I’m trying to remember where this story came from. I know the title came first, but not really because before that came William Blake and the Red Dragon, but before that came Springsteen and songs of escape, but even before that came cars.
I grew up in a factory town where automobiles were the trade. Most of my extended family worked for the auto industry in one way or another. The reality of the auto industry hasn’t matched the promise of its sleek machines for some time; the ruins of it still smoulder in the hometown I left long ago. But romance of the open road has fueled the dream of freedom for as long as I can remember.
I still feel it when I hit the highway. I spent so long afraid I would never escape that the sight of a road stretched out before me buoys my spirit in an instant. I’ll probably never completely get over the whisper that cajoles, ‘You could go anywhere, disappear, start again.’
My old red Honda makes an appearance in this story. Sixteen years I had that car, hundreds of thousands of miles I put on it. Living in the UK, I’m reminded again and again how people here have no concept of the size of the US: How the whole of this country could fit into just one of the medium-sized states. How you can still drive for hours without seeing another human being in some places, though it’s getting more difficult all the time. How states are as different as the countries of the EU, different worlds.
There’s an anonymity that all exiles know you can find in the darkened places where people drink and eat. Diners and pubs allow a certain camaraderie between strangers: brief, congenial, but definitely limited. But it’s good. Sometimes you have to be where nobody knows your name.
When you’re there in the dark corner, sipping your drink, look around. Under the brim of that hat may hide the eye of something extraordinary. Monster, magic, murder—maybe it depends on what you’re looking for. William Blake saw angels in his back garden as a child. Some people think that’s strange. Others long to find that magic. We read books for the same reason we take journeys: to see something new, to shake off the dust of the known and maybe, just maybe—to find the home that waits for us out there like a dream we can almost remember.
Bio: K. A. Laity is the award-winning author of White Rabbit, A Cut-Throat Business, Lush Situation, Owl Stretching, Unquiet Dreams, À la Mort Subite, The Claddagh Icon, Chastity Flame, Pelzmantel and Other Medieval Tales of Magic and Unikirja, as well as editor of Weird Noir, Noir Carnival and the forthcoming Drag Noir. With cartoonist Elena Steier she created the occult detective comic Jane Quiet. Her bibliography is chock full of short stories, humor pieces, plays and essays, both scholarly and popular. She spent the 2011-2012 academic year in Galway, Ireland where she was a Fulbright Fellow in digital humanities at NUIG. Dr. Laity has written on popular culture and social media for Ms., The Spectator and BitchBuzz, and teaches medieval literature, film, gender studies, New Media and popular culture at the College of Saint Rose. She divides her time between upstate New York and Dundee.