Turn Left Past Prairie Bend
It was a town that time forgot. That was what Mick Fogarty was thinking, as he drove into the little town of Prairie Bend, just off the interstate. He told himself he needed gasoline and directions. He didn’t want to admit the sign on the highway intrigued him– ‘A Place Beyond Belief.’ Mick Fogarty appreciated things ironically.
But it was not irony he felt as he drove down the main street, past the hardware store and the bank. He had no words for the feeling that washed over him that summer afternoon. It was a complex feeling, a feeling of nostalgia for something that he had never known. It was like a dark cloud covered the sun.
The gas station attendant only added to Mick’s inexplicable sadness. The name on his shirt said “Ray” and though Mick hadn’t seen him before, there was something familiar about the man. He seemed so calm and easygoing, at peace with the world. Maybe that was it. Mick didn’t feel that way himself.
“I saw the sign,” Mick explained. “Where can I find that place?”
“You can’t miss it,” Ray grinned. “Just turn left at the edge of town.”
By the trailer park, Mick saw the sign, but there was only an empty field. A girl in shorts and a t-shirt was hanging laundry on a line.
“Can I help you?” She smiled that same friendly smile. Her blue eyes looked familiar, too.
“Do I know you?’
“Why sure. I’m Mary. Or Louise. Or whoever you want. I’m sorry. I’m new at this. Who were you looking for?”
“Actually, I was looking for this place.” Mick pointed to the sign.
“Oh that. You just missed it. Or you could be early. Maybe tomorrow? Yes, tomorrow. Why don’t you come back then?”
“Right.” Mick got back in the car. “Be seeing you.”
What a joke, he thought. He drove back the way he had come. The gas station attendant waved as he passed, but Mick just kept on driving. As he headed to the highway, he noticed a car that looked a lot like his, in the ditch by the side of the road.
Voimaoy lives on the western rim of Chicago, near the expressway and the Blue Line trains. Her writing can be found online at Paragraph Planet, Visual Verse, 101 Fiction and Unbroken Journal. Follow her on Twitter, too— @voimaoy