Road Trip, Day 105
by Simon Sylvester
There’s a hitcher with a handbag and a sleeping baby. He wants a lift to Peck. After an hour, there’s this damn awful stink.
"Hey mister," says Jackie, "I think the kid is wet or something."
The man shakes his head. "It ain’t the kid," he says.
We let him out in Lapeer.
Back in 2010, in the doldrums of an office job, I found myself craving a little glimmer between the emails and the spreadsheets. I started writing 140-character flash fiction on Twitter, darting online in tea breaks and lunchtimes. I wrote hundreds of these tiny stories over the next few years. The vast majority stood alone, but I kept returning to an extended road trip of two kids hustling their way across America. Each day, Jackie and the narrator lurched from one Tom Waits-Charles Bukowski-JT Leroy-Hubert Selby Jr. mash-up to the next, calling at gas stations, diners, churches, suburbs, stop lights and motels. In my head they were playing Slint and Springsteen, Counting Crows and Cyndi Lauper. They had their feet up on the dash.
A few months ago, I gathered all the stories together and combined them into proper diary entries. I tried to make each piece a self-contained story, as well as mapping a broader arc from day 1 to day 226. This is one of the expanded stories in that sequence.
Jackie and the narrator drive through places I know I'll never visit. I used Google to pick out place names. Their journey is my hyperreal idea of America, all hot dogs and hot pants and gum. There's something brazen about it, and there's something magnificent.
Simon Sylvester is a writer, teacher and occasional filmmaker. He has written more than a thousand flash stories on Twitter, and his first novel, The Visitors, won the Guardian Not The Booker prize in 2014. He lives in Cumbria with the painter Monica Metsers and their daughter Isadora. simonsylvester.wordpress.com