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Core Creative / Short story
Edie Leaves Twice
Kevin Draper
The Menteurs: A new chapter



Edie left New Orleans the day after she graduated from high school. She took her girlfriend and the blame for her mother’s latest, and for Edie the last, breakdown.

How did Edie love the girl? Like the kisses a lilac petal could give her lips. She felt a cold blue flame around her head. She felt willful and misguided, a delicious feeling. Kissing a girl. Boys were crude in comparison. Inside Edie, delicate white fingers parted the day like a smooth balance sheet and purplish heart, her face and body cleansed of living loudly. With some resolution, a hand, a pressure missing; a soft fall and she was conscious of the oppressed bells of her shivering lungs. She was running from another of Mother’s nervous breakdowns. It would be the last. Edie conjured nothing extraneous above her, and her stoutest corners faced the storm.

By the time they were an hour north of New Orleans, the afternoon sunlight had crossed to glance off the atmosphere and erupted in radioactive particles and filtered down through the humid sea of air to push them, they swore, backward. Edie felt like she was driving into a nuclear mushroom cloud. The light seared their dashboard while they flipped a coin for north, south, east, or west and chose Interstate 55 aimed toward Memphis. Their flimsy car squeaked and rattled. They gulped thick air through open windows and charged toward—nothing. Edie wondered only if it was possible Mother could pull her strings and drag her screaming, panicked, with smoking tires from her frantic effort to escape. In her narrow space on the passenger seat, Edie’s chest was a thin box, one that hurt so much she may not have breathed at all. She breathed only like a dog that has been hit by an errant car and lies, panting under the porch, swimming in short, shallow breaths.

Edie brightened only toward evening when they had safely left Louisiana. In the car, she let the roof liner shield her from the delta sun, pulled her sleeves down, watched the prow split the wind before them. She had packed in the trunk blue jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, a blanket, a pillow. Her girlfriend packed the same humble mix as though they prepared for a week at summer camp. In Memphis, the first musicians rolled from their afternoon beds and poured hot water into cups, rustled through playlists checking their strings, valves, and drum skins.

In New Orleans, Mother Mrs. Menteur has asked where Edie is and already knows that the answer is not simple. Beneath her meticulously plucked eyebrows (which arch in perfect circles now like the chrome fenders of a motorcycle), her eyes dart from the ticking linoleum under her shuffling feet as she jabs through a thick blur of tears. It is her body’s attempt to throttle her. Mrs. Menteur heaves up guilt from black tar pits and tries to drag words. Her breath bubbles up through oily masses and takes the shape of grunts and groans chased upward to higher notes by her effort. It whistles out of her like the blast of a teakettle.

She circles the yard in search of clues and reads the tire tracks in her driveway. She cannot know from them, but does, that they belong to the car driven by that girl that Mother Mrs. Menteur has not accepted—simply has not understood—and that girl has hypnotized her daughter and is even now driving—where? —it pains her so deeply to think in terms of sex about her daughters, and it draws a stitch inside her that hurts even her kidneys to have to think about it in terms of an accomplished thing.

She notes oil spots between the tire tracks and wonders, is the engine smoldering, is Edie sitting on the roadside somewhere in the Deep South sprayed in the hot oil of an exploding engine? She scrabbles in the driveway in her housecoat. There are no clues. No note. Why Edie has experimented thusly, only God could answer. In the afternoon, she thought she would kiss Edie’s ears and brush them with her own but she could not; she broke an aloe plant and rubbed sticky fluid on herself for relief. Mother has greased her arms and they shine under the lamp light. It is hot. Too hot. Everything slows down.

She says, “Edie? Where you at? You want to come here? Please?”

In Memphis early crowds filter out of the Peabody uptown, the Arcade downtown, scrubbing leather soles on dirty sidewalks. The evening’s better bands are polishing their instruments and working new strings. They will argue, whine, laugh, grab quick beers, and set up their heavy boxes and drums, soundcheck and wait. They guard the city against care and hammer out notes.

