by Jake Christie

a story.

I held the urn fast to my chest, praying to whatever gods would listen that the cars rocketing down I-95 would respect the sanctity of the breakdown lane's white line. My legs clung to the reassuring metal of the guardrail as I sidestepped along the asphalt. Charlene's Volvo was parked with its hazard lights blinking twenty yards or so to my left; Charlene herself was half a dozen yards to my right, making her way down the breakdown lane with her head down, seemingly oblivious to the traffic.

“Charlene!” I shouted. “Remember when I said I wanted to do this? I changed my mind!” A pick-up truck nearly clipped the Volvo, and the driver laid on the horn as he careened past.

“Almost there!” she shouted back. She held up her phone. “The little red dot says so!”

“Maybe the map was wrong!” I yelled. I threw one leg over the guardrail so that I was straddling it, one foot on the pavement and one on the embankment. “Maybe the barn was over there,” I yelled, pointing into the spontaneous woods next to the road. “You know, not on the highway!”

Charlene stopped and planted both feet in the middle of the breakdown lane. She swung the phone through the air like she was looking for a signal or trying to see a hologram, then pocketed it. “This is it!” she yelled. She turned around, a smile stretching across her entire face. “This is where they knocked down Gramma's barn!”

I waddled along the guardrail, fighting the feeling that every other car was going to separate me from my toes. “Hooray for progress,” I muttered. A cigarette hit the pavement in front of me and bounced to a stop under the metal. It continued to smoke.

Charlene held out both of her hands, but as I approached I kept the urn to my chest. I'd become oddly protective, facing certain death myself every two to three seconds and all. “Are you sure this is where she'd want to be?” I said.

“She said she wanted to go back to the farm,” said Charlene. “This is the farm, for better or worse.”

Reluctantly I held out Gramma. “I'm not sure this is what she meant,” I said.

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