New Voices: “Escaping” by Tom Lakin

September 28, 2020

In one breathless sentence, Tom Lakin’s “Escaping” takes us on the road, pedal to the metal, escaping north, through the trees and the years to a destination you can’t foresee. With the first clause, Lakin sets the scene: “It was the middle of July and they were fleeing north from the city in a stolen Ford Explorer…”

It was the middle of July and they were fleeing north from the city in a stolen Ford Explorer…

It was the middle of July and they were fleeing north from the city in a stolen Ford Explorer, the radio going full blast and the girl’s bare feet up on the dash, crossed on the fake leather, her toes painted green and shining like bits of glass in the glare slamming in through the open sunroof and the old rattletrap car doing seventy on the highway though it felt more like a hundred-and-seventy, the doors clattering each time Dave stomped the gas or jerked the gearshift and the body of the car heaving beneath them like a startled horse, the sticky seats rattling at their backs, empty cans rolling this way and that across the floor as on either side of them the road streamed past, trees and signs and glacier-carved cliffs with the solemn craggy faces of old men, exits blurring by and the numbers on the signs rapidly climbing as they accelerated north toward their new dealer, an opiate need already asserting itself in her blood and spreading across her shoulders like a thousand cruel spiders, her fists clenched and her mind on the cash in the glove box beside the pistol, Dave’s old service sidearm, a Beretta M9, heavy and black with a straight polished barrel and a hole at one end like an all-seeing eye, the cash and the gun sliding back and forth as Dave cut across lanes, pounding his palms on the steering wheel and screaming into the blasting wind, Wooooo, the long repeated vowel uncoiling from his lips like a ribbon, Wooooo babe, can you believe this shit? we’re doing it, we’re off, here we fucking coooooooome, the wind yanking his words up and out the open sunroof like smoke as another exit sign blew past and there in the seat she felt it, the first stirrings like an itch inside her skirt, a faint spreading pressure in her bladder that grew until suddenly, undeniably, it overtook her, and with the back of her left hand she whacked Dave on the shoulder and said, Look can you pull over, I’ve gotta pee…

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