|you're great on the highway
He took the long way back to L.A..
He looked at all the maps for days - traced the fastest route (I-80 to I-15, I-15 to I-10, I-10 through traffic to home) and plotted out the best places to stop for the night - and then he chucked the mess of paper and state lines and speed limits into the backseat of his car and said fuck it.
Sidi panted happily out the passenger side window as he eased up the on-ramp for 80, and he tuned the radio to a station playing Zeppelin, loud, before he put his foot down on the gas.
... didn't even know pay phones still existed anymore. Aw, shit, was that the beep? Viggo, it's me. Orlando. I'm in, ah, um, I'm in Scottsbluff, Nebraska, with Sidi, and I'm just calling to É I'm going to drive back to L.A., me and Sidi, we're going to drive. From here. Well, she's not going to drive, she's a dog, but she's going to ride with me, while I drive. But I just wanted someone, you know, to know, in case Elijah thought I'd died, or something. So you know. If anybody ask. I'll, ah, I'll bring you a souvenir or something. That's all. Oh, and would you go by the house, if you can? I don't think the maid has been watering the plants. Thanks, mate. Later.
It shouldn't take two and a half days to drive across Wyoming, but even when he's speeding - he's taking the long route, and he stops for a beer that turns into eight, with the locals, and then he spends the night in a dirty motel that has a pretty girl behind the counter.
There are long stretches of Southern Wyoming where his car is the only one on the road - surrounded by tractor trailers or, in the case of a memorable 40 miles stretch, nothing at all. 40 miles and it's sky and scrubbly brush and him and Sidi and that's it, not even cops pulling him over for hitting 95 on the speedometer. It's hard to find radio stations for most of the time it takes him to go from Scottsbluff into the northern part of Utah, not that he can tell, because aside from the dirt getting sandier and the things that look like they might be cactuses getting more frequent, it all looks alike.
It's huge sky and static on the radio, and for three hours on Wednesday, he gets a crackling signal from a country station that sounded like it was broadcasting from sometime in 1967. He doesn't like country music much, but it sounds like the open air to him, so he leaves it there until it faded out.
Somewhere in Southern Wyoming
A strip of photos from one of those automatic booths - Orlando and Sidi, both looking a little dirty and a little tired and a lot happy. They arrive in Viggo's mail with a smeared postmark that used to say Wyoming, his address scrawled on the front in Orlando's bird's nest handwriting but, of course, no return address. In the first, only one of Orlando's eyes is visible - the rest of the photo is taken up by a dog's nose, eyes, teeth, panting tongue. The second, Orlando is grinning down at Sidi, ruffling her fur with his hands, which are nothing but a blur of motion. The third, Sidi licks a broad stripe across Orlando's cheek, his face screwed up in disgust and amusement under her tongue. The fourth, both Orlando and dog are looking straight at the camera, eyes unshuttered.
He spends three days in Salt Lake City, because it's the first big city that he gets to. It's not really even on his way, but the turnoff pulls him in, reels him closer to this strange place, before he even thinks about it. He eats home cooked meatloaf in a diner near the university, he takes Sidi up to swim in the lake, which smells like the ocean - it's strange, surrounded by the mountains and no ocean in sight, but the scent of salt heavy and sharp in his nose - he falls asleep on top of the comforter in a Days Inn with the television playing CNN late into the night.
He walks for hours through the city, strange streets and corners of the university campus, and because he is somewhere that no one expects for him to be, he is not mobbed - he is as anonymous in Utah as everyone else in this city.
Zion National Park, Utah
A postcard with a shot of the biggest bluff at Zion National Park on the front - the back says, "Dom says that Doodle once took acid here and tripped off his fucking ass. But I don't know for sure. Last night I smoked a joint at sunset and all the colors on the bluffs sort of ran together, like a really trippy painting. Sidi caught something small and furry that I didn't know what it was. It gets cold in the desert at night." The signature might be Orlando's name, and it might say "Fuck you". His handwriting leaves a lot to be desired.
He doesn't feel like spending money on a hotel, and it's not every day that he has the chance to sleep somewhere he can see stars, so he pays for a cheap parking space in the National Park instead. He opens the sunroof - moonroof, he thinks, staring up at the crescent hanging in the sky - and leans the passenger seat back as far as it will go and falls asleep with fresh air on his face and a thousand pinpoints of light burning on the back of his eyelids.
He wakes up at 4 AM, shivering violently, because the temperature has dropped sharply since the sun set completely. Sidi is curled around his feet, her snuffling breath warm on his legs. He stretches and sits up; the sky is still hours from dawn.
He crawls into the driver's seat, leather cold against his back even through his shirt, and the engine turning over rumbles up into the silence of the middle of nature like a giant monster.
He isn't tired, so he just starts driving.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Geez, Veeg, Vegas is something else, isn't it? Can you believe that people live here? I mean, not just, like, high rollers and stuff. Real people. They have a high school. And a university. The girl at the gas station told me that. Real people live under all these lights.
He doesn't stop in Vegas. Salt Lake City is one place, but Las Vegas is another, and he is not interested enough in slot machines to risk a mob on the sidewalks of the Strip. But he drives through it, down the center of the city, and he watches nameless, faceless people shove and stagger down the concrete. The flashing lights reflect off the glass of the windows, throw shadows of blue and green and red across his hands on the steering wheel. He guides the car through the slow traffic and closes his eyes when he stops.
The noise, the flash, the glitter burns across the backs of his eyelids as clearly as the sky in Utah.
Los Angeles, California
Viggo is destroying the garden when Orlando pulls into his driveway, car covered in mud. When he unfolds himself from the car, Sidi pushing out past his legs and bolting for Viggo, he's almost as muddy, and his dog is muddier.
Orlando stretches and Viggo can hear his back crack from where he stands. Viggo says, "How was Utah?"
Orlando says, "Lonely," and shoves past him, up the stairs to the porch and through the door. When Viggo finishes with the garden and walks inside, upstairs, Orlando is collapsed across most of Viggo's bed, dirty hair streaking mud across the pillows, sound asleep. He only stirs a little when Viggo sprawls beside him, mumbles something about the sky into the pillow and falls asleep again.
Author's notes: 1400 words. For cee, because she wanted to know why no one had written this yet. Orlando really did drive halfway across the country by himself last summer. This is still fiction, though. Title and summary from Girlyman, "Postcards from Mexico". ♥