T for Tennessee

by Shannon Ready

We are on the road, we have all the windows down, we are hot, hot, hot. We catch trucker’s eyes and pull on imaginary chains begging them—no demanding that they blast their horns. Then we all fall over dying laughing. We cannot stop laughing. There is no way to stop.

We eat lunch at Nickerson Farms and watch millions and millions of bees making honey inside a fake plastic hive. We get back in the car and hit the road. We got people to see and places to be, after all.

We are four kids jammed into the back seat of a 1969 purple Chevy Impala: Three girls and one boy. Baby J is in the front seat with the two mothers who keep smoking and joking and probably toking. T-May gets on the CB radio: Breaker Breaker 1-9 this is Lead Foot, how’s it lookin’ over yer shoulder?

The mothers tell us to be quiet; they tell us to sit still; they tell us to stop laughing; they tell us to stop shrieking; they tell us to stop fighting, we are almost there.

We get bored. We get tired. We get cranky. We make signs and hold them up in the back window: “Help! We have been kidnapped!” “Call the police!” “Save us!” The mothers have no idea.

We stop at gas stations; we stop at diners; we stop at plazas. The mothers buy more cigarettes; the mothers try on sandals; the mothers try on Earth shoes. My mother tries on a pair of Frye boots and says, I must have these. T-May rolls her eyes and says, Damn Sam, it’s 110 in the shade and you want boots? We all squint; we all laugh; we all pile back into the car and go, go, go.

We draw pictures, we sing songs, we yell “Punch buggy blue! Punch buggy red! Punch buggy green!” and hit each others arms over and over and harder and harder.

Breaker, breaker 1-9, this is Lead foot, I’ll keep the front door open if you keep the back door closed.

The mothers push buttons for the lighter; the mothers push buttons for the radio; the mothers throw cigarette butts out the window that get sucked right into the back seat, still burning. We all scream; we all jump; we all laugh.

The radio news says most fatal car crashes happen within twenty miles of the home. We are on vacation; we are on our way to Tennessee; we are 253 miles from home. Seat belts? We don’t need no stinking seat belts.

Shannon Ready’s work has appeared in Monkeybicycle, Easy Street, and the Gordon Square Review. She currently lives near the shallowest of the Greats in Cleveland, Ohio.

Artwork by: Emma Tin