New Leaf

“Everyone alright, Ma’am?”

And Elaine explains what happened.

“Y’all are lucky there wasn’t anyone behind you.”

“How ya doing, Petunia?” the other trucker says to Phoebe. His stomach pushes against his shirt, like a department store Santa’s. And he is jolly; Phoebe wouldn’t be surprised if he said “HOHOHO!” as he jogs off to retrieve her mother’s sandal from the gravelly shoulder.

They’ve found all their belongings, it appears, and not bothering to sort or fold, they toss them back into the suitcases. Elaine kneels on one to shut it.

“The lock’s broken,” she says.

The jolly trucker offers rope, but Jim says it won’t be necessary. They’ll put the luggage in the car—they’re almost there. Arrangements are made to let the truckers lead the way back on the road, their hazard lights flashing a warning to other travelers.

Back in the car, they’re sweaty from the heat, but laughing.

“Weren’t they kind?” Elaine says.

“Yes, Ma’am,” Jim says, adopting the truckers’ twang. “Y’all ok back there?”

“That was fun!” Nat says. He has bits of grass stuck in his hair.

“All’s well, that ends well,” Jim says, following the truckers’ flashing lights back onto the road.

The Gordons drive on, through Illinois and into Missouri. They cross the Mississippi River, then the muddy Missouri. Jim points out the smoke stacks of the chemical company where Agent Orange is right now, as they speak, being manufactured. Impressive puffs of smoke billow into the bright blue sky. Elaine and Jim shake their heads in unison. Phoebe readies herself for the lecture, the sting of her father’s disgust with corporations and governments everywhere, but he’s done for now. Jim’s right arm reaches over, squeezes Elaine’s shoulder. “Terrible,” Elaine says, but she doesn’t seem at all unhappy, Phoebe notes.

They drive on, without mishap, making good time, nearly home.


Rachel Hall has appeared recently in Crab Orchard Review, Water~Stone, The Gettysburg Review and New Letters, which awarded her their Alexander Cappon Fiction Prize. She has also received honors and awards from Lilith, Glimmer Train, The Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, and Ragdale. Hall teaches writing and literature at the State University of New York in Geneseo.