ARDOR Literary Magazine

ARDOR Literary Magazine - Issue One, Jan. 2013

Issue One, Published January 2013

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Page 21 of 73

MESA *Featured Prose* Fiction by ANDREW DUTTON Jenny and I were driving out from the East and having a time of it. We'd taken the coastal route down from New England, crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, and camped the first night on Assateague Island, where wild ponies stood ankle-deep in the surf. The second night we stayed in a parking lot somewhere near the Outer Banks. We were in an eighties-model Volvo, which had large windshields front and back and brown fabric interior. This was late in the month of August some years ago. On the third day, we headed west in the Carolinas and were coming over the Blue Ridge Mountains into Tennessee. It was a glorious scene to take in. We'd gotten an early start, hit the mountains just after dawn; the air was cool and ours was the only car on the road. The fog came off Route 40, folding in sheets against the mountains, which actually were -- and this is what really got me -- blue. Like a Crayola. Jenny slept in the passenger seat. I shook her knee because this beat the twelve-mile bridge and even the wild ponies. I'd never seen anything like it and didn't think Jenny had either. I'd known her three years then. "What state are we in?" she said. "Bliss, baby," I said, pointing up. She stretched her fingers out, curled up against the window and closed her eyes. I'd never been out of New England before that week. It was a strange world where mountains could be blue. Things started going sour as soon as we got over the mountains and into the parking lot of a Waffle House in Tennessee. Steam billowed from under the hood. We didn't have much between us besides the shared dream of resetting our lives in a new place. We had the car, which was actually Jenny's, and four hundred dollars we'd saved to start our new life in Arizona. I'd known a friend who'd moved to Mesa and figured he'd still be there and able to help me find work in construction, though I didn't know at the time, and still don't, if he was there then or ever had been. This guy was a talker. But Jenny had heard the sunsets in Arizona were the tops and we were in need of something we couldn't define. It didn't seem at all like we were running, though it strikes me now we probably were running even if we didn't know then from what. I got out to inspect, lifting the hood to let the engine breathe. Some trapped steam came out in a hiss, and I had to move away from the heat. Jenny stayed there in the passenger seat, unfolding the atlas on her lap and tracing our route with her index finger. She had her feet out the window, resting on the side mirror. They were bare. The bottoms were brown and leathery, almost animal, and the red nail polish was chipped. "What's it look like?" she said. A few old-timers watched us from the windows of the Waffle House, guys in trucker hats just staring. Jenny got out and came over to where I was standing, the steam coming up around us, and that's when I heard the fluid dripping onto the asphalt and knew what it was. We'd killed the radiator hose coming over those peaks, burned a quarter-sized hole through the

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