The stories I was thinking of on the airplane all took place somewhere other than where I was headed. The road trip story took place in Soap Lake, Pendleton, Boise, Snowbird, Missoula, I-90, the heat wave story was Seattle. My luggage was full of distractions, designed to protect me from being in South Dakota. Allison's text the day before said "I think we're going to have to do a food intervention here," so there was proscuttio, tiny cheeses, wasabi peas, dried mango, salami, a few of the first apples of the season from the Ballard Farmer's Market. There were three magazines, four cameras and two dresses for every day we would be there. I had six rolls of film and three days until my writing deadline.
It was still close to 80 degrees in Rapid City by the time Lucia landed and we stepped outside with my dad, to the mini-van where my sister waited to drive us all to Belle Fourche, to the AmericInn where my grandmother had booked my father and step-mother one room, and me another.
"Check out my mini-van, yo!" my sister said, and dad said, "Hon, why don't you let me sit in the front and give directions." But Ali had directions so I got the front, and dad said "Ok now, hon, we need to keep an eye out for that cloverleaf," but he still got in the back with Lucia.
We missed the cloverleaf, and found ourselves in front of a chainlink fence and a guard shack instead. Allison was asking questions about my love life that I didn't really have answers for, and the directions were on her Blackberry, which I didn't know how to work. She gave it to me to navigate from anyway, and when dad asked which map program we were using, Ali said Google and he did that disapproving sucking air through the teeth thing. "Dad, it's fine," she said.
And it was, pretty much, unless you count the fact that we were a little lost when the red and blue lights started to flash in the rear view mirror. We can skip the getting-pulled-over part of the story for now, because in the end he was a very nice officer who gave us a warning rather than a $240 ticket, and we made it back to the AmericInn where there were no less than four animal heads on the wall, and I retreated to my room where I wrapped pieces of proscuttio around the little cheeses and thought about the way the heat wave had made everything smell like it was on fire, so that you couldn't help but ask yourself, is that my engine? The elementary school? The pumps at the gas station, a brush fire on I-5? The fur of the animals in the zoo? What is it that's burning?