Him, her and the moose sighting…or lack thereof

“Goodbye South Dakota. I feel like I’ve slept through the entire state.”

“You kinda did,” he replied. Now it was his turn. She was finally behind the driver’s wheel, a rare occasion, and he would finally be able to allow the lull of the old van rock him back and forth to sleep. He unbuckled his seat belt and climbed into the back and started setting up his bed.

“You can’t sleep now!” she said looking nervously into the rearview mirror.

“That’s what I’m doing though,” he replied continuing in his activity.

“You’re just going to leave me to fend for myself?” She paused for a moment. “Wait, where are we even going?”

“Well the plan was Nebraska -”

“Why would we want to go to Nebraska?”

“Like I was saying, the plan was Nebraska, but we could go somewhere else.”

“Ok, where? And you better get back up here because if you don’t we might end up in Arizona or something. Mexico even.”

He stopped what he was doing and looked to the front of the van. Should this have been a movie, a computer generated light bulb would have appeared above his head, turning on and burning bright as the ideas became stronger.

“Let’s go south,” he said.

“How far south?”

“As south as we want to go. We’re driving through Wyoming right now. So let’s drive through and go to Colorado. We’ll stay there for a week. Then we’ll go to New Mexico, maybe stop in Mexico for a little bit. Then we’ll make our way back up through Arizona to California -”

“To Oregon and finally Washington!” she finished.

“It’s perfect really. I’m tired of seeing corn fields and cows. If I wanted that I would have stayed at home.”

“We live like two hours away from that scene though.”

“Still -”

“Alright, alright,” she said finding confidence. “Go ahead and sleep -”

“Was going to anyway,” he interjected. She ignored him and continued talking.

“And I’ll just follow signs for Colorado. Hey! Let’s go to the Tetons!”

“Sounds good to me,” he replied. The bed was made and was already laying down.

“It’ll be a great photo opportunity, and maybe we can do some hiking, and -”

“Mmhmm.” His head was hitting the pillow.

“And maybe we can find a great diner or something with good pie!”

“Sounds good…” he trailed off. In seconds he was asleep.

“This’ll be great! I love this new plan. We might have to sell some photos or something along the way, just to make some more money for food and gas. What do you think of that?” When there was no answer, she looked into the rearview mirror and found him sleeping soundly, even snoring a little bit.

“Well alrighty then,” she said to herself. “This is good. I can do this.”

He woke up with a jolt and discovered the van had stopped. He was also freezing despite the two layers of blankets he had on top of him. There was little light coming into the van. When he looked out the window he thought it was maybe early morning around 5:30 or 6:00. Then he took in the rest of his surroundings. Huge beautiful mountains covered in snow filled the landