Drafting–The South Bend Exit 72 break

“Code A,” Millie announced as Molly rushed away for the restroom. This was Millie’s oft-repeated plea for Molly to be observant, to always be aware of what was happening around her.

Without thinking, Millie opened the Sentra’s gas tank door and removed a debit card from her pant’s pocket. “Whoa.” She said aloud causing the man at the other side of the pump to look her way.

Earlier, before leaving home, Millie had removed the card from her wallet and stuck it inside her front right pocket. She’d meant to cut it up with scissors before leaving the house but had forgotten. “You dumb ass. That’s all we need, a trail of breadcrumbs scattered from Chicago to New York City, all showing on Colton’s next bank statement.”

The actual plan was to use cash to pay for expenditures along the eight-hundred mile journey. Shortly after arriving in New York City, Millie would find a conveniently located bank and open a new account. A quick call or text to Matt would initiate the transfer of money he was holding for her that she’d withdrawn from her 401K account. Another reason to be thankful. For the eight years she’d worked for Quinn Law she’d had the payroll clerk deduct $30 per week. That, along with the firm’s one-hundred percent matching, had grown to $32,468.28, including interest and market growth. Not much to start a new life in New York City especially after paying taxes and penalties, but she smiled as she thought about the good job Matt had gotten her.

Millie walked inside and scoured the store for the automotive section. After paying cash for two quarts of oil, two quarts of transmission fluid, and ten gallons of gas, she returned to the Sentra. She inserted the hose and raised the hood, breathing out and struggling to forget the mistake she’d made in refusing to accept Matt’s Tahoe offer.

Inside, Molly washed her hands and returned to the store. A rack of cards caught her attention. She was staring at the front cover of a Hallmark depicting pencil drawn dogs of every shape, size, and color centered around a five word congratulatory declaration: “Yah! Your new best friend!” Molly imagined receiving the card from Alisha three days after the late night phone call announcing the adoption of a black Lab or Golden Retriever.

“Stay put while I go to the bathroom.” Millie told Molly in passing.

Inside, she washed her hands, and swallowed a 500 mg Depakote pill. It was half of what Dr. Maharaja had prescribed but the full load always caused extreme drowsiness. Millie would take the other half tonight in Youngstown where Molly had begged to spend the night. The curious twelve-year-old hated riding and wanted to break up the long drive and hopefully take a long walk.

Millie locked herself in a private stall and peed. She closed her eyes and realized this was the third day she’d been so euphoric, so energized. No doubt, the reason why she’d slept so little last night.

As soon as she stood and snapped her pants, the image reappeared. It had been the same one for a week. Millie was in the clouds walking toward New York City along a square-tiled pathway, each one three feet apart. And, it was the same song—“Everyone Hurts,” by R.E.M.— playing as she carefully stepped from one tile to the next.

The slamming of the stall door next to her’s snapped Millie back to reality. “Hang on, hang on,” she kept telling herself, ignoring the lavatory, and exiting the restrooms. Molly was still at the card stand but now talking with a white-haired, bearded man leaning on a cane. So much for Code A.

The next few minutes didn’t register with Millie. Somehow, her and Molly had returned to the Sentra and ridden away, and were now passing Exit 77. Molly was stretched out in the back seat reading The Wind in the Willows.


Here’s “Everybody Hurts” if you want to listen.

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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