with gunmetal gray beards traipsing around, but the event was free, so that was good. The smell of roasted wieners and barbecue waved in the air. After ten minutes, Morgan was ready to ditch the place, and Nolan was not surprised.
Their next destination was a mountain down the road from the festival. Morgan was taking the curves, yelping with delight, kicking up dust. It was getting too fast for Nolan.
“So, this girl, she broke your heart?”
“Yes, I guess you could say that,” he shouted over the engine.
“Did you tell her how you felt?”
“Yes, more than once,” he lied.
The acceleration was getting worse, and he could not look. He was depressed, but did not want to die today. The little red car hit some gravel and started to spin; it all happened in a blur. Coughing dust from the road, Nolan checked to make sure that he was okay, and then checked Morgan. It took the wrecker an hour to find them.
“So you have to do what you have to do,” she said, then pulled up her sleeve. “Look, see my new tattoo?”
Nolan glanced over, but did not want to see. He decided to stop calling Morgan; decided that he could not hold anything against his country girl, who he had never even talked to outside of his own fantasies. He would have to make something real happen, and he could not do that if his friend destroyed him first.
When he walked in through his familiar front door, he took one good look around. Once he finished editing his papers, he went out, which was the first time in a long time.