Would you like a tour of the place?

My room was made up in the dusty way of guest rooms.  The pillows had cross-stitched cases that were too nice to sleep on.  The comforter was hand-stitched.  I threw my duffle on the floor and fell back on the bed.  A tabletop fan kept patient time to my right.  Cathy lingered at the foot of the bed. 

‘What do you do in this town for fun?’  I said.

‘Oh…I don’t know.  What do you feel like doing?’

‘Just like to get acquainted with the place.’

‘Let’s go for a drive.’  She suggested it under the pretense of showing me the countryside, but it was dark by the time we got around to it, so there wasn’t much to see.  We climbed into Faye’s brown 1981 Ford pickup.  The truck didn’t start at first but once the engine caught it settled into a ragged rhythm. 

‘This was Grandpa’s truck,’ Cathy explained.  ‘Mom has a Honda and the kids get to drive the truck. Or that was how it was before the accident. Now we drive the Honda, too.’  Cathy cautiously piloted the pickup down the driveway, her headlights unable to pierce the wall of pines to either side. 

The Calvert house was east of town: far enough away so you could stand in the road and look in either direction and see nothing but piney wood; and close enough you could get in the truck and be ‘downtown’ in less than 15 minutes.  Head a hundred miles northwest and you’d reach the Capitol, which doesn’t sound far for a big city, but then the Capitol isn’t a big city.  Head 40 miles south and you could go swimming in the Gulf Coast.  There was nothing but Alabama to the east. 

We headed west toward town.  It was a two-lane road with no sidewalk and no shoulder.  Cathy began to tell me about her neighbors. 

‘That house back there,’ she said, pointing off into the trees at a faint hint of porch light.  ‘That place belongs to Patsy and Pete Pinkston.  They’re real nice.  A couple years ago they were driving on this road and they hit a deer, and their youngest, he was thrown through the windshield and killed.  He was like five…This next place….’  She moved from one to another like a tour guide.  ‘See the mailbox?  This place belongs to the Clarks.  They’ve lived in Poscataw almost as long as us.  Then up that drive there you’ll find the Beezeman’s and Pastor John Watkins.  Pastor John baptized all us Calverts.  And at the end of the road there’s Simon Pace.  He’s notorious around here for stirring up trouble and writing angry letters to the editor.  My mom can’t stand him but he’s always been nice to Mitchell and me.’ 

We crossed a small bridge over Culver Creek and rounded a corner and under the darkness I saw a crawling field of hogs taking shelter under roughshod aluminum lean-tos.  The road doubled to four lanes and as we picked up speed I could hear the engine straining.  Cathy was slow with the clutch—a nervous driver.  I had to remind myself she was only seventeen.


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