by Mary Lynn Reed

Jamie had to pee. The others were arguing about capitalism and false dilemmas. Kev wouldn’t stop yelling. Jamie just wanted some peace but it wasn’t in this crappy old Camry. She sat in the passenger’s seat, willing her bladder to shut the fuck up. The sun was fading behind the mountain and Danny started up again about the will of the people.

Jamie finally broke. ‘There hasn’t been a McDonald’s or a freakin’ gas station since Cottonwood. I can’t take it anymore,’ she said. ‘I’ve got to go now.’

Danny rolled his eyes, pulled the car to the shoulder, and said, ‘There ya go.’

Kev barked at the flash-white nothing of his phone. ‘Cheap piece of shit,’ he said, tossing it across the backseat. Danny yanked his off the dashboard, tapped it like a lover who’d fallen gently asleep.

Jamie bolted for the largest bank of scrub brush she could find, barely got her pants down before her stream shot out with a strong arc. She’d practiced as a kid. To piss standing up was a power worth having, penis or not.

A dead-something stench hit Jamie’s nostrils as she zipped up.

Thick brown dust covered the windows and doors of the Camry, smudged with fingerprints and a nostalgic “Wash Me” plea, added somewhere in north Texas.

A dead-something stench hit Jamie’s nostrils as she zipped up. A chill brushed through her that didn’t belong on this late summer night.


She walked slowly back to car, expecting to see her friends. Maybe to find them hiding, ducking down and preparing to lurch up and laugh, pull her back into their chaos.

Inside the car, nothing but rolled-up protest flyers and fast food remnants.

On the side of the road, she looked left to right. Something drew her eyes up to the gray and dreary sky. No stars.

Something hovered. Or was it soaring? So high she could barely see it. But it was there.

Jamie turned around sharply, to ask Kev what he thought it might be, what it all meant. She’d forgotten, just that fast, that she was alone.

Down the dark, silent highway: nothing. Nothing at all, for miles and miles.


Mary Lynn Reed’s fiction has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Mississippi ReviewColorado ReviewFree State Review, Reunion: The Dallas Review, and many other places. She has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. She lives in western New York with her wife, and together they co-edit the online literary journal MoonPark Review.