1619025973 (N) by Bernadette Murphy

1619025973 (N) by Bernadette Murphy

Author:Bernadette Murphy
Language: eng
Format: azw3
ISBN: 9781619027992
Publisher: Counterpoint
Published: 2016-03-31T21:00:00+00:00



But if you never did anything you couldn’t undo you’d end up doing nothing at all.

—ANNE TYLER, Ladder of Years

Day Five: Tuesday, August 27

Wall, South Dakota, to Albert Lea, Minnesota: 461 miles

The hotel clerk in Wall, South Dakota, amazes me. When we arrived late yesterday, hair plastered to our heads, a necklace of salt around our necks, holes burned into my textile armored pants from where my leg drifted too close to my exhaust, we looked as if we’d been through a battle. She, on the other hand, was the picture of cool leisure. Her hair coiffed to perfection, a blouse so crisp it appeared constructed of a fine-grade cardboard, her lipstick applied just so. Sure, she’d been sitting in the small air-conditioned hotel office while we’d been pounding out hard miles. Seeing her was like encountering a gorgeous hothouse flower in the midst of a refugee camp. I was aware for the first time of how bedraggled we’d become.

Her freshness inspired me. After dinner, I took out the Tide Pods I’d packed a week earlier after Rebecca had put me in charge of sundry supplies. She’d suggested the little self-contained detergent balls, rather than liquid detergent that might spill, or dry detergent that could dissolve if our luggage got soaked. I put my few things—underwear, socks, T-shirts—in the bathroom sink, filled it with water, and added one pod. I happily washed my things, anticipating that clean smell next to my skin.

The pod, though, was apparently made to wash an entire load of laundry. I washed and rinsed and washed and rinsed and still couldn’t purge the detergent’s slimy slickness. I showered, washed my hair, enjoyed the smell of a clean body, at least, as my clothes sat in yet another sink full of fresh water. And then I rinsed again. I finally had to put the clothes in the bathtub and add sufficient water until they were soap-free enough to hang dry. (Note to self: Next time, a little bar of soap rubbed on the clothes in the sink should suffice.)

We wake early in the morning, hoping to get a jump on the heat that promises to be brutal. We seem to have arrived in the plains states in the middle of one of the summer’s most intense heat waves. I go to the front office to check out the complimentary breakfast buffet. That same clerk is there, her face open and welcoming, a toothy bright smile, looking ready in case a camera crew should arrive at any moment. I am wearing clothes that, while not exactly dirty, qualify as less than clean. The things I’d washed last night aren’t yet dry. I examine the breakfast offerings: coffee that smells burnt and looks like sludge. Wilted Danish. Plain bagels, precut as if we needed instructions on what do with a bagel, are hardening in the morning heat.

“I’ll make the coffee,” I tell Rebecca when I return to our room empty-handed. “Have a Lärabar.


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