Listen to this story here:
After the man in coveralls pinpointed us on the map and gave me directions ("Just keep going straight," he'd said, and I'd replied with, "Well, that's easy enough to remember,") I went back to the car, which was idling with Lynn in the passenger seat. She was staring out into the moonlit fields of red wildflowers that ran down the length of the highway. Not pretty ones; just weeds, really, that would scratch your legs and get caught in your hair if you tried, let's say, to run through them.
While I was asking for directions, she'd turned the radio to oldies. I turned it back. I reminded her that the driver picked the station; wasn't that one of the first things we'd agreed on when planning this trip?
"Right," she said, rolling her eyes. "You and all your rules."
While I drove, she dozed off. She made little whimpering sounds as she slept, and then one long, squeaky snore that I couldn't stop myself from laughing at, and then finally she fell into a silent sleep. A half hour went by, and nothing – the road, the moon, the radio music – seemed to change.
Then, so quickly: I felt wobbly, like I'd been spun and then halted still. In the next moment, the sensation was gone. I reached over to shake Lynn awake, but she pushed my hand away, laughed, asked what I was doing.
"When did you wake up?" I asked, and she gave me an odd look.
In the distance, there was a light squeezing out of the dark. It developed into a small gas station, where a man in coveralls came out to greet me. He pulled out a map like an illusionist pulling a trick from his sleeve. He had dirt under his fingernails, the kind you get from really digging down deep in the earth.
"Do I know you?" I asked. "I have the weirdest feeling..."
But he interrupted me. "Just keep following the road," he said, tracing his forefinger along the thick purple highway line on the map. Then he raised his finger up off the page and pointed into the darkness ahead.
"Are you sure?" I asked. "I'm worried that we missed it. It wasn't supposed to take this long."
"Like I said," he repeated, "Just keep going straight."
"Okay," I said, and heard myself say, the words coming on their own: "That's easy enough to remember."
Back in the car, Lynn had been fiddling with the radio, and it was humming oldies. I switched it, and then we drove on, looking out over the dark fields of wildflowers that were unlike anything we'd seen before.