by Zachary Michael Hester
I leaned off to the side against the furthest pillar of the Amtrak rails. I knew the Sandia mountains were covered somewhere behind the dead fog of Albuquerque December. I took to lighting the first cigarette of what I hope will be my last pack. An old lover had just told me she no longer felt for me. Out of eyesight I heard a bottle break, then laughter. Twenty or so feet down the track a man was phoning home, wherever that was. I could hear his conversation.
“Nah, I’m sick of it. Now she’s trying to keep me from seein’ my kids. Jamey’s old ’nough, he can fend for himself, Laney-Rae though, she’s my little girl. I can’t have that; she’ll end up on the streets just like her, just like her. I swear to God she will.”
Our van had broken down around seven this morning, some many states short of home. Abandoning it, we hitched our way a mile or so down the interstate in the snow, hoping to get ourselves out of the weather. This was not without incident. The first car that pulled over stopped some fifty feet ahead. We ran to meet it. Reaching for the door, we held hallelujahs on our tongues when the driver started hollering, hollering something wild, she had mad screams. I can’t say I understood it. I can’t say I understand much these days.
I was stubbing out the cigarette when I overheard the man’s conversation. Talks that moved back and forth between his little girl and scoring just a bit more smack. When he hung up, I let him pass first. He stopped, turning toward me.
“I gotta get my little girl back,” he said. I nodded.
I suppose I hope he don’t, though.