All Stories, General Fiction

Southbound Traveler by Mason Yates

Dereck Banks found himself alone on the desert highway, a single vehicle on the massive but narrow southbound scar—a blemish on the natural brown landscape, that is—made of asphalt and metal road signs.  His windshield flickered in the vibrant sunlight, and his tires crunched tiny rocks and pebbles and specks of sand.  He kept the windows rolled down and radio turned up (an oldie—“Kaw-Liga” by Hank Williams—happened to be on) and let his wispy hair blow in spring winds, the temperature outside (mid-seventies) perfect for spontaneous road trips to nowhere and everywhere all together.

It would have been a complete lie to say he loathed the desolation.  On the contrary, there happened to be something special about the empty terrain and lonesome interstate; a grand space, no doubt, stationed somewhere underneath a cloudless sky, where the mind could wander infinite realms in search of hidden subconscious thoughts and unlock them and ponder their purpose; and perhaps his inner views or opinions or speculations would lead him to other conjectures or insane ideas, such as how his insignificance pleased him, a mere nomad on one planet out of trillions, an average man.

Nonetheless, he did possess a feature nobody else carried: his own unique past; one of hot summers spent by the public pool and cherry popsicles frozen in narrow plastic; one of salt water beaches and distant rock-and-roll radios with Lynyrd Skynyrd or Bad Company on full blast; one of bright green grass and lakeside picnics and Fourth of July fireworks on display; one of antique malls on the weekends and first kisses at the park; one of snow-day school cancellations and lazy Friday nights at the drive-in, where Top Gun or Stand By Me could have been on the big screen if the projector had not malfunctioned.  Even though he enjoyed his impulsive adult life, he missed, of course, the lost days, his youthfulness; the way birds chirped and songs felt and spring smelled and so on, a nostalgic taste for the midwestern ambience he used to know well but no longer did.

Then, he spotted her in the distance: a speck on the roadside that became a blonde woman with her thumb held out.  Her hair blew in the arid breeze, and her golden skin glowed in the sun, a daydream flowerchild situated in the middle of nowhere, no companion other than harsh nature and a water bottle beside her feet.  She wore a pair of tinted shades, a red bandana, an orange top, and a pair of short jean shorts that revealed her sun-kissed thighs.  And although he did not know her, he did… somewhat.

He knew she owned her distinctive memories and characteristics and personality and life; maybe mountainside hikes in the winters, snow cones and airconditioned apartment homes in the dry summers, sidewalk art shows, skatepark fist fights sometime in late August, barbecues at Hot Jims on Friday nights, a purple sunset after a desperate love session in the back of a classic car, a broken home in the rearview mirror, marijuana in a dorm room, and champagne after graduations on football fields.  Both knew each other as wanderers, vagabonds of a vast galaxy, endless lives.

Dereck Banks slowed the car.  He rolled down the passenger window.  “Want a ride?”

Mason Yates

Image by Joe from Pixabay – straight tarmac road through the desert with blue sky and wispy clouds

8 thoughts on “Southbound Traveler by Mason Yates”

  1. Hi Mason,
    I can only echo what Diane has said.
    It has been a delight to work with you and you are an inspiration to all those folks who spit out the dummy after only one attempt.
    We all wish you every success, your professionalism and resolve are at a different level!
    All the very best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I grew up in the West, and I absolutely miss the incredible openness of the American prairies. It was a pat on the head of my memory to read someone else’s fondness of it.
    And thanks, too, for the mention of Hank Williams. Too many people have never heard of the Hillbilly Shakespeare.
    Man, it felt good to read this!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Really enjoyed this! Growing up in the UK in the Sixties and Seventies,it was my secret fantasy to go barrelling down the desert highway in a Thunderbird, with the Allman Bros ‘Ramblin Man’ on the AM/FM radio. Thanks for the reminder.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. “Running Down The Road Trying To Loosen My Load” “Take It Easy” / Eagles. I think that the song was in some soft porn movie. I have nostalgia for all of those iconic things that never happened. Puts a smile on my face. Here’s a story idea – reverse the mirror and hear her side. I think “Chevy Van” had a similar theme.

    All of the LS writers and staff – “Keep On Rocking In The Free World while putting on the miles in your pickup / van / Mustang / convertible.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Great descriptions that really transport you to a place as a reader. I’m left wanting more – I really want to know what happens after she accepts the ride – assuming that she does?

    Liked by 1 person

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