Getaway Car

The road stretched across the desert like a flattened serpent. It was a highway, but was rarely used anymore. A new highway had been constructed that traveled in a much straighter line. This old one wasn’t well maintained; chunks of concrete were falling off the shoulder, and the road seemed to bleed into the surrounding dirt rather than meet it head-on.
Two teenagers rode in the front of the car and an old man slept across the back seat, head propped up on two pillows and legs twisted uncomfortably against the side door. He breathed so quietly that the girl kept nervously craning her neck, looking over her shoulder to make sure he was breathing at all. “Do you think he’s alright? He’s been out for like 8 hours now....”
“He’s old. Old people are like babies or cats, they sleep all the time.”
“Yeah, but it’s pretty cold. Maybe I can angle the heat towards the back.” And she fiddled with the air vent, aiming its warm current through the gap between the two front seats. The man snorted quietly, then returned to steady, near-silent breath.
It was closer to morning than night, and the sky was still velvety black. The moon was very small, but the stars were very bright. Once the sun had disappeared, the heat too was quickly siphoned back into the sky and all that was left was brittle grass and bitter cold.
The girl was nervous. Tired, too– her face was pale, and her hair flared out in a wild halo around it. Eyes puffy. Her brother, just as exhausted, said hoarsely (as she once again turned to gaze at the slumbering passenger), “You should get some sleep. In a few hours we’ll have to stop for gas and you can drive from there while I sleep.”
She was angry at this, and surprised at her own anger. “How do you expect me to sleep when I don’t know what I’d be waking up to? I’d rather see the red and blue lights from afar, if you don’t mind. And I don’t feel tired.”
He kept his voice calm as he replied, “There aren’t going to be any lights. Probably no one has noticed yet that he’s gone. When they do, they’re not gonna send the police into the next state. They’re gonna collect volunteers to traipse around the city, looking for an old guy who wandered off. When they don’t find him, they’ll probably assume he fell in the river. I chucked his old pair of slippers near the riverbank, so hopefully someone will find those.”
With that, they both settled into a long reverie. He held the wheel loosely and swerved to avoid potholes. She stared out the window, partly at the flashing nighttime landscape and partly at her own reflection in the dark glass.
Finally, after checking one more time to make sure the man was sleeping, she whispered, “Is this right? Should we really have done this? What if they’re right? What if he’s really lost his mind? If he really remembers where it’s hidden, he could have just told us about it and we could have gone and got it.” He didn’t reply, sensing that she had more to say. A little unsteadily, she went on. “I love him, and I want him to be like he always was. And he seems like he is. But– this feels more and more like a crazy idea. It was years ago, he says, that he hid it.”
As the boy accelerated out of a gentle curve in the road, he thought for a few moments. “I’ve been thinking that same thing all night. That maybe–” he glanced back quickly– “he is just a senile old man like they said at the home. But I just keep remembering the way he talked about it. He hid it so many years ago, and he never had a chance to go back for it. I mean, you’d want closure too, wouldn’t you? But I think it’s more than that. I think he just wants to go home.”
So they drove on, past the sage, past animal eyes that burned golden in the dark, past any possibility of turning back, and the road stretched across the desert like a flattened serpent, as far– and farther– than they could see.