Edie’s first real adventure would be Memphis with two girls sleeping in a car. Before them, a wide concrete freeway courses into the city, breaks into a jumble of branches, exits and drops them into the city below. The Mississippi as they cross it widens and slows its water to near stillness as swirling masses of black water skirts and begs for steamboats. Beneath them, it flows with silt and nurses bridge legs. Memphis is a thick, slow city filled with old appliances.

In the restaurants, waiters unroll aprons and check for back waiters so regularly taken hostage by the town that they cannot be trusted day to day. Five hours of concerted effort will put cash in their pockets to catch the late night jam sessions.

The girls immediately climbed the ladder of drunkenness. Edie’s girlfriend’s eyes are taut, clear, infatuated with Edie. In the bar, they scream at each other in the music, unable to hear. They will search out their bands in the crowds of early morning jam sessions. They will sleep tonight, in their car, in their clothes.

Edie awoke exposed to fragmentation, bodies of water, winds, haze, the vapor forming clouds. On the phone, she tried to explain to Mother that “love” is inventing something least, not most. And this was the willful road she was going to take.

What Edie decides is that she has to go back and get baby boy Harley, and she does. It is a Springtime colorful question, then, to ask why Mother Mrs. Menteur would unravel so completely over it. First cause was the loss of her daughter to a girlfriend, and she’s got a baby already as if that were not already the end of a vainglorious family history in itself. But to come back a second time and take the boy? Well, one unravels.

This was not a time Mother Mrs. Menteur remembers very well. She lived there a year—fourteen months—two years! Bath water that could not stay warm in tubs of steel. Food that was not good. Foolish attendants who did not like her. Mrs. Menteur became utterly suspicious in that place, where the plates were made out of metal. Apparently! One could do more damage to oneself with cheap, vitreous china. And Mrs. Menteur scraped at the plates until she dug curls of metal out of them. She was treated to icy baths and rooms filled with leaden piles of warm, wet towels.

All the time, they were massaging her throat, giving her children’s books to read. Such were those in places of power at the Home that they felt if she could only read a children’s primer aloud she would be healed. Mrs. Menteur’s own opinion was that her doctors intended to make her so angry that she would simply scream at them.

There would be a day when Mrs. Menteur could speak again. And what she spoke was, “Hallelujah!” She said that word many times and loved it. She said a prayer to herself and then to the floors and then to nobody but herself. She prayed, “My Dear Father, thank you for saving me.” She would return home, to New Orleans, to her voice, though to get to New Orleans—to get back to New Orleans—had meant passing through the larcenous and unforgiving years in that Home that robbed her. Had left her with little of what had been her prize strengths as a young woman. In the Lake Charles Women’s Home, she had seen the backsides of those years, moving away and leaving her with tough, aged shells that were just inflexible.

She would be struck by the loss of her powers and of her ability to express what was significant to her. The momentum of her eventual illness was unstoppable, and it was as natural inside of her, as appropriate to her inner creatures, as a birth. It was born in due time, a disease of the intellect wherein she knew what she wished to say and found that her untrustworthy mouth spoke gibberish as though she were a monkey! She thought perhaps her diet, perhaps her environment was to blame, but in the end, cause was of no issue. The loss was a fact with a date. There was no living with that.

The nature of the Southern family tree is that it grew shoots from every angle, and provenant life seems enough of a load to carry, tied as it is to one’s bound feet in those coursing river waters. These Southern families’ trees make a dramatic landscape, and the stories follow the lines of motherhood. Harley’s father Titus had been pruned.


In darkness throughout Louisiana, oil refineries are planting their wide, lustrous pipes into the delta below the Mississippi’s last curves and squatting to the ground like thousand-legged spiders to weave a net of drilling platforms, ocean-going tankers, cracking towers, distillate tanks, and distribution centers. Tankers and train cars spread refined crude oil up from the delta, into the demand, across the country, creeping like spilled ink, roiling up eventually in smog, oil smoke, and the heat of exhaust pipes. In the beginning, the refineries spike shiny pipes into the ground unannounced, unprotected and blunt like hypodermic needles.

