I’ve walked along the maps of my home around the bends of the Housatonic River and up Mount Greylock hanging over Jamaica Plain I’ve run my fingers over the shores of Nantucket and felt the Mystic and run my gaze over Watatic the high Wachusett and felt the rumble of the Mattapan line and wandered the streets of Swampscott and of Chappaquiddick I remember the first bus I took to school named the Cummaquid Chief and how I thought as I shook afraid that the bus would be driven by a head- dressed brown- skinned face- painted man with leather moccasins and fierce gaze the names meant nothing to me no near mountain no great cove nothing that lay in the midst of waters nor far off among the waves there was no place I seek no place of red rocks no beyond the mountain place mere sounds just flicks of the tongue odder lip movements unlike the other words I knew but quiet kept hear no one see no one there must be somewhere so I left I drove in my dad’s old Cadillac south looking for a sound a sight south where I found Manhattan south again more south where I found the Potomac farther and farther south but I found only Conshohoken and those same familiarly unfamiliar sounds with the clicks on my tongue and the ck ck ck stuck at the back of my throat I kept on and turned west and in Tennessee I found blues musicians shifting through smoky dens of tall hats wailing harmonicas sighing guitars with horses’ clip clops outside on the pavement that covers the dirt and people shuffled from scene to scene drinking and cheering in the dirty city with the highway that cuts through like a snake treading on farther west out to the gate in Missouri where I passed through seduced by promises of future just to go west more and more westward and I passed into the giant white wind farms of Kansas onward still to the great sands of Colorado where the land looked misplaced apocryphal erected in error: aureate peaks startopped gilded spires: the cenotaph of America onward still keeping onward to find Utah and its deserts beautiful barren land where the rock balanced teetering precarious there— unsure which way to fall unaware it somehow matters its fringes frayed by wind nearing the severing point spine about to collapse toppling with it an uncared for history and here where Butch buried his gold lumps in the vast red dust canyon walls where storms have poured over hat brims wet horse flesh down to pools of rust colored mud where bonewhite veins of lightning flash cross and envious thunder chases the gleams in swarming echoes building up legends as they swarm. and there—down among the sandstone cliffs hidden in a copper and white reef of land a river carving a narrow valley desert orchards flower where apples grow pears grow and walnuts and cherries peaches apricots almonds and mulberries plums nectarines grapes pecans and a strange thing called quince with its pale pink blossoms delicate and fine against the brown rocky mountains the old school house is still there next to the stand that sells pies and cider and coffee and I could lie under the trees with a book in my lap smoking tobacco eating orchard fruits the boughs casting calming shades across my face cutting through the Indian summer heat and fall asleep peacefully there so serene and seemingly somehow no one about to disturb me. and onward I went to hot dry Nevada where the roads leave long straight black scars behind on the yellow face of the land and the air becomes visible quivering in the distance and eventually I reached the other side where the red bridge is tall over the other waters and I wondered what the name might be for place of the red bridge and I looked at the bridge and thought I was supposed to think of death there was nothing but to turn around though I could be satisfied with the bridge: an iron feat painted red and the wind farms blistering white spinning gently and the corn rows sweeping through Iowa and the towers towering in Chicago high over the streets and the factory graveyards in Detroit where my dad’s old Cadillac was made and where once all Cadillacs and Pontiacs and Chevrolets were made and the wheel I turned onto and off of highways that stretched and reached across the landscape to and from every corner that I grew up calling my own with its unsurpassable beauty the roar of Niagara the crests of the Appalachian Mountains the burnt sands of the Moab the forests of Acadia the valley at Cuyahoga the badlands of the Dakotas the frost of Syracuse the rains of Pensacola the swamps of Atchafalaya —enviable beauty —desirable a bad curse
M. Sullivan lives in Brooklyn. His writing has appeared in PANK Magazine. This is M. Sullivan’s first appearance in the Fictional Café.