Meredith never knows what the road will deliver—troubadours of the prairie, murderers on the loose, soldiers of lost fortune. They’re all welcome at the Dixie Truck Stop, Joplin, Mo. Back in the kitchen she tells Trish she might hitch a ride if any one of these losers showed the courtesy of asking please between his ham and eggs—but they both know that’s not true.
Three AM, her ex stops in, shirt tail out, tie in an avalanche down his belly. He eats cherry pie, sobers up on coffee, and whines about giving things another try. Days, he sells lumber at Menard’s. Nights, he dives for divorcees at the Holiday Inn. Meredith puts one hand on her hip and pours him a cup of coffee with the other. She rolls her eyes and turns away. Honey, I’ve already tried that particular blue plate special.
In the bathroom, first light grinning through the window, cigarette smoke curling overhead, she wonders how this part of her life will end—the marriage, the daughter, the divorce.
Year before last, a twister ripped through, tearing the roof off her house and splintering the rooms into a thousand heartless shards. There was one moment, the split second after the twister hit. Clutching Carrie, she looked up from the basement and saw, floating above her, suspended in mid-air, a flat screen TV, a window air conditioner, and a baby, clutching a blanket, wearing a yellow onesie, and sucking on a pacifier. Then a blink, and everything was gone, maybe two counties away.
She knows it must count for something—that she and Carrie survived, that she saw this child. She must be the only person alive or dead to have witnessed such a sight. Her preacher, the sweet young man at the Church of Christ with the plump wife and squirmy kids, agrees. She’s been Chosen.
Now, she squats on the toilet, panties at her ankles, trying to understand. The newspaper has reported her story. At the preacher’s request she’s testified before the congregation. She’s recognized at the mall, and regular customers ask advice. She’d offer it, if she just knew what to say.
When Trish calls from the door, Merry, your biscuits and gravy are up, she drops the cigarette butt between her legs and listens for the sizzle.
Gary V. Powell’s stories have appeared in many online and print literary journals including the Briar Cliff Review, The Thomas Wolfe Review, and Fiction Southeast. In addition, several of his stories have placed or been selected as finalists in national contests. Most recently, his story “Home Free” won an Honorable Mention in the 2011 Newport Review Flash Fiction Contest, and his story “Super Nova” received an Honorable Mention in the Press 53 2012 Awards.
His first novel, “Lucky Bastard,” is currently available through Main Street Rag Press at http://www.mainstreetrag.com/GPowell.html