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Hitchhiking Across an Ancient Sea

Kristine Kathryn Rusch


The prairie grass, rich and tall and fine, tickles my chest as I walk. A child could get lost here. I’m six-eight, and I feel dwarfed by the endless vista of grasses, undulating in the breeze. The air smells fresh, like a sea breeze, and I wonder what Karen will think as she stands at the edge of the prairie, land stretching far as the eye can see.


***


The rain slanted sideways the day Nikki arrived, hard, pelting rain without chill, the kind of storm unique to the Pacific coast. I had just pulled my boat in—the day’s catch not quite what I expected—when she stopped in front of McIver’s Store.

She was driving a brand new Volvo, dark blue, obviously a tourist car because the paint-job wouldn’t have survived in the salt-laden air more than a month. Her legs were long, her hair dark and red, her eyes covered with sunglasses despite the darkness of the day. But it wasn’t so much her body I was looking at. It was the air of silence she carried around her, like a piece of fragile glass separating her from the world. Sylvia Plath called that glass a bell jar, and I hadn’t seen one since my mother’s shattered twenty-five years before.

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