KYSO Flash
Knock-Your-Socks-Off Art and Literature
Issue 11: Spring 2019
Flash Fiction: 621 words

Why We Are Here

by Elizabeth Kerlikowske

I picked him up at the truck stop, as I was directed. “This isn’t just Earth,” I said to him. “This is the Midwest.” He made a little whirring sound I found delightful. “We wear flannel. Here, feel this.” I put my arm across him the way adults did when they slammed on the brakes back before seatbelts. He rubbed his cheek on it, I hoped it was his cheek, and said, “Srapsis.” I had to agree!

“When you come to the Midwest, it’s wise to bring clothes for every season. I can loan you something. This is winter. The white stuff is snow. It’s for getting stuck in and spinning your tires until you melt down to the pavement. We enjoy that as well as skidding in circles in empty parking lots, like that big one over there.” I pointed.

The neon light did not do my passenger any favors, and I loaned him a scarf and wrapped it around his head, I hope it was his head, so I wouldn’t have to look. He motioned with his finger, I hope, to pull in to a convenience store. I had to break it to him, “We’re going out to the country before we stop. How you look, city people think you’re going to rob them. In the Midwest we are trusty and wary at the same time.”

“Wusty?” he said.

“Oh haha, your first joke! Do you want to know about us or not?” I took a deep breath.

“We worship trees and like to turn our headlights off and drive by moonlight. We leave food out for the deer and drive past homeless people. We were raised by families who remembered the Depression and couldn’t throw out a thing. We are fat members of the clean plate club. The state bird is the robin, which is all wrong. I’ll show you one tomorrow, so ugly. We have state everything: I’m taking you to Petoskey so you can find your own state stone.”

He tugged at my sleeve with his, yeah, and wanted to ask a question. It went straight into my mind and I could read it like a fortune cookie fortune. “Do you have a supreme being?”

“We have The Supremes. I’ll play some for you later. They’re from Motown which is here in Michigan, an important state. There was a god here once, Manitoulin, who carved the world and put his hand on the globe to steady it. His hand print is here, where we live. He’s still alive but he’s hiding.”

A follow up fortune cookie split in my mind. “Where do you go when you die?” The window was really fogging up by him, but I didn’t want that scarf to come undone. I cracked his window and some scale things blew off. He screamed a little. “Sorry. We’re almost to the cabins. This is where I want to go when I die. It’s the place I was happiest.”

We turned off 131 and bounced down the logging road. My passenger, I could tell, was used to smoother flights. We turned the corner, took the road between the lakes, a cluster of cabins stained bark color. Midwest at its best: rivers, streams, water cress. “We don’t have to love all the animals, like that river otter eating its way through this lake, but we have to respect them.” My passenger flew through the door like a cartoon tornado after the river otter, devoured it, and sat back in the car, not exactly wet, licking some gore off its whatever. “Wow,” I said.

“I know,” he said, with an expression I had never seen before. “River otter is why we’ve come here.”


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