How to not drive cross country

Carmen Catena

Leave your home after packing and repacking the car for days during your two-year-old’s naps and while your husband is deployed to Afghanistan and you’re in the middle of a global pandemic and think you can drive through Kansas on a summer afternoon when there’s a giant wall of dark clouds like an actual wall like if you can see a clear separation between storm and sky, drive through it and get caught in a violent hailstorm that sounds like gunfire hitting your windshield, that cracks the glass in three spots leaving big half-moons in your sight line, and get off I-70 in the middle of literally fucking nowhere so fast that your rear wheels skid and you lose control for a moment just a moment but it’s long enough that once you get under the overpass there’s already too many cars there and just the front half of your CRV is covered and the back half is still exposed to the relentless hail but there’s enough dwell time between gasping Hail Marys and screaming unheard at your husband and Uncle Sam that you see cops have arrived and are forcing everyone to move from the overpass but the hail is still coming down so hard that the panic rises with each staccato so you hit the gas harder than you meant to and have to quickly brake but it’s too late and the road is slippery after all so you rear-end the car in front of you but don’t stop keep driving to the gas station across the street find a parking spot get your son out cover his head as best as you can before you break down in the gas station, sobbing into your toddler’s shoulder, then underestimate the kindness of strangers who despite the fact that you are guilty of a hit and run entertain your son while you mop up your face and stop shaking long enough to remove your license from your wallet and assure you that there was no harm done and help you find a nearby hotel because your phone isn’t getting any bars and they have two, drive there as fast as you can without losing control again and check in while your son runs wild in the lobby after being in the car for five hours then barricade yourselves as far away from the window as possible which means in the bathroom area then say some more Hail Marys that the surfaces don’t carry COVID and don’t sleep much but wake up at 5:00 am and drive five hours back west and fall to your knees once you cross the threshold of your home, twenty-four hours later.

About the Author

Carmen Catena is a writer, editor, and educator currently living in Germany with her family. Her short stories have been published in The Ekphrastic Review, The Dillydoun Review, and Sledgehammer Lit and she is working on her first novel. Find her online at