The refineries are pregnant spiders, retreating from access roads, backing into dark spaces, hiding beneath foliage: they are made of metal, covered in pressure gauges—under intense pressure, lines hop and jump in their cradles. Each refinery is a maze of pipes and larger pipes covered in shining stainless steel: no curves, only lines and right angles. Pipes end ruthlessly along the spines of cracking towers and run up to the mercury-lit catwalks above wires soldered to a spinal cord—draw off fractional distillates, sweep them through chemistry, and spit the liquids into tanker trucks lined up and waiting.

Then the tankers burst onto the freeway like an egg has hatched. They are clean, covered in decals, hauled by well-tuned trucks, carrying earth-scalding loads of distillate with a sense of duty. Beneath the tankers, the freeway wobbles like a giant raft and grates edge against edge: the tanks deliver a hard blow to the head of each seam, once for each set of wheels, and set a vibration into the earth that startles moles and sends gophers scurrying a hundred yards from the shoulder.

Rubber softly mauls concrete to dust and carries it away. The drivers pick it up on the soles of their shoes at every rest stop and truck scale, grind it into the carpet, carry it to their homes. And when one of the driver’s tanks gets away from one of them, loses its balance, dances a jig of suspension, and liquids, jostling, blows out over the freeway; it fries in a heat that turns concrete to lime.

Edie drove southward toward New Orleans, through Mississippi in the dark. She wandered at first, unevenly, and wasted forty minutes circling the city then abruptly headed out onto Interstate 10. Her heart beat and threatened to stop in the car, but then: howling tires sped it up to a chatter and her eyes jumped everywhere. She felt practically psychotic as details loomed at her. She is coming to terms with this new leaving.

Harley is safe already, waiting for her. She can pick him up and be back in Memphis by morning. She feels, even now, completely indecisive, and forced into action. Away from the raised highway in space and overhead, a spooky array of wheels, beams, and drawbridges clanks in mercury vapor. Older ships sit empty while the brown water laps their sides and laps the banks of greenery. Edie figures how to steal a Menteur Cadillac.

“O Gawd!” Mother Mentuer’s voice turned guttural, “O God.” She grabbed for Harley. She was up and clattering about the kitchen, tugging Harley behind her.

“Mom what are you doing? Open the door, please.”

“Oh God! Edie don’t open the door, I’m outta here.” Clattering shoes. Mrs. Menteur threw up a hand—she dragged Harley behind. He seemed to half think it was a game, his shoes catching on the floor emitted staccato shrieks. “Sit down Harley—Edie wait!”

Edie thought the steel panels above her warped like the steel plate of the barges below. They drove eastward again through the morning night toward Memphis.

In the gulf, minor dramas explode so brightly that the burning freeways behind them become an atomic backdrop. These are the circumstances that call for a brave girl to put the throttles to the firewall.

Harley would like nothing better than for his mother to rub his head, to play with his ears, kiss him on the ears, and blanket him against the noise of the car.

Ahead of them, taillights massed and regrouped; below, the freeway stepped into black water. The car buzzed and rattled. Harley whined, and Edie felt it rising again in her, the not knowing, the forgetting. It started like a kiss, the craziness-birds coming, like their wings catch and direct the moonlight. Harley had no sense of what was happening. This was a game to him.

Edie felt—this was not another of her trips, this was taking responsibility for Harley. The boy lifted in his seat and smiled, but his face was twisted. Maybe he had gone in his pants. “When is Da’ coming with us?”

“He’s not for a while, Harley.” Edie hoped the child would not get upset, not in the car. She added a promise, “Your dad might catch up later.” Harley took that with a grain of salt. Edie rolled up her window and hoped for quiet. “Get some sleep, boy.”

