He sat in his truck waiting for the sun to rise. The rest stop on 80 was quiet. Not many travelers at that time of the morning. Just a couple of cars with their windows up. Folks inside them sleeping for a couple of hours. Windows fogged up.
In the distance a crack of orange came in the Iowa sky. A little purple along with it. The old man sipped on his vending machine coffee and chewed on the lip of the paper cup. Along with seeing a peek at the sun, thunder was heard as well. Soon the colors in the sky will turn black, he thought. A storm’s coming.
Listening to the thunder, he thought of his wife back home. She’s awake by now, he whispered. Probably looking at the note I left behind, he continued watching as the sky turned a dark gray. What’d I even say? he laughed. Can’t remember what I said. Where am I? he got out a map.
She was pouring herself a cup of coffee when she saw the note on the kitchen table. Written on a yellow legal pad in pencil. There were a couple of eraser marks on the page. Smeared words that didn’t quite mean what he wanted to say. The wife of thirty years read the note silently. It said, Dear Helen, by now you can tell that I’m gone. I don’t know where I’m going, west I guess, and I’m not sure you even care. Maybe it’s a relief to you that I’ve left. I’m not going to file for divorce. You know about the insurance policy. You’re my emergency contact. You’ll be informed if something happens to me. Best of luck, Carl. She took another sip and placed the note in the bread box on the counter. Sat down. And said out loud, he’s lost his mind.
The old man lit a cigarette and rolled down his windows. More thunder. Lightening broke through clouds. He couldn’t make heads or tails of the Atlas. Wasn’t sure if he was in Iowa or Nebraska.Then he thought, I might be in Idaho. He knew he drove all night. But, he couldn’t remember when he left. He took a bottle of Wild Turkey out of his glove box and poured some into his chewed on cup. Then, little by little, drops fell on his windshield. He started to roll up his windows then decided to take in nature. The air was sweet. And the rain soothed him.
Helen sat there in disbelief. She never thought he’d do it; leave. The tall blonde lit a cigarette and poured another cup. She put Bailey’s in it, stirred, and licked the spoon. At first she was concerned. Then, she became angry. What have we become? she thought. Was he really that miserable? she asked herself. The two hadn’t talked for years other than saying hello and goodbye as they came and went.
He spent most of his time at work, or, at the bar watching Wheel Of Fortune. She stayed home and read romance novels, watching TV movies, eating dinner by herself. She used to keep a plate for him in the microwave. That was years ago. Now she just made enough for herself.
Damn him, she yelled. God damn him. She got up and walked down the hall to his closet. Took out his work pants, shirts, socks, every stitch he left behind and placed them in the fire pit out back. She’d wait till sundown to burn them. Kind of a ceremonial thing. Helen spent the whole day running through the house collecting all he had; high school diploma, bowling trophies, sweatshirts, coffee mug that said, Dad Of The Year, on it. Tossed everything except the life insurance policy. All of it was placed in the trashcan. She looked on the next morning as the garbage was taken away.
Carl flipped a coin. A quarter he found in the ashtray. Heads he’d go west. Tails, go east. He followed the rain clouds to the west. Windows down. Sucking in all that clean air. His arm was wet. Didn’t care. He liked the smell of rain.