A Moment on the Overpass
by Dan Anderson
“Shotgun!” Little Michael called.
“Don’t think so. Dad and I are up front, pilot and co-pilot. You and Shiloh in the back, our crew.” Sarah tried to smile.
On highway forty-one to Winneconne for putt-putt, the family’s Tahoe tires spun so fast they looked motionless.
* * *
Atop the deserted overpass, two boys leaned over the hot metal railing.
“Nice shot. That was a thick one,” Tyler said, his blonde mop dangling over his eyes.
“Yeah, phlegm and ketchup spit really help the loogie.” Carl hawked another. “Runs in the family, ya know. Granddaddy Adolf Anderssen, a loogie master.” Carl spat another, missing a car below.
“I’m bored.” Carl kicked the gravel. “Loogieing cars is too easy. Without any ketchup left, it’s stupid, and I’m thirsty.” Littered around them were empty ketchup bottles. Carl looked over the cracked cement until something caught his eye. He pointed to the other side of the road.
“Dude, check it out.” He ran towards the basketball-shaped rock. “It’s so freaking round.” They rubbed their hands against the rock.
“I got an idea,” Carl said. “What better than ketchup loogies?”
* * *
Sarah twisted the cap and sipped from her Dr. Pepper. She winced. Too much rum, too little Dr. Pepper. Her husband and son played I Spy. If Michael once more spied barn, she was going to flip, Hulk-style. She wished she’d never called the marriage dull. Her husband now felt compelled to schedule free days with touristy activities he thought exciting: mini-golf, bowling, bird-watching, camping. Thoughts of the schedule he’d written out on the fridge calendar–months of outings–ignited her irritation. Michael leaned forward, ranting into her ear, “Mommy, Mom, Mom, Mummaaah, Maa-maah, mee-maaaw.”
She turned to him. “Can’t you just shut up for, I don’t know, two minutes? A barn. I bet you spied a barn, didn’t you?”
Michael was silent.
“Damnit, I need quiet sometimes.”
Her husband reached to her. “Honey, we’re trying our best . . . “
She looked out the window and took another swig. “You’re smothering.” She exhaled. “It’s why all that . . . mess with your br–” She glanced at her son. “Your you-know-who started.”
“Don’t. Not in front of him.”
“See. Smothering. For once, shut your mouth for two goddamn seconds.”
Silence fell over the vehicle.
* * *
“Fine,” Carl said. “I won’t. But why don’tcha try one more loogie. See if you can hit something.”
“I know I can hit a car,” Tyler said.
Tyler leaned over the railing, hawked a big one. It splattered on a Buick’s windshield like a bug. Tyler smiled. Proud.
Carl yelled, “Make way for C.J.!” He lifted the rock between his legs, and ran bow-legged. He tossed the basketball-rock, granny-style, over the railing.
* * *
Below, the highway’s calm rumble exploded into chaos. Tahoe tires screeched, drawing a black line across the highway into the grass. The Tahoe accordioned into the fence, and the husband’s weight fell on the horn. Shiloh slammed against the dashboard, and little Michael, buckled in silent shock, reached to touch his beautiful mother. His hand felt a wet rock littered with shards and warm red.
The boys ran until, years later, they finally collapsed.
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Dan Anderson’s first novel, Drunk in the Warm Glow, is forthcoming with Creators Publishing. His writing is also found in cream city review and Poetry Quarterly. Formerly the poetry editor at the Wisconsin Review, he now teaches creative writing and English classes at Fond du Lac High School. When not teaching, he gives guitar lessons and leads tours with his students all over America and Europe (this summer: Greece and Italy). Also, he once found a kitten outside a grocery store double-wrapped in plastic bags. They now live together in sitcom-fashion.