Edie missed her exit.

They passed through the last nest of motels and gas stations on the outskirts of Biloxi and into the life of the landscape that lay outside it, a bath of saltwater marshes and canal work, the first smells of the Gulf outside brown water. A semitrailer reared up and passed them, bristling with heat. She glimpsed it. Edie twitched beside the brute; it whined and hissed over a heavy diesel groan. She noted in a rearward wheel a digital counter was encased, tracking revolutions singly into the millions. The trailer jounced and her car wandered across the pavement.

An arm waved her ahead from inside the cab, then signaled her impatiently with an air horn to move on.

Edie’s heartbeat became still less predictable, a dull thump pounding, the blood beating in her ears, or the car wheels bumping. She got a light-headed feeling of high blood pressure. She felt pregnant. The semi had passed and caught her car in its wake. Their car shimmied with the vortex.

Ahead of her, this tanker load, six thousand gallons of British Petroleum, barrels down Route 10 at 85 miles per hour, nervous in its stainless tank, that shines in moonlight, that rodeo-rides on six double sets of howling tires—in each axle, the ticker, counting off revolutions, taut rubber bags under indescribable pressure adjust the blow of each freeway seam the trailer pounds. The tractor spews two plumes of hard black diesel smoke. Turbochargers whine through air intake cans and rise, fall, rise with each shift. The trailer is smug, contained, vibrating: British Petroleum has set fleets of them sailing across the delta. The company’s trade empire reaches to Mobile, where ships unload the moldy crude the company distills for as many gasoline junkies as it can, for lamp oils, cleaning solvents, and factory poisons.

The trailer wraps elliptically into a long tube, buttressed with box channels of the stainless steel, clean welds running each seam; it rests in a cradle that carries the wheels, that flexes, twists with loads and will soon be forced to release the tank to roll like a clown car rising and falling.

In his cabin ahead, one truck driver in a neat uniform has confirmed that engine revolutions, air pressure, oil temperature, and his radio are all properly set, has hitched up his pants and dropped a sandwich on his feet—reaches for it—and twists the truck into a jack-knife slide from which he cannot recover. The trucker has decided to open his microwaved sandwich and teased a burst of super heated air out of the soft little package onto his palms—he squirts the biscuit, cheese, and ham onto his feet—he has done wet nights, refinery’s glow deliveries—he is not an idiot: the trailer is already fatigued and over stressed by company order: the unexpected load flexes a rail, breaks a bolt, puts too much stress on an air fitting. Now he has no control over the wheels behind him. Nine rows of doubled-up truck tires howl like angry bears. Shock waves in their rubber walls split cords and drive lips from rims—trucker mashes the sandwich between his foot and brake pedal—ham slides from egg, his boot heel catches the brake pedal awry. Air supply to the brakes stretches—pinged—broke; the gargantuan brakes shrug their shoulders and snap tight under spring pressure and with puffs of smoke. Behind the trucker, 6,213 gallons of ammonium nitrate vibrate in harmony with the tires.

He saws rightward. He saws leftward and the wheel overpowers him. He saws rightward, the tractor-trailer leaps onto its wheels like a circus side-show, but the wheel rights itself so quickly it burns his freshly burned palms.

The tractor, now leaping like an acrobat onto its leftward wheels, shudders with the loads it cannot hold, thundering upward through tie rods, suspension mounts, and coil spring. The tractor’s nose judders loose from tight rubber bungees. Truck driver thinks of the tank behind him; the tractor feels it in the greasy coupling between its rear axles and pops the trailer free.

It is a moment of beauty. Under the yellow moon, flat, greened hills bound away from the freeway, the concrete slab howls, brought to life by eighteen locked-up wheels, rubbing it like a drum skin. The long, brute silver steel tank—THRUMS! —free of its tractor, sliding down I-10 at seventy miles an hour, overcoming the panicked, frantic work of the tires, sliding on bacon grease and melted rubber. Advertising British Petroleum with a thirty-two-foot-long logo.

