Before she knew it, the light faded. She stood and pushed the switch on the
table lamp, then crossed to the window to close the drapes. As she glanced out onto the street, cast in orange halo by the
sinking sun, she glimpsed a flash of red. A convertible pulled away from the curb. Behind the wheel, Mace thought she saw
a woman with blond hair.
Abraham looked forward to the weekend. Friday, on the way home from the clinic,
he’d gassed the Dart. Early Saturday morning, he scraped uneaten breakfast cereal from his bowl into the trash, rinsed,
dried and returned the dish to the cupboard. He put on his tan corduroy trousers, pressed between medical journals all night
to make sure they had a crease. He opened a new white shirt, donned it, and topped it with the plaid vest. As he slipped into
his jacket and hat, he glanced around the room, making sure nothing was amiss. Finally, he opened the door and stepped outside.
Snow had fallen during the night. Just a couple of inches, but the air was
sharp, and his feet crunched on the sidewalk as he headed for the garage. He even managed a whistle, though the cold burned
his teeth and throat as he sucked it in. He started the car and backed it slowly, then put it into park so he could get out
to shut the garage door. Abraham stood, looking up at the cyan sky and nodded approval.
“Alaichem sholom to you, Abraham. Peace.”
As he drove onto the eastbound Interstate, he noted, in satisfaction, the
road was dry. The day seemed made for him, halcyon, therapeutic. Abraham glanced at the dashboard, where an empty socket reminded
him of the broken radio knob.
“At your age, you should need a radio? What do you want to hear, Abraham,
rock and roll?” He smiled at his own joke, then hit the dash with his right hand. “A nutcase, that’s what
you are.” He was still smiling when he nearly missed the I-76, Fort Morgan turnoff. He jerked the wheel and the car dove in front of a pickup. The other
driver laid on his horn and swerved into the next lane. The radio-less Abraham leaned toward the window, made eye contact
as the truck went around him and wiggled his hand under his chin. “Good day to you, too, Mr. Smart Alex.”
Just when the miles began to hypnotize, he saw the blue rest stop sign. Mile marker
sixty-six. He thought about the new white building, its lawns and expansive parking lot, even the gas station near the turn-off,
where he could talk to Edward. Only four years since they’d closed the other stop, closer to Sterling, and made this one. At first, he resented the change. After all, he’d stopped at that other place how many years
now? Must be ten. Since Saul was in the home, anyway. Some ganef, he thought. Some swindler whose brother-in-law owned the
construction company…maybe even the land…talked them into it: into tearing down a perfectly good rest stop and
building two new ones.
Yes, there was that other new building, the one you had to leave the highway for.
To drive into Sterling for. What about the poor nebach, the ill-fated man, who couldn’t wait? Well,
he’d said it. The man was unlucky. But they built that big prison, and now the rest stops. Big business, that’s
what it came down to. And some poor shnook like him emptied his pockets at tax time to pay the bill.
Abraham took the exit and drove into a parking space. At his left, a tiny
red car with an olive door cringed close to the line. He started the Dart’s engine, backed out and stationed his car
where only a motorhome sat half a block away. Better safe than sorry.
When he opened his door, stretched his legs out, the familiar pain stabbed
them. He began walking toward the building working hard to compensate for the stiffness, not to limp. By the time he reached
the green metal door, the catch was gone.
A teen-aged girl, in a shirt three sizes too small for her, squeezed past
him when he opened the door. No coat, no hat. Oblivious to the frigid temperatures. Once outside, she turned and flashed Abraham
a dimpled grin. Then she stretched her arms up, behind her head, yawning. In the middle of her belly, a gold ring moved with
the ripple of her stomach. Abraham jerked his head down. To see young women draped, on the examination table, was one thing.
This was another. This was…immodest. He humphed and went in.
When he came out again, the red car was gone. Though the Dart sat alone in
the parking lot, he checked its doors for dings. He looked over to the gas station, beyond the rest stop, to see if it was
busy. Too many customers, and Ed couldn’t visit. He liked to hear about his big family: his wife and his wife’s
Italian mother who made cannelloni. There were a couple of cars and a big rig in the lot. Abraham left the rest stop, rounded
the corner and entered the filling station parking area.
Ed stood behind the counter, chewing on a toothpick. He nodded when the doctor
“Edward. How are you, my friend?” Abraham walked to the store’s
rear, opened the cooler and selected a flavored water.
“Still on the health kick, I see.” Ed grinned at the older man.
“Ach. For what, I don’t know. What is there to live a hundred
years for, I ask you?” Abraham slowed as he passed the candy shelves and selected a Snickers. “So, how is your
family since last we talked?”
“Gisetta’s had the flu. How about you, Doc?”
Abraham thought, for a fleeting moment, of telling him about the demonstration.
About Steve Voight. His brow furrowed. Then he straightened his back and smiled at the other man. “Absolutely nothing.
As you can see, I’m on my way to Holyoke again.”
“To the home.”
“A long drive for an old man. But I’ve made it so often my car
knows the way. I don’t even have to steer.”
“I don’t envy you my friend. Places like that give me the creeps.”
“It’s my brother.”
“Yeah, I suppose that makes a difference.”
Abraham paid for the soda and candy and, in minutes, was on the highway again.
Another sixty miles to the Sterling turnoff, then fifty more to Holyoke. The road
seemed longer every time he drove it. After you left the Interstate, miles went by with no change in scenery. Sagebrush, yucca,
fences and endless brown grass. That was all.
However, Abraham had to remind himself, there was also no clinic, no protesters
and no Maxine. He smiled and reached for the radio knob, his fingers finding the empty hole.
“So, maybe Alzheimer’s runs in the family, eh Abraham?”
By the time he’d turned off I-76 onto Highway 6, heading east, he was
getting drowsy again. He tapped the steering wheel in time to a tune running through his head, jiggled his leg and, finally,
resorted to a conversation with his dead sister-in-law.
“So, Marta. You are happy now you are gone and I’m forced to make
this long trip two times a month. Don’t deny it. You always had it in for me.”