The Road to Darby

The tall road stretched all the way from Amityville to Darby, several hundred miles with only a few exits or rest stops or anything that drew the eye away from the magnificent cracks which engulfed its surface so persistently that it was as if the road had been grasped by enormous hands at both ends and pulled apart to stretch it the last few miles to Darby. Sparsely dotting the jagged edge of the road, which connected the shoulder with the dusty desert beyond, were headlights and car parts from decades of pulled-over cars and the occasional burned out cigarette from the last brave venturer. These cigarettes, sometimes still burning against the sunlit and enflamed roadway, other times sparking and smoldering away through the night, and other times simply dead on the road, were the only way to tell time on the road, and they were unreliable even at that. There was no telling if the sun tricked the little white sticks into burning a few hours longer, or if the smoke even belonged to the last driver. Some travelers did smoke, but then again, the road only had a few customers a day, and for good reason. A single operational toll booth, supposedly around the 72nd mile marker, supposedly swallowed up any and every naïve traveler who knew not that crossing paths with this particular booth meant certain death.

The brave ones only sailed the road a few miles before taking the nearest exit. These were the thick skinned and thick skulled daredevils who could find no better use for their lives than attempting various methods to end them. Then there were the less-ones. The teenagers who, ignited by a whim, or a dare, or to prove their boyhood and their need for approval, ventured out at night when their parents were too drunk to notice to walk the road in search of the booth they had so fervently been told to avoid at all costs. The luckiest ones walked home seconds after viewing the road. Those less fortunate, incited by their peers, reached the jagged edge and walked along for a couple seconds or a couple feet before turning and escaping with their lives but not their minds. To bring back a broken headlight or some broken glass from the Jag (as the kids called it, and eventually the adults followed along) was necessary for preserving self-esteem after such a trip to the road. To bring back a cigarette was unheard of, at least at first. It didn’t take long for the new generation to grow tired of the car parts that their parents and grandparents had grown up collecting.

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