The driver has crapped his pants, but is not thinking about it. There was no mistaking the release of the trailer and he has five seconds to determine his next move—which, if chosen incorrectly, will condemn him to more seconds of dancing with his load of corrosive distillate, and likely, turn the tractor into cartilage, absorbing the impact between soft, grassy earth and the hurtling silver tank. He has left religion behind in this moment, thought of burns, scrapes, broken ribs, severe trauma, and sustained neck and back injuries; he has already thought of lying in a casket—but mostly he has seen in Technicolor perfection the silver ellipse behind his back knock the head off his tractor like a giant piston.

It is again a moment of beauty. The tank’s brakes are not balanced: it has begun to turn—down the centerline in a slow, sensuous pirouette. The freeway reads on its flanks like in a dark mirror, as a rushing of white, gritty stone, and the trailer has made its first turn. Its blank ellipse looks down on the road it has traveled—the tank’s rearward piping flashes with the brightness of the new—a view forward—six of the tires are steel cords sparking on the road— tankers roll as a last resort, scraping is the worst—the tanks act like squeegees and apply an even coat to the entire road for a bloom that shows up on satellite photographs. The ammonium nitrate will make steam rise out of plants and the oyster shell roadway will foam like dish soap when the liquid hits it. Residents will say, “They usually don’t fear accidents on the superhighway near their home.”

British Petroleum freight helicopters will airlift the twisted diesel semitrailer and their stainless steel tank before police arrive, will have left only debris and a bloom of distillate crossing the freeway, snapping a universe of worms, insects, spiders, snakes into death throes, leaving rodents quivering.

The truck driver is out cold after two blows to the head delivered by the ceiling—the tractor leapt like a cow from shoulder to swale dragging its belly in the gravel. The truck has shed its bodywork through berm and dirt, come to lie on its side, exhausted fuels, oils, gases, and air pressure—expired with wheezing cogs and passed away. A small red light blinks for the tank’s lost radio call on a panel in a cramped, cigarette-smoked cubicle beneath the cracking tower of British Petroleum’s Belle Chase refinery.

But the tank dances, between the suspension beneath it, and the liquid in it, the two trading blows, escalating like unwound springs until a wheel lifts, sends a wave of distortion down the beam and over each axle mount—and the tank begins to sway side to side: it is drunk, it is skipping down the freeway. It is twirling like a baton, flexing and swelling like a hummingbird.

Forces reach their highest and the tank vaults rightward, with enough energy to flip its axles and wheels out beneath it and lands—pounds the ground like a gong, noticeably distorts and flings off its undercarriage like a worn shoe. The great silver ellipse flips itself to the ground at right angles to the freeway’s path like a rowdy child, once, twice, and welds burst to open cracks of gushing fluid behind the tank—an arc, flatter, shorter but taut like a bowstring—and the tank opens along its belly like a hanging pig been sliced from neck to pelvis—and closes on itself, to blow the stunned liquid out in a tidal wave speeding the wrong way.

The car drifted rightward. They hit a splash of cold liquid in a cloud of steam and the turn sharpened. “MOM-MOM!” The car tipped evenly on its way off the freeway—Edie woke with a start—careened back onto the road—tires grabbing dry pavement shunt the car back into its lane. The entire area is caught in an acrid steam cloud that fills the car instantly and yellows like a fine pigment on the windshield. She did not see the tank. She saw the freeway littered with tires.

Edie is—flabbergasted. Harley has knocked his window and started the windup for a good cry. The car had been headed skyward and out over the bayou in a brief flash; Edie saw it flying comically through the air with wheels spinning. Rags of a blown tire caught on her undercarriage and! Harley thought the sounds they made beneath the car were funny! The boy picked up an excited note and rose with expectation, over the rain of sparks shooting out behind them, then grew scared and clung to Edie. Finally, the garbage let go of the car and somersaulted behind them.

