Going to the Country

The phenomena known as spontaneous teleportation occurs only in the dark of the night. Winding country roads will give drivers and riders alike the best odds of a sighting. Dosing drivers will surely experience the phenomenon on nights dark as this one.

It happens randomly. The car moves swiftly up the road, sometimes going as fast as 100 miles per hour. Some have gone quicker, but not many of those eyewitnesses get the chance to explain the tale of their sighting first hand.

The headlights from these speeding vehicles will crawl against the scenery, and then, from no where, something appears. Signs, guard rails and cars set off on the shoulder are the usual suspects. Sometimes it’s a deer, sprinting from the brush to the middle of the road. Stop.

Orson and Clint had been up all night, driving to Orson’s family cabin in Arizona by way of the Interstate 40. The route took about 42 minutes longer than the route through Los Angeles, according to Apple Maps. But they wanted to evade the City of Flowers and Sunshine entirely.

The two split from San Francisco after listening in on a lecture by a community organizer who was a representative of the Democratic Party. She explained efforts against voter suppression in the south being made by the local democrats. Apparently, the efforts weren’t going so well. A couple of court cases in the works could give the democrats a leg up, but she was unsure how the courts would judge.

When the lecture finished, Orson received a call about his brother. The boy was locked up in Dad’s cabin, Orson’s mother said over the phone. She sounded hysterical, but she was known to be that way from time to time. After originally planning to spend the weekend camping after the lecture, Orson and Clint decided to head on out together. Orson was happy to report his father’s cabin was deep in the woods. And Clint had nothing better going on in the city. A slight diversion was just as fine.

They rounded another curb with Orson behind the wheel. A beast teleports to the edge where the forest meets the road right when Orson’s headlights scan the edge of the road.

“Shit, did you see that?” Orson asked as he pulled the wheel slightly into the oncoming side of the road.

“It was a cow, or something. Spooky.” Clint said.

“I don’t know how anyone drives over 25 on these roads, man,” Orson said.

“They ain’t city slickers for starters.”

“Probably helps.”

“I can imagine some of them have been driving since they could walk. ‘Sure Billy, take the quad, or the polaris.’”

“‘Take the gun in case you see some deer.’” Orson said, snickering at his own remark. “Do you know how much further we’ve got? It’s got to be coming up. I feel like we drove past Payson an hour ago.”

“It hasn’t even been half an hour, yet.”

Clint looked down at his phone. The glow illuminated the car interior. Orson felt a little more at peace. Phones meant everything in these backwoods. He felt bad for feeling that way. Orson felt sad at the truth, but he turned much too accustomed to city life. There were things to do in the city. Out here, Orson could imagine himself drinking or reading for the most part. Maybe he’d hike a bit. The reading would be great, but the rest didn’t appeal to him.

“I think this is the turn,” Clint said.

“What turn?”

“The turn my phone is telling you to make.”

“You have service?”

Orson slammed the breaks, they nearly flew around the edge, but Orson slowed the car quick enough to the point where they skirted across the asphalt until the car straightened out onto the dirt road.

“This must be it,” Clint said. “Any of it look familiar?”

“Too dark to tell,” Orson said. “I don’t think it’s too far from the road, so we’ll know in a minute.”

The last landmark they needed revealed itself from the dark. Pine Cabins, read the large sign that teleported before them. The sign had the same powers as everything else in the wooded night.

“There it is,” Orson finally said. “Can you call my brother?”

“Here, it’s trying to dial.”

“I thought you had service a moment ago?”

“Guess not.”

They stopped in front of the gate entrance into the community. Neither of them could see lights from the cabins. Orson waited and felt relief when the phone started to ring on the other end. He didn’t know if his brother would answer. Orson started to think of the variety of scenarios that could occur if his brother didn’t answer. His brother answered.

“Hello?”

“Charles?” Orson asked. “You at the cabin?”

“Uh-huh.”

“Want to let me in? I’m in the car at the gate.”

“Ok.”

The phone hung up. Orson set his phone down on the dashboard in front of the wheel and looked at Clint. Orson could see nothing through Clint’s window. Clint looked ahead at the headlights, casting their menacing presence on the gate to the cabin.

“He sounded drunk,” Orson said. “I hope he’s ok.”

“You know your mother more than I. I’ve only read about her once in the New York Times.”

“She still complains about that.”

