Rick didn’t start panicking until he was 40 miles away from Flagstaff. He was now 20 minutes late for work and driving 80 miles per hour in the opposite direction. He intended to go to into the office as usual, but the moment he got behind the wheel and turned the key in the ignition; felt the horsepower at his command, he felt the overwhelming need to run away.
Without thinking, without calling, he got on the interstate east. He never left the fast lane. His ailing Jeep Cherokee coughed and struggled to maintain speed. In the rear view mirror, the San Francisco Peaks rose out of the flat desert to be shrouded by boiling monsoon storm clouds.
“Take It Easy” came on the radio as the first fat drops pelted the windshield. 15 miles to Winslow. Still, he kept running. He ran from the phone calls, the emails, the calendar reminders, the meetings, the endless work hours that dogged him from the office to his apartment and back.
The engine warning light blinked on and the oil temperature gauge spiked. Rick turned the A/C off to vent the excess heat, but he was losing power. Hot air swirled around his head.
He pulled into the slow lane and semis began to overtake him. Finally, he turned off onto the narrow, dusty shoulder, but only when steam began to rise off the hood with every raindrop. The Jeep ground to a stop.
Rick got out of the car and stood on the edge of the highway. Cold summer rain pelted his sweat-stained dress shirt and trucks kicked up long plumes of water, but he was unfazed. No one could reach him here, 10 miles from Winslow. The black clouds over the Peaks looked like a rising apocalypse to him. But to the east, beyond Holbrook and the Petrified Forest, blue skis beckoned.
He popped the hood and let the rain calm the engine’s fire while he sat on a rock, listening to the static hiss of the radio and watching the clouds drift.
— 30 —
I’m a writer and photographer in Flagstaff, AZ. You can follow my exploits on the Twitter machine at @jonnyeberle. Please feel free to leave a comment. Have you ever wanted to run away?