A few hundred yards further, Edie stood on the shoulder and peered back toward the scene, felt a cold panic, could see that the liquid they had spun in was corroding her hub caps. She climbed into the car, shut the door and shut the window and tweaked the grip without a word, snapped it into a seal to protect her from the machines. She felt an extremely urgent need to reach a car wash.

Harley cried. He did not like his mother’s movements.

At a Gulfport exit, Edie pulled over. She was by now a frazzled wreck of wires fizzing and cold electric fear of what they had driven through. The car wash felt like descending into heaven: a clean, shiny stolen Menteur Cadillac with mother and child. It was a miracle the tires had not melted in the goo.

Now Edie tried again to put Harley to sleep. “If I let you out of the seat will you go to sleep? Unbuckle the belt and give me room to move the seat.”

Harley squirmed from his seat and backed into the footwell, where he disappeared. When Edie flung the seat rearward, the boy jumped into place and slung the seat belt over himself. Edie worked Harley free and fiddled with the belt clasp until it clicked. “Now go to sleep.”

Harley growled and tickled his feet. He lost track of Edie, stared out the window, practiced; -ff... ugh. -vvffugh. -Feeee-.

They stopped outside Gulfport at a TOTAL station, where a moon worked its way over a white steel canopy, broke over the cubic edge and brought the seams into sharp relief. TOTAL in large blue slightly mismatched colors of plexiglass. In the parking lot, trucks crept over a thick layer of oyster shells.

Edie locked the doors, cracked the windows, cupped the boy in her arms. Fueling trucks rolled by, and their earthquake vibrations rattling the car crept in on the passenger compartment when the trucks neared. Crazy girl, she misses girlfriend. She misses the smell of her armpit, and the angle of her head.

The storm was the frothy edge of a cold front pushing through the still, warm air. Edie saw lizards on the roadside, and geckos like those her mother hated, a woman who had always been looking over her shoulder and pulling frantically at locked doors like a black and white woman in a science fiction movie, like something loomed overhead—a radioactive sand crab or giant plastic ant.

She pushed toward water, far east of the delta, then to Memphis.

Edie tipped further into the throttle to stir the rush of humid air over the windshield. Harley was flushed again and sweating. She kissed the boy and whispered that he should sleep longer to cool dots of rainwater chancing through the window. The rain that had threatened them now gently watered their drive. Their flight ended only when Edie decided pancakes and eggs were a better option than beating through the dense rains that had risen up only lightly, mist, at sunrise. She called ahead for the promise girlfriend would be at the apartment when she arrived.

Titus’ heavy muscular thighs had brought that picture back to her upon first meeting him—first having met him, when he introduced himself as a friend of Edie’s, not under proper circumstances, in a grocery store. Beside the fish counter, when Mrs. Menteur was still attempting to balance her daughters and see to their futures. Which they were more than happy to shake from her hands.

Titus arrived punctually. That beautiful Titus.

Mrs. Menteur had forgotten him. His ill ease had improved his posture. He stood straight before the door, and his face had been forced up, it seemed, by the willfulness needed to stand in front of her. The fine white light of New Orleans lit his face. He has delicate features, this woman thinks. His cheekbones are... flat. He has a boy’s haircut. Mrs. Ellen noted that his hips are squared, feet square, as though he were facing a threat. By glowing it down with beauty.

“Mrs. Ellen.” He smiled and held out a hand. She let it dangle.

“Mrs. Ellen.” The hand.

Mrs. Menteur took in the pleasant evening light, which her house received from the Mississippi River in front of it. The river below the levee. The hand.

Mrs. Menteur had a flashy vision of her husband; his womanizing which had destroyed her pride. Still, the hand.

She took it and gripped it.

This was the sort of man Miss Ellen had left New Orleans with herself.

