Homeward Bound

The woman drives on back roads through the night. The only light comes from the headlights of the car. It’s a good car but old. Long flat lines, a solid frame, and power steering. Not a classic by any standard but it suits her needs. At the crossroads, she stops to check her map and notes. The paper map has been unfolded and refolded so many times it doesn’t remember how to lay flat. She unfolds a section and then another and a third before finding the crossroads. So far from where she thought she was and farther still from where she wants to be.

The classic rock from the radio ends and local news begins. The radio like the car is from an earlier era. No digital tuning or LCD displays, not even a cassette deck. Just two knobs and a row of mechanical preset buttons. She hears a name, Mr. Prescott. She knew a Mr. Prescott when she was younger. Could it be the same Mr. Prescott? A city name is mentioned. She makes a note and checks her map. It’s not far. The leads she gets are never far.

She just wants to go home but it alludes her. After high school, she left the small town she grew up in and hasn’t been back. Now she can’t seem to find her way there. The roads seem to twist and turn away from where she wants to go. Every turn she makes is the wrong one.

She turns left at the crossroads and the radio signal grows weak. She presses the preset buttons until a new station comes through clearly. Country music fills several hours of driving until another local news broadcast breaks in. Another name: Mrs. Garcia. Did she know a Mrs. Garcia? Was she the old lady on the corner? She mowed her lawn in the summers for ten dollars. The news ended with a bumper ad for the station. She makes a note of the town’s name.

The sky lightens and the back road blends into a two lane highway. She slows as she enters a town and cuts off the radio. The gas stations, the fast food restaurants, the local diner, the motel, and the signs to historic downtown. It all looks familiar but not quite right. A lot could have changed in the years since she had left, so she will take the day to drive downtown and around a few blocks. This isn’t home, she feels, but she has to check.

In the evening, she will drive out of town and turn onto a back road. She will turn on the radio and listen for something to lead her home.

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