A Wrong in the World: New Story

Another story from I’m Here: Alaska Stories. This one is called A Wrong in the World. It’s about the romance of escape and the lethargy of responsibility. It’s also about Othello. Sort of. But that comes in later. Here are the first few paragraphs.

We had driven across British Columbia and through Resurrection Bay and all that time my mother kept reminding me that we weren’t running, we weren’t escaping, we were going someplace, and when we got there all the hardship would be worth it. This was nineteen seventy-seven and half of the gas stations along the Alaska Highway were closed and the rest were charging crazy prices. She had begun paying with balled dollar bills and change and once just before the border—I remember this distinctly—she filled the tank, gunned the engine, and laughed as she peeled out onto the main road. “Stealing is wrong, Daniel,” she told me. “There are a lot of things that are wrong. Your father might say that this whole adventure is wrong. But sometimes you have to do those wrong things anyway. The best you can do is make it up somewhere else along the line.”

I looked up in the rearview at the gas station growing smaller and smaller. A human figure emerged, hands on its hips, and watched us go.

Her brother worked in Seward on the boats and I think she was hoping he’d have some money for us once she reached him. After, she said, she had helped him out many times when he was down and out. “Remember that time when he came with us for a few weeks in the winter? We didn’t tell you this then, of course, but he was getting out of his own bad situation. Remember your father pouring wine down the drain before he got there?”

“I don’t,” I said, which was the truth.

“Well,” she said. “He did.”

We camped so close to the road that sometimes the headlights of passing cars woke me up in the middle of the night. I was fourteen then and she joked that in a couple of years I’d be ready to work right alongside my uncle. “It’s not dangerous work if you know what you’re doing,” she said. “Better than selling cars. People should take risks, don’t you think, Daniel?”

“I think so,” I said. “I think you’re probably right.”

I was imagining my father at the dealership waiting for people to come on the lot so he could jog out of the building and tell them all about the new Chryslers and Chevrolets. I wondered if he was at work right at that moment. Time had gotten all mixed up and it shocked me to realize I didn’t even know what day it was or what time it might be back there in Colorado Springs where my father possibly sat at his desk watching out through the glass wall of the building at the expanse of shiny cars and potential customers.


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