Titus was wearing, she was certain, a suit made of vinyl, and the origin of this thing occupied their conversation on the porch. He said it was a gift, from a friend, and he had earned it by modeling in an alternative fashion show. Mrs. Ellen sticks to those things which can be explained and alternative fashion shows are not one of them for her.

She interrupted him to correct a mistake, “I am neither a widow nor a spinster, Mr. Titus. You may call me Mrs. Menteur. Come in and sit a moment, while I prepare myself. You may wish to stop your car.”

Perhaps her cocktail had conspired to trap her thus. She would not be rushed off her porch as though to the hospital. She added, “If my husband had a hand on you, he’d wring your neck.”

In her parlor Mrs. Ellen prepared a drink for Titus, speaking to the space between them. “I did not immediately recognize you, Titus. Would you like a splash of gin?”

Titus is thinking, Jesus Christ-o; “Mrs. Ellen, uhm, Mrs. Menteur, I don’t drink.” Titus is fogging his suit up. He is nervous.

Titus repeated his stutter. “Mrs. Ellen, Mrs. Menteur, I don’t drink. Alcohol.”

Tomato juice would be fine. Titus is boy-scouting for Mrs. Menteur. Mrs. Menteur did not mind his nervousness at all. She did not mind.

She wanted to know what her regal daughter has done. Mrs. Menteur says so to Titus, who is also beautiful and graceful. With an uncertain future. He is an angel beauty with long delicate fingers working at his thigh and wrapping around that cut crystal glass with a long history. The glass Titus holds commemorated Mr. Jackson’s defeat of the British who burned the port of New Orleans. Titus is an angel, and for that at least Mrs. Menteur forgives her daughter a weakness.

Dumbfounded, both Edie and girlfriend watched Titus’ mighty Pontiac Bonneville careen down the drive and erupt into a cloud of dust—the burst of his brake lights.

The barbecue, in a fit of vertigo, stumbled on its little plastic wheels, caught the supporting pipe and somersaulted like a rusty clam to spew burning coals into the yard. From somewhere, it looks like a pan of coals has been knocked from beneath the Buddha’s feet. It is the mythical lantern which burns the city. This made Harley laugh so hard the electric meters sped up.

Titus thinks he can see Harley behind the spume of smoke.

Edie sees over Titus shoulder that they have a fire going in the back yard. They bounded in the dark—a sixth sense scanned the ground in front of them like whiskers.

Edie went for “Harley!” and grabbed him by the arm to run for the porch, the sidewalk, the driveway. Harley spun. His face was white and flat in the firelight. It was an amazing fire that had gotten out of a simple barbecue. It was enough to burn down the neighborhood.

Girlfriend shrieked, “Get Harley in the car!”

Edie hefted the boy and rushed to the Bonneville with the load. Harley grabbed for the head rests, snagged buttons, reaching out for Edie to—not put him in the back seat—stay closer! Girlfriend tumbled in behind.

Edie rocketed. She flew. Her wheels bounced like hula hoops and made the Bonneville’s tired body cry out. She was, thrilled? It was so very warm in the car.

Who knew which city next? Edie brighted the rider ahead, a motorcyclist who lay flat on the tank, held his elbows low and held the throttle wide open. The Bonneville floated. Edie noted the hood's rise and felt the steering wheel become light in her hands. The car's chassis could not handle the engine's power. Edie intended to catch the motorcycle if it meant sacrificing her motor. The bike's chromed surfaces glinted in her headlights.

But then a hot spark jumped from the bike's leftward pipe and smoke poured into the car's beams. Edie pulled alongside the struggling rider and eased her car into its highest gear. She slowed to match the bike’s speed, and held pace alongside the motorcycle. On the bike, the rider fingered his tank valve frantically. He raced to be the first one out of Memphis.

1 Louisiana, BP, British Petroleum, TOTAL, Peabody Hotel and Arcade are registered trademarks.