Structo issue 14

Page 64

The Ghost of a Highway by David Shieh There’s the ghost of a highway swimming in the ether of a summer night, balanced on the razor edge of a car’s headlights. Granddad taught me to see it, taught me to look through the electric pulse of city lights and four-stroke motors, taught me that in the sleep-bleared wash of midnight, if you could look, if you could really look, the highway’s stilled heartbeat lay shackled somewhere in the rebar and concrete. I can still hear his growl—“Just look, dammit, can’t you see it? Look harder, boy, harder yet, like you’re lookin’ into the river, like you’re tryin’ to make out a bluegill before it wriggles into the deep. See how there’s something beneath the lights, some slippery dark? Open your eyes, goddammit. Open your damn eyes.” And then, one day, the town of Marthasville vanished. The fescue lawns, the four-way stoplights, the 24-hour diner, the houses, scoured away by the night like an ocean tide. Sycamores shivered with dewed leaves where buildings once stood. Moonlight slipped across a highway as slick as glass, now a single lane, tumbling off the edge of the earth. Somewhere in that new darkness, a green heron lowed. I remember the look in granddad’s sharp blue eyes. “I knew you could see it,” he clapped my back. “I knew you weren’t bad blood. I knew you weren’t your dad.” Now granddad was dying. Blue eyes clouded with cataracts, his heart finally gave out. It took twenty minutes for grandma to set down the morning paper, ask him if he was alright, and call an ambulance. “We can’t take him,” Janet said. “If we don’t take him, nobody’s going to.” “I get that,” Janet said. “I get that your family’s a bunch of assholes and you’re the only one who cares. I’m not arguing that we shouldn’t take him. I’m telling you we can’t. We just had to buy groceries with food stamps, dammit. I never thought I’d buy groceries with food stamps.” She rubbed chapped knuckles across suddenly wet eyes. When we first started dating, it didn’t seem a night we weren’t on highway 94, wound like silvered wire through the Missouri river valley. It was an


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