Jacob, 28, kind of a writer, playing for the other team, like to pretend my boots & I are vegan.
Go ahead and ask
Janet, late as always, was driving through the deepest night on her way to Gwynn’s new home in a tiny middle-of-nowhere town near the gulf. She’d left Austin at sunset shouting, “Free. Free.”.
In the year since graduation, Janet had gone back to live with her parents and begun working in a library uncertain of her future while Gwynn had moved to Nowhere into a home of her own, hired by Child Protective Services to begin a career that would at some point hopefully catapult her into the FBI . Every day, Janet pushed the same squeaky book cart and hushed the same teenagers full of attitude, envious of Gwynn. Every moment, she anticipated her friend’s weekly call. Though Gwynn only wanted to hear about Janet’s day and Janet’s quirky musings and Janet’s delightful memories of their times as roommates in college (“It helps me unwind,” she would say, exhaustion in her tone), Janet only wanted to hear about Nowhere.
When Janet had called earlier to apologize for leaving late, Gwynn was buying a second pair of work boots after ruining the first while investigating the home of one of her cases.
“You don’t want to know what I stepped on,” Gwynn had said. But Janet craved for the information, motivated to race back and forth between her bedroom and the driveway with her luggage. All week, everything she imagined about Gwynn’s life excited her own. Every baby who tested positive for one drug or another, every dirty trailer, every toothless parent in a rage as if they were the actual victim. And Janet loved every odd person who ran out of town, most without packing, some with their kids, all without saying where they were going. No one could find them and she’d imagine them in the library, hiding out, picking a new family name from the names of authors on the shelves. The imagining greased the cart’s little loud wheels and muted everyone she rolled by. In so many conversations, Gwynn seemed—
“You don’t want to know what I smelled today.”
“We were so wrong about this daycare but not in a good way.”
“God, it’s depressing. I shop in a different town now because Wal-Mart’s the only grocery. I keep running into parents in my caseload with their kids and want to scream, ‘What idiot let you have your kids back?’ But I’m having experiences.”
—to be living. Janet could wait no longer to be in Nowhere; it was divine.
But the red blinking lights in the sky diminished her excitement. She hadn’t noticed them before yet they surrounded her. She pushed the button to lower her side window so she could lean out and examine their distance. The whoosh of air whipped her eyebrows. She was appreciative to have tied her hair in a pony-tail. The lights seemed so far yet so near. “Well, of course. They’re towers. Lots of towers,” she said aloud, shaking her head at her silly unease, even as she noticed that one of the lights seemed to fall, blinking from a lower then lower point.
Her cell rang. She glanced toward her GPS, Giles, as the window closed out the noise. Her own blue light pulsed up a line through an unchanging gray square.
“Turn around now,” Gwynn said.
“What?” Janet asked, thinking of the falling light now a quarter of a mile away, not something she could see if she looked into her mirror but still not something she wanted to search for.
“I’m just kidding. How far are you?”
“I’m passing all of these little red lights. What are they? It’s creepy.”
“Oh, you’re passing the wind farm outside of town.”
“The light…they’re there—”
“Like on radio towers. Wow.” They laughed well. Janet could imagine the wind turbines of different heights now as if it were day, shorter ones appearing from behind taller ones as she drove passed, giggling if they could giggle at her. “Ha, I out-do my silly self every time, don’t I?”
“You’re so close. I can’t wait. Hurry up already. Haha.”
But looking out her passenger window and then into her rear view mirror, she thought some of the red lights reflected were beginning to blink level with her car. When she glanced through her side windows, some seemed closer to the road. She glanced again into her rear view mirror; some seemed directly behind her, blinking in the middle of the view.
“No worries,” Gwynn said. “Keep going. You’re only twenty minutes away. Maybe even ten depending on how much of it you’ve passed.”
“You know, what really had me freaked? The short turbines. I thought that I saw lights falling down. But those were just short ones.” And then she passed a second such turbine.
“You must be tired. They’re all the same height, Janny. High in the sky. But they go out so far, I’m sure some of them look shorter.”
“Okay. Of course,” Janet said, even as she noticed a second and third falling, then almost an entire row fall in a wave close behind her. None of them landed. They paused level with her car. She looked ahead, her unease returning. She stepped down on the gas pedal. Her headlights brightened a sign that indicated the miles to Corpus Christi on the gulf and to Gwynn’s closer Nowhere. “How fast do you drive?” she asked Gwynn. “The sign says forty more miles away.”
“Are you sure? If you’re seeing those lights, you’re only fifteen to twenty miles away. There’s nothing before them. Nothing. Empty, empty—I bought salad. Do you want salad with dinner?”
More lights appeared. They seemed to dart and swirl in her rear view mirror. She didn’t want to look. Her GPS flickered.
“Janny?” A plastic bag crinkled and Janet imagined Gwynn’s scissors cutting the bag as quick as the flickering, as quick as the darting and swirling behind her. She tried to speak. A sudden buzzing in her ears sounded so loud that she was fooled into thinking she had screamed.
“I guess the call dropped,” Gwynn’s tapering voice said. Janet leaned into her seat in one frigid line. She didn’t want to look into her mirrors but she did. Her cell tumbled.
“Janny?” the floor asked.
The light seemed to fly toward her as fast as speeding cars, from behind, from the sides, and from in front. Her headlights brightened a sign for a wind farm five miles ahead.
“Two wind farms?” Janet asked herself before her GPS and headlights switched off and all the red light surrounded like mad lightning bugs. She clamped her eyelids shut and shook her head, believing there were two farms, one with shorter turbines.
Gwynn just doesn’t know. Doesn’t know.
Janet felt herself driving even though her car had turned off, heard quiet in a closed car even though the windows were opening, the wind and light interrupting all imaginings.
This is dedicated to a friend who works for CPS in tiny town Texas where they have wind farms. But all the lights stay in the sky.