It isn’t a bypass, it’s a death tunnel.
War historian Stephen Ambrose was from here. I had never seen him but so it goes. And when they constructed a short stretch of pavement around the city, they named it after him. Stephen Ambrose Memorial Highway. Which was fitting because the highway was our D Day. A cursed force of destruction that maimed and killed more than any single thing in our town’s history.
They tried to fix it, they added stop lights and guard rails but the damage was done. The highway had already taken too much. And it continues to take. A kraken where calm fields and swaying corn used to be. We never needed it but we we made it anyway. Our Grendel.
From time to time I will forget the madness and take the road anyway, around blind corners, down steep hills, I’ll take it. And besides wrecking a car in the winter of 2006 it has left me unharmed. The great arm keeps ticking.
I make it to a different highway and pass a cross at the fields edge. A friend of mine died there. She hadn’t seen the car coming from the left. That was five years passed now. I feel the dead are watching over me.It’s good to have friends.
I stop at Newman’s and drink a couple of beers. They are the sweet kind. I don’t much care for them. He tells me he’s buying into the world ending in 2012 and I try to argue but give up. I’m tired of the end of days talk. Maybe because, for me, It would defeat all purpose. If the world ends I’d die and I’d never be a famous dead guy because everyone else would be gone too.
So why would I write this now? Why would anyone do anything?
I head back towards 43, readying myself for a drive I had made hundreds of times (and if the world doesn't end) would make a thousand more.
I stop at The Vegas Club and have a drink. The busty dancer isn't there and I talk to the bartender for a while. I relay what Newman said about the end of the world and she laughs.
“You wouldn't believe how many guys have been coming in here, crying into their drinks about the end of the world.” She ties here hair back and leans over to me. “Do you really think it’s that bad?”
“I don’t know.” I say “Maybe this place is just depressing.”
“We all make our own decisions mister. Drinking and having titties shoved in your face shouldn't be depressing. Don’t you dare project on me.”
And we both laugh till we’re about to bust and drink whisky shots.
“You know what the funny thing is?” I said. “This morning, between little dream fits, a man came and told me everything I needed to know. But when I woke, I had forgotten.”