A fictional short story about a married couple.
As we shimmy and rattle down the highway I recite a silent prayer that we will make it to our destination. Periodically, I glance to the side mirror looking for any stray parts that might have clanked loose. My husband, James tries to look calm and confident. After 40 years of marriage, I know his two-handed grip on the steering wheel is a sign of his wavering doubt.
I'm along for the ride. It's not my dream to travel the countryside, especially in a 1988 Motorhome. James is not well traveled, never been on an airplane he prefers the open road.
As he looks over at me he says "Try and relax, read your book. Don't worry, I got this."
He's dying, not metaphorically like we all are dying. He doesn't think I know. It's lung cancer. When he first began to show signs of illness I looked it up, what was causing the weight loss, constant cough, weakness, shortness of breath.
As hard as anyone could he tried to quit. Hypnosis, patches, pills, vaping but he's a smoker. That's his nasty little mistress. She was around when I met him so maybe that actually makes me his mistress. He smokes on the sly, behind the shed, out back in the woods or goes for a drive. I wonder how he will hide it now we'll all be cohabitating in a small space?
We put our possessions in storage, bought this hunk of metal and set out for an adventure. The campgrounds I've selected are in close proximity to a hospital or clinic. At some point, James will become too ill to drive. We're trying to make it to Washington State. James will love the mountains. The sight of an Elk or Moose will put him over the moon in happiness. It doesn't take much, he's a simple man with simple needs, enjoys simple pleasures.
" We will need to fill up on gas soon," James says.
"Okay, there's an exit three miles up," I answer.
As we turn into the lot the rotors and rods whine and squeak in protest. The shocks bounce and rock making me feel like the whole monstrosity will topple over. The motor backfires a black cloud of smoke sending a few startled and disgusted stares our way. James chuckles. His eyes are smiling, he's happy.
We both take off in the direction of the store. I leave James in my wake. My first stop is the restroom and then I will get a few provisions. When I come out of the store I don't see James anywhere. I look off to the side of the building where I spot a plume of gray, acrid smoke. I trudge forward, managing not to go over there, vent my frustration and distaste. I take a few deep breaths. We have so little time left.
James finally gets back into the driver's seat. He's whistling. I hand him a roll of Breath Savers and a Pepsi. His smile reaches his eyes. "Thank you, dear," he says.
We rumble and clatter back on the highway leaving in our wake a sooty billowing halo. The radio is playing Tim McGraw, "Just to see you Smile." James and I sing together the chorus. "I'll do anything just to see you smile..." I hold back the tears and think to myself I'm glad I get the chance!