“Yeah? Two measly paragraphs in a page nine story on the Wednesday Times gets your mother in hysterics? I’d hate to see what actually should get her in hysterics.”

“I’ve seen it,” Orson said. He pulled a cigarette out from his shirt pocket. Long waits always made Orson want a smoke. He drove an old car with a cigarette lighter, and he used it every chance he got.

“She sounds like a piece of work. I wouldn’t want to see that.”

“It’s rough.”

It took nine minutes for Orson’s brother to get to the gate. Orson managed to smoke his cigarette in the meantime. Charles waved at them as he walked through the pedestrian gate with a flashlight in his lefthand. Orson noticed Charles was wearing one of their grandpa’s flannels. The sleeves were rolled up slightly, revealing a watch on his right wrist. Charles had a pair of keys in his right hand, and he put them into a slot below a keypad. The gate opened. Charles opened the door to the backseat.

“Gentlemen,” he said.

“You’re drunk, Charles.” Orson said.

“A little. What’s up?”

“Nothing. Just making sure,” Orson said.

They drove up to the cabin without saying another word. Orson and Clint brought their things into the cabin. It was decorated like a real hunting lodge. Firearms, animal heads and cowboy paintings lined the walls. In the living room there was a flannel couch and a coffee table. There was a whicker chair beside the couch on one side and the other side was a comfy lime green armchair.

On the end tables there was a lamp in the shape of a cowboy boot. A floor lamp placed next to the wicker chair hung over it. Charles had all of the lights on, and an opened Zane Grey novel sat amongst a pile of books on the coffee table.

“Reading Grandpa’s stuff, eh?” Orson said.

“Yeah, I remember him reading them to us when we were kids.”

“That was a sweet time, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, it was.”

Charles took a seat in the center of the couch where he had been sitting before they called. In front of him there was a glass of Del Bac Whiskey. Orson saw the bottle on the kitchen counter. It had just been opened.

“Settling in for the night?” Orson asked.

“Yeah. Say, why are you here?”

“Mom called.”

Charles’ face turned into a frown. He knew mother was behind this unexpected visit. He was rather annoyed too at the falsified concern from her. Someone had to be snooping around, and of course Orson would listen.

“Is she checking on me? She’s always checking in on me. She just won’t let me be still. I’ve had it,” Charles said. “And you? Of all the people who needs checking up on, it’s me by you.”

“I’m only getting involved because of next week. I know mom wants things to be normal during it.”

“Can’t you just admit something for me?” Charles asked. He grabbed his drink, took a brief sip, then set it back before picking up the opened book. “Say you want things to be normal.”

“I don’t care.”

“You have to care. You care about these lectures, these individuals who are helping the common man. So, you have to care about this. You can’t have one without the other.”

“Ok, yes, I care.”

“Glad to hear that,” Charles said. “I’m Charles, by the way.” He was now turned towards Clint, who was standing beside Orson with his hands in his pockets. Clint didn’t feel comfortable standing there in the cabin, and had already started to regret the journey.

“Oh, hi. Yes, I’m Clint. It’s very nice to meet you. I’ve heard a bit about you.”

“Nice, nice. Did you go to school with Orson?”

“No, we met through work.”

“Great. Well, make yourselves at home.”

“I know,” Orson said. “Feels weird being here. Been a while. For everyone.”

“I think someone was here last about three years ago. That’s the most recent expiration date I could find in the fridge.”

“Huh. Well, we brought some beer and such,” Orson said. “Is Al coming tonight?”

“He just left an hour ago. He has work tomorrow,” Charles said.

“And you’re just going to stay locked up in this cabin?”

“You don’t know how badly I’ve needed this vacation,” Charles said, now fully focused on his book.

Orson rolled his eyes at Charles’ remarks. He turned around and took off his shoes. Orson told Clint to do the same, and they both placed their sneakers outside the cabin door.

“How long has your family had this place?” Clint asked.

“A good while,” Orson said. “My grandpa has redone the place at least a half a dozen times. We’ve spent a lot of time here.”

“I can tell,” Clint said.

He was standing over by the bookshelf near the fireplace. Clint’s eyes examined each text mouthing the names of each volume silently with his lips. Keepsakes and picture frames were interspersed amongst the books on the shelf. One picture caught Clint’s eye in an instant.

“Is this — Nixon?”

“Yeah, Grandpa and Nixon were pretty close,” Orson said. “He was an aide for the first year too.”

