MINCHIATE: Four of Staves + XX Fire

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The Frozen Road

 

The car sputtered and hissed to a stop. Miriam banged the steering wheel with her hand, then rubbed her palm where she’d banged too hard. She’d ignored the blinking light as long as she could, but now the car let out a final rattle and sigh. Steam surrounded her as she thought what to do. The headlights shone through the vapor and emitted an eerie atmosphere. Miriam didn’t know where she was though she’d climbed in the car with no destination in mind.

Tall trees lined the one-lane country road and though paved—the cracked pavement patched with black meandering snakes—Miriam perceived the loneliness of what had once been a transited thoroughfare.

For the past hour she’d been trying to get onto the shiny new interstate everyone raved about, but the signage was confusing and now she found herself in the middle of nowhere, protected only by the metal shell of the useless steaming Edsel.

A grunt from outside brought her to attention. She perked her ears and listened through the dissipating steam; the snow crunched among the trees. Miriam could not distinguish what made the sound but sat quiet as it faded into the woods.

She considered leaving behind her suitcase, but thought better when she realized she didn’t know how long she’d walk before she found help. Miriam opened the door with a creak that ripped through the quiet, crisp night. The leafless trees afforded her a view of the stars so bright she could almost touch them in the moonless night. 

Miriam slipped into her heavy yellow raincoat, the thickest coat she could grab in haste. She glanced in the side-view mirror and put on her favorite red cloche hat with a black ribbon band and white flower bow on the side; it made her look like a modernized 1920s flapper. She took her hard blue suitcase out of the car and closed the door with a squeak and a slam. Her driving gloves were thinner than she wished so she stuck her free hand in her raincoat pocket. The crunch of her feet on the frozen ground the only sound as she made her way down the deserted road.

Up ahead she sighted a crossroads and hurried, eager to read the sign. Avalonia straight ahead; Osprey Cove to the right. Where in the world was she? No signage for the interstate, though she believed it should be nearby; she’d followed the sign to it a few miles back and had taken no turns.

Where should she go? Miriam decided the road to Osprey Cove looked wider and better lit by starlight and turned in the direction. She stepped on something; a lump at her feet with a sleeve pointing toward Avalonia. It was a dirty jacket, small, like for a young boy. Miriam noticed lettering on the lapel and turned it this way and that so to read it by the strange bright light of the stars.

“Johnny,” she muttered as she discerned the name. Miriam gazed around, but she was alone in the night. She shook it, folded it lengthwise and draped it on her arm. Something fell and tinkled against her rain boot. The small stone had a crude R carved on it. It twinkled in the starlight and, when she put it in her pocket, the stars agglutinated into a bright flash.

***

State troopers found the abandoned Edsel in the spring. They determined it had been there all winter based on the rust and deterioration of the tires. At the crossroads, under the sign, they found a red cloche hat with a black ribbon band and a white flower side bow, such as young ladies wore these days; “Miriam” sewn on the inside brim. It matched the description of that runaway bride missing since late summer. The little boy’s jacket beside it was a mystery.

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