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College Road
By Jennah Kelley

This one’s name is Kaylee. White 2001 Buick LeSabre, two thousand dollars’ worth of beautiful my aunt Dena helped me buy.

I got her when my ‘94 Ford Explorer, Leviathan, kicked while delivering pizzas last summer. Only just got her back to the Hut parking lot before one final shudder and she died. Levi was a graduation present from my mother so I could go to college in Bemidji without her worrying about Candy, the ’98 Ford Escort I used to drive, breaking down for my many required trips home to see her and two of my sisters.

Candy got great gas mileage, and she was the one who took me on my first trip to Bemidji. I left in a rainstorm and white-knuckled it the entire way. Not yet familiar with the road, I put the brake to the floor every time one of those obnoxiously sharp curves came up. I thought about not going at all that night, and even Candy protested the whole way. But I had to grow up sometime, and a night drive without pissing my pants seemed like a good first step. Still, the trip down that road by myself felt like an initiation. I slid on water. I almost got pulled over. I got lost three blocks into town.

Survival so often is its own and only reward.

Leviathan had one of those pull knobs for the headlights, just to the left of the black wheel. Once I accidentally knocked into the knob and shut off my lights going seventy miles per hour. There was no moon that night. Instantly it was like someone threw black paint on all my windows. I didn’t slam on the brakes while I fumbled to pull the illumination back to life. I knew there was a curve coming, but somehow I also knew I’d get to the lights before I flew off the slightly elevated highway.

Kaylee is the newest and smoothest car I’ve owned. We glide home at least once every two weeks, more when there’s family trouble or celebration, trouble the more frequent these days. I peek through the arch of the steering wheel when I lean back in the driver’s seat. With big open wells for the legs and feet, I can pull one leg up underneath the other or dig my left heel into the seat, wrapping my left arm around it to make a circle of my body, hunching to the wheel, watching yellow and white lines begin and end all the way home. I try to relax into the car, meld with the metal and forget where I’m going.

Just for one second I’m not going home, I could be going anywhere.

***

 

Scattered

By Melissa Mathies

Highway 10 goes by my hometown in Otsego, Minnesota, just five miles from my house. It is a long stretch of boring to drive. This time, just like the few times before, I have my gray and white domestic short hair cat Tinkerbelle with me. She is looking at me from her pet taxi, meowing and pawing at the cage bars. It never gets easier seeing her panicking. I know how it feels.

We stop at the Super America off Highway 10 in St. Cloud, forty minutes from my home. I put ten dollars in the gas tank and go inside to get a soda. When I come back out Tinkerbelle is crying louder than before, staring out the window she last saw me through.

“Shhh, it’s okay sweet girl, calm down,” I say to her as I get in the car. I’m not sure if it’s more for me or for her. A tear escapes from the corner of my eye. She blinks up at me, her meowing calmed for the moment.

I pull back on to the road and head towards Little Falls, Minnesota, another hour north. The time goes by in a blur of trees and speeding cars, small towns scattered here and there. We don’t make any more stops.

When we hit Little Falls, we take the curve toward Highway 371 and Baxter. The highway goes all the way from Little Falls to Cass Lake and is the worst part of the drive, especially once we get to Nisswa. I get stuck behind stupid people who drive as if they are drunk. They can’t pick a speed to save their lives and tend to swerve. It’s the same this time as the times before.

The drive is quiet; I have the radio turned down low so I don’t upset my now sleeping cat. She looks so peaceful, and I am almost jealous of her. My mind is a jumble of emotions that I can’t sort through. There is nothing I want to do more than turn the car around, go home, and find a college close to my family. Then maybe my mind could rest and stop worrying so much. When my anxiety gets like this, my instinct is to reach for the phone and call my mom, like I always do. But I know I can’t; she is on a wine tour with my sisters.

We turn on Highway 2 and travel for fifteen minutes before we finally get into Bemidji. When the university comes into view, I panic. I’ve done this drive a dozen times, and it never gets easier. I get into the dorm and settled in when I call my mom.

“How was the drive?” she asks.

“It was okay, I guess.”

I don’t tell her I’m ready to come home again.

***

 

Walker

By Daniel Boessel

I am walking home from school. The cold Minnesota wind brings the crisp, clean smell of the frozen lake up the hill and stings the side of my face. I am used to it, and at times almost welcome it.

I am a walker. I always have been. I don’t do it for exercise or even for fun most of the time. I simply walk to get around. As I am walking home today, I think about what it means to be a walker.

I walk at least three miles a day, five days a week, year round, any weather, and often without complaint. Walking gives me a more intimate relationship with whatever town I happen to be inhabiting. I learn the short cuts and back roads, and I learn the small details of my daily journey. I come up with my own names for the little personal landmarks along the way like Origami Park, Darko Bend, or Is-It-Over-Yet Hill.

Being a walker also means that most can’t keep up with me. When I am walking around with others, I usually have to make a conscious effort to shorten and slow my stride. My brother calls it the Jason Walk, the way horror movie killers can catch people fleeing at a dead sprint, even thought the killers are only walking.

As I come to the main road, and the only stoplight along my preferred path, I can’t help but smile as an older couple shuffles by. They are wrapped up tight, from head to toe, with almost no skin exposed. I am standing on the corner, fifteen minutes worth of frozen breath icing up my facial hair, sweating under my long wool coat and stocking cap, and smiling into the wind as I nod in greeting. They only look at me like I’m insane and hurry on their way.

I find my mind wandering, as it always does. I plan future writing projects. I think anxiously about the trip I am taking to Minneapolis with my girlfriend for a concert. I think of my dad, home from the hospital with a surgery wound on his side, left open due to too much fluid building up. I worry about where I will be in five years, or even what I am going to do after graduation in a few months. I retreat inside my head.

I’m not sure if it is from growing up in the backwoods, or walking everywhere for the majority of my childhood and adult life, or simply classic Minnesotan stoicism that makes me this way. I feel the tingling in my fingers and toes. I feel the burning of my leg muscles as they again start to pump away, propelling me across the intersection and that much closer to home. It is my meditation time, my personal introvert time, where I can look down, put one foot in front of the other, trudge along, and simply think.

***

 
Jennah Kelley is in her last semester at BSU. Melissa Mathies is a junior, majoring in creative and professional writing at BSU. Daniel Boessel will graduate from BSU in the spring of 2015 with a double major in English and creative and professional writing. He hopes to become a professional author of nonfiction and fantasy fiction.