“Wild. When you said your family had old ties, I thought you were meaning one of the Bushes, or Dole, or something. Not Nixon.”

“You should see my mom’s house. There’s a whole wall dedicated to the presidents. Obviously, there isn’t a single democrat pictured, my family kind of helped start the whole hyper-partisanship of the modern area, but it’s kinda neat.”

“I bet,” Clint said. His interest in the cabin had already left. He was looking down at his phone with a determined look instead. “I’m going to try to call Katie. Let her know we made it safe.”

“All right.”

Clint walked out the front door. While he did so, Orson sat back into the comfy armchair. His back felt a little better as the cushions of the couch took Orson in. Orson looked over at his brother, who was still reading the book. This felt completely normal to Orson. But he didn’t want to sit and enjoy the silence. Orson let out a big sigh, hoping it’d inform Charles that it was time to talk.

“Who’s Katie?” Charles asked.

“She’s his fiancé,” Orson said.

“Everybody is getting married these days. Those lucky fools.”

“You sound like you want to get married.”

“I do,” Charles said. He threw his book down on the table in front of him. A wide smile grew across Charles’ face. He took another sip of his whiskey. As a result, his face turned a little more red in the light. “It just sounds like you’ve got everything covered after marriage. Your finances are tied with someone else. You don’t have to worry about making dinner on your own. It’s domesticated bliss, really.”

“What a romantic view.” Orson half-rolled his eyes again, but stopped. It was a bad habit. He didn’t want to become as pompous as some members of his family. There were too many people going around like that these days. Orson was too conscious to add to that number. “I suppose Al popped the question?”

“No, he didn’t. But we’ve talked about it at length.”

“You’re in school still. Not even a junior. Why the hell do you want to get married? It’s not like you’re saving anything for marriage.”

“You sound like Al.”

“Huh, that contextualizes the situation a little too much for me. My bad.” Orson said. “I mean, how long have you two been going around? It can’t have possibly been long enough for you to decide that you want to marry him.

Clint scoffed at the remark. He stood up, grabbed his glass of whiskey and finished it on the spot. Charles then walked back over to the kitchen. When he started to pour, Orson asked for a glass as well.

“If it’s not too much trouble,” Orson added.

“No, not at all,” Charles said when he handed the glass to his brother. “And you’re sounding like mother. Are you trying to tell me that you’re a homophobe?”

“No,” Orson said, half surprised, half laughing at the thought. “I”m just trying to get used to things, is all. Before my stint at St. Peter’s ICU things were a lot different. A lot different. I’m getting used to everything, is all.”

Orson took a sip of the whiskey. It went down fine enough, still leaving a slight burning sensation along his throat. Orson never was a big fan of whiskey. The drink was never smooth enough for him.

“I know everyone is adjusted. Well — not everyone. Mother is in a sea of denial,” Charles said.

“Only when she wants to be. She wasn’t when she called me. Hence my being here, actually.”

“Yes, why is it that you’re here?”

“Well, you know it’s because of mom — “

“And next week is in the front of your mind,” Charles added.

“Yes, next week. I can’t even think about that right now. I don’t even know if I can.”

Orson’s eyes were fixated on the deer head that was hung in the room. The brief memory of his grandpa and dad bringing the deer in while its body was still with the head played over Orson’s mind. He shivered, even though the room’s temperature was perfectly fine.

“But I’m distracting myself. Mom told me over the phone that you and Al were broken up. And, so you were holed up in Grandpa’s cabin feeling low. She wanted me to check up on you.”

“That’s very much like her. And it couldn’t be further from the truth. I simply told her, yesterday while I was in town, that Al and I were staying here.”

“Mhm, and she didn’t want your gay escapades ruining the cabin?”

“I assume,” Charles said. He sat back down in his seat at the couch. He felt depressed and tired, and, yes, a little drunk. “What are we going to do about mother?”

“Haven’t a clue,” Orson said. “If I knew, I’d be camping on the beach instead of sitting here. Life’s funny that way.”

“True,” Charles said.

“I have one suggestion,” Orson said. “On what we can do.”

“And what is that?”

“We can start being brothers again. I mean, we never stopped. But I guess we can just start acting like it.”

“How so?”

“Talk to each other. I should have called you.”

“You should have. You drove an awful distance.”

“Well, I’m not right in the head. I don’t know what I’m right in, in any way either.”

“Strange days.”

“You can say that again.”

“Strange days.”

 

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