The Kid was afraid but he refused to admit it. He held tight to the wheel with both hands. Even years later he could not bring himself to admit it. That would be the same as conceding defeat. How was he supposed to get where he was going that way? The wind had first started to growl with menace above the Arctic Circle, rising, falling, spreading out like a cluster bomb on the tundra. The wind was ancient, and the wind was here and now. The wind stripped carcasses, left dry bones. Gusts rocked his car with hammers and fists but he was not going to budge. Not now, not then, not ever. Of course the wolves howled alongside. In Saskatchewan and Alberta dogs joined in. The wind foamed from the jaws at the mouth of Lake Superior. Ships at the bottom rock and rolled like cranky old timers, not only the Edmund Fitzgerald. Trees in dark forests snapped like popsicle sticks. The wind cut and dismembered the electricity in Menominee. The assistant deputy on duty at the power plant had a heart attack. His wife had begged him to lose weight. It did no good. It never did. The wind shredded the plate glass window of a bratwurst factory in Racine. Raw, hideous meat oozed and sparkled. Sewage backed up in Peuwaukee, generators failed in Oshkosh, alternators in Prairie due Chien. Milk cows, winter wheat, barn roofs, all fell, and did not get up to beat the count. Then it began to really blow.
The Kid tapped his breaks lightly, careful not to skid on the ice. It was a bigger car than he was accustomed to driving, a green Plymouth Duster with a 443 cubic inch supercharged V-8 engine. He had stolen it earlier that afternoon from the driveway of a split level home in a suburb of Milwaukee. The cute family of four was warm inside eating Campbell’s tomato rice soup and grilled cheese sandwiches around the Christmas tree. The path ahead was as clear as it was going to be. He would park it right up front at the airport and mail the keys back to the owners. He had no problem paying off a debt. It was no big deal really. If it was truly a debt, that is. But threats and extortion was something else. No fucking way he deserved that. He was going where they’d never find him.
Until one day, he finally could. Admit it, that is. It wasn’t such a big deal anymore. Do or not, ebb and flow, but not only. Wisely, he reflected. Choose what makes a difference. Though not too close to any edge.
It took three hours to drive the ninety miles from Milwaukee to Madison. The wind had gained reinforcements on frozen Lake Mendota, on frozen Lake Monona, on frozen Lake Wingra that was cracking up. Trees were down all over town, pine trees, and birch trees, and red maples in the best of neighborhoods. Telephone service was spotty. The Capitol was deserted. The University of Wisconsin was shut up tight. The airport was closed. The stores were stripped of batteries, Marlboros, Meisterbraus, and corn flakes. Model citizens were preparing for the worst. The worst was surely coming. There was ebb and there was flow and then there was this.
The Kid stretched out on the floor of the airport terminal to wait. There was plenty of free parking. All he ever wanted to be most was free. He was confident he left no tracks to follow. Or such obvious tracks, why bother? How many cities was it in how many days? He mailed his letter with the keys wrapped inside. He enclosed cash and an apology. It couldn’t be helped. He believed that sincerely until he no longer did. The lights flickered but stayed on inside the terminal. He was not alone there. Others, too, had nowhere else to go. The building shook, but stayed put. The way he figured, he had it made.
The first flight took him to Minneapolis, and then Seattle. After that, only he would be in a position to know.