The first road sign west of Assumption on Route 101 says Do Not Pick Up Hitchhikers. It’s sound advice.
I turn up the stereo, step on the gas. The Chevelle growls her way down the lonely highway.
Ten minutes later I’m on the side of the road, hood up, steam hissing from the radiator. I look around, squinting into the scorching sun. No house or car in sight, just a billboard advertising a family-owned apple orchard a mile or so south of here.
I decide to walk back to Assumption in search of water for the radiator. Vehicles speed past me. My t-shirt is soaked through. Another sign tells me Hitchhikers May Be Escaping Inmates. They should have said that in the first place.
Nobody will stop to help.
It takes three hours to get to town, where the curtains are drawn so tightly that the place seems deserted. I can’t find any water, so I snag a beat-up plastic bucket from a dumpster behind an abandoned gas station and head back to the car.
Along the way, off in the distance, sirens wail. I see the water tower at the prison and try not to think too much about anything.
Across the road from the Chevelle there are woods and a ravine, and at the bottom of the ravine is a stream. I go down and take a long drink, splash my face, and fill the bucket with water. I look up toward the road. The sun rips through the tree branches. I stand there for a moment wondering what to do if the car doesn’t start. I think about that apple orchard, the one on the billboard, and how I could go south and just keep walking, maybe get a day’s head start on the dogs. Mother on the billboard looked like a Granny Smith, crunchy and tart, but the daughter, oh, the daughter, I’m sure she’ll be more like a Golden Delicious, crisp and sweet, whose flesh stays white after slicing.
First appeared in Flash Fiction Magazine