Previous Challenge Entry (Level 4 – Masters)
Topic: ROAD TRIP (vacation) (07/02/15)
- TITLE: Foreign to Me
By Tracy Nunes
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I’d found it in my Aunt Corny’s cardboard keepsake box after she died. At least, that’s who she said she was - my aunt. I’d always known there was more to that story. The mystery of who I am and where I came from barked at my heels like a border collie on a cattle drive. It nipped and yapped incessantly behind me, herding me to an unknown future in front of me.
After a long flight from Hawaii to California, I set my mental GPS to a foreign-to-me place called Kentucky. So far removed from the existence I’d known growing up, it might as well have been Istanbul. I’d spent a lifetime on a rock in the middle of the ocean and there was a lot to see between the Pacific and the Ozark Mountains. I just hoped that it wasn’t an elusive mirage. Seductively drawing me in but turning out to be just waves of shimmering heat.
From San Francisco I charted my course to Yosemite Valley; the place of legendary trees and sheer granite rocks that reached to the sky. My island mind couldn’t wrap itself around the soft hush of a trickling stream or the flowered carpets of Tuolumne Meadows. The collie backed off a bit.
On to Death Valley and a different kind of heat than I’d ever known. The valley was stark, seemingly empty, but magical when the sun set hit the red rock mountains.
I stopped briefly at Hoover Dam and marveled at the audacity of mankind to harness nature like a farm animal, then I passed right on through Vegas. Islanders were obsessed with the place. I was looking for the real me in the midst of real things. More pretending wasn’t on the agenda.
Then, I stood at the edge of the Grand Canyon tempted to abandon my quest and get to the bottom of those cliffs instead of the bottom of my life. Reluctantly, I drove away and spent the night in Williams, Arizona dreaming of stage coaches and Native Americans.
On Route 66 I hummed the song that I sang so many times with my aunt. I was sure I could just follow the map in my head. Driving it was like watching a movie made from a favorite book. Surreal and familiar, yet not exactly like you pictured it. I collected a rock at the Petrified Forest and wondered if my real life would scarcely look recognizable to me like the rock that used to be a tree.
I stayed on the old road all the way through until I reached Missouri pausing occasionally along the way to see things like the World’s Biggest Ball of Twine and the Car Graveyard. My goal before I left the Route was to get a view of the world from the top of the Arch in St. Louis. The world looked a lot flatter from there than I imagined.
Finally, I arrived in the town of Elkton, Kentucky with a sense of dread and anticipation. My map told me exactly where the address was but I meandered around the small town, up one street and down the other, looking for signs of me. Nothing waved the ME flag but then the thought occurred – I wouldn’t know me if I walked right up and tried to shake my own hand. Surely, someone here had the answer to this riddle.
When there were no roads left to detour myself on, I turned down the one scratched on the aged paper and looked for the house in the picture. It didn’t take long. The house rose up on a hill like a sentinel looking over its dominion.
My legs tingled, wanting to burst forward in a sprint. Instead, I walked slowly through the gate, never taking my eyes from an old, old woman sitting on a porch swing that seemed even older than she. Her brows were furrowed and time etched a story across her familiar face. She stared hard at me and I almost turned around and left. Maybe this was a mistake.
Just then she spoke, her voice gravelly and worn,
“The Lord promised me you would come. What took you so long child?”
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