All Roads Are One
Moving on a winter Monday was best. It was the first real day of the rest of the week; we were supposed to be somewhere else—Dad at work, Mom at Bible Study, the kids at school. Instead we were playing the grandest hooky of all.
We would line up at the car in air so cold it snapped our noses shut, our winter coats shizzing against one another and our mittens flapping, then pile in while hot air billowed out—Hurry, hurry don't waste the heat.
The taste of motor oil and exhaust coated our tongues and lingered in the backs of our throats until the first gas station, miles after everyone wanted to stop. We danced in place at outside restrooms, cold fingers fumbling the key. Back in the car, we accelerated onto the road with an Orange Nesbitt in the bottle, shared between two.
Later the air would be heavy with the warm fust of too many bodies in too small a space, wet diapers and car sickness, and nothing, nothing, nothing to do, but the first day was always a new mint, a shining promise, a dollar at the dime store. An adventure.
Every trip began with snakes, not butterflies. They coiled their way from the base of my belly the long way to my throat and back again, never ceasing.
The road is a snake.
We made the first move I remember in a truck. A big truck. I was two, almost three.
Dad told a joke: "Poor Okies have only one mattress on top of their car; rich Okies have two mattresses on top of their car, but we, we have a 1949 Studebaker truck."
They laughed. I didn't get it.
Our truck had a tarp over the opening. It was a huge arching cavern, and I imagined that I lived with bears. We rode in the back, bundled in sweaters, coats, and three pairs of pants. It was hard to go to the bathroom. We took the ferry from Oregon to Alaska, and I saw whales and seals. I was supposed to sleep with the bears in the back of the truck, but Mom snapped and fussed—at blankets, and children, and clothes—until Dad took her away to stand at the rail and watch the northern lights dance golden green in the sky, and I was alone, the only one awake in the back of a 1949 Studebaker truck.
The road is my mother.
I ran away once. We were moving the next day. Every familiar thing was gone, all our treasures packed away. We ate macaroni and olives and Spam by candlelight, hunched around boxes of possessions made strange, a shrine to the road.
In the Alaskan twilight of early afternoon, I went away down the road, the one I was told never to walk on alone; that way they wouldn't ever find me, and I wouldn't have to go.
We weren't afraid of moose or bear, though they were around. I wasn't supposed to go down that road because of the dogs. Dogs get savage when winter comes on. A little boy had been torn to pieces by his own dogs that year. No one blamed the dogs. That was just the way it was. His mother should have watched him better.
I went down the road near our house with the most dogs. I walked in the ditch until I saw my aunt and uncle's car, and all at once I was scared, and I wanted to go home. I wobbled up onto the road and into their headlights, crying so hard I couldn't see where I was going. I didn't tell them where I'd been going or why I was there.
When they brought me back my father took me, alone, to a living room shrouded in sheets and crowded with boxes and barrels. He took his belt to me because I wouldn't tell him why I was walking down by the dogs. I was five and I didn't tell.
The road is my mother, the Uhlensuti, the great serpent who swallows her tail.
We moved, in second grade, third, fourth grade, fifth grade and sixth. When I was twelve I re-met my best fourth grade friend. We were in seventh grade, and I caught her arm in the hallway between classes. "Cyndi!"
She looked at me a moment, and her lip curled; her eyes narrowed. She pulled free of my restraining hand and slipped away through the crowd.
Didn't she recognize me? Or, maybe she did. I never saw her again, and we left soon after.
Another trip but always the same road.
Someone told the joke about rich Okies, but with a motor home this time. I laughed for three days. I laughed while I ate; I laughed in the bathroom; I laughed in my sleep. My sister laughed too. That was the closest I had ever been to her or will ever be again. My mother slapped us across the face to get us to stop.
I discovered I needed glasses at fourteen, squinting to read the road signs I had read since I was five.
I was navigator at fifteen, and we ended up in desert Wyoming, bluffs and dust and always the road, eeling toward the horizon.
We moved again when I was sixteen.
I moved alone at eighteen.
I took the bus at nineteen.
I hitchhiked at twenty.
I lived in my car, pregnant, at twenty-one.
I followed the road, my mother, the great serpent who swallows her tail, who binds us all 'til the end of the world.
In Alaska there are ice worms that squirm across the road, severed by the unceasing roll of tires, re-formed after the car goes past.
In Oregon the fog slips around the car and pries with milky fingers at the windows.
In Montana tumbleweeds race the dust, one hundred feet in the air and seventy miles an hour.
In Arizona roadrunners streak past cactus standing sentinel to the road.
The road mesmerizes. Milk and honey flow somewhere, and the road will take us there.
The road is fed by the blood and guts of a thousand thousand wanderers' dreams, the excrement of a thousand thousand cars. And while I wander always away and toward home, a thousand people wander through my brain. The refuse of a thousand relationships—friends, enemies and every chance met stranger—work past my skin and muscle, burrowing through the bone.
Deena Fisher was born in Salem, Oregon, the daughter of pastors and the third of their six children. She's lived in 9 states and about 40 towns over the course of her life—from North Pole, Alaska to Orlando, Florida—and now lives in Ohio. She's earned degrees in English and education and has studied the literature of the world, but prefers the myths and legends that we tell ourselves to explain the unexplainable.
Deena's held a lot of jobs—from party clown to English teacher—but her current day job is providing website design and support services for small businesses and creative individuals. She is also the publisher of Drollerie Press, which is more a passion than a profession. Her other loves include graphic design, art, and her family. She is married to a long-suffering librarian who feeds her love of books, pays her overdue fines, and supports her creativity. Her children include a rock star, a fairy-goth diva, and a trickster.
copyright © 2008, Deena Fisher
—Shadows in My Mind
—All Roads Are One
—Three Views of the Maiden in Peril
—She Has a Nice Personality
—Running the Road
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ADRIENNE J. ODASSO
—Four Last Things
ADRIENNE J. ODASSO
KRISTINE ONG MUSLIM
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—Archetypical Metafiction: Scrutinizing Fallen Archetypes
TOIYA KRISTEN FINLEY