Tracks


Route 66 between Santa Rosa and Tucumcari, 1949. Image courtesy of NMSU library.  “Praise be,” he said and raised his hands to the muddy skies. “Praise be and damn the sinners.” He tucked a small silver flask into his left sock, hitched his trousers a good one and hit the rails, walking ‘til sundown on the overgrown tracks. The whisky got warm early and he got dry as soon as it was gone.

Sandra McCarney counted every crack in every sidewalk all eight blocks home from school. As she jumped on each one, she sang out “step on a crack, break your mother’s back.” When she got home she found a note on the fridge – “Make yourself a snack, honey, I’ll be home around 8. — Grandma”.

Sandra found the kitchen stool, let herself up to the cabinet over the fridge, poured herself a smidge of Jim Beam and replaced what she poured with a little ice tea from the yellow plastic pitcher. Sat in the living room, watching TV.

When the cat jumped on the windowsill on the front porch, looking in, she felt spied upon. She didn’t like cats, nasty dirty things, sucking the breath of infant babies, keeping secrets, chasing around with demons after dark. She poured herself two fingers of rye, tossed it back neat, then threw open the window with a loud whoosh and a wild flapping of her arms to chase the cat away. Started another postcard to her mom.

At the Golden Cups karaoke bar next to Heightslandia Senior Center, Ann McCarney warmed up with a little Sinatra, but it was her “Hello Dolly” that won her the prize, “Hello Dolly” and the brightly sequined blouse that inflated every inhale so loud and proud. When they all finished up with “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” the mirror ball struck hard off the sequined surface of her breasts, glimmering and dancing like an underwater off-off-Broadway extravaganza. (Damn, my feet hurt. Damn, honey, you look good.) 

She’s walking the shortcut across the tracks to her car at the lot across the street, staggering a little, with one shoe in her hand. She and Terry are giggling and howling, making fun of the bar manager, who looks like a penguin or Maxwell Smart, and they’ve gone off on a list of would-ya believes when Annie breaks the heel off the one shoe she’s wearing. She flops down on the tracks to examine the damage, and Terry goes off to pee in the bushes.

Annie went after Terry into the bushes, tripping on her way. She fell on one knee, sank her palm into the dirt. Found an unexpected solace in the cool dirt rubbing against the palm of her hand.

Sandra woke up on the couch at 2 a.m., washed the jelly glass she’d been drinking from, had a cigarette on the back porch, then went to bed with plenty of time before grandma gets home.

TV off-air symbol

Somewhere along the line he hitched a ride and next thing you know he’s in Santa Rosa. It’s not real clear to him what state Santa Rosa’s in, Arizona he figures, by the look of it. Truck driver ditches him at the truck stop on the west side of town. He starts walking. Singing hymns. Swallowing mouthfuls of redemption smelled a lot like Johnny Walker Red. His feet swollen, his mind clear on the concept of sin and god, the road twisting out in front of him, lascivious as a snake, black and shiny with night. So he walked on, Christian soldier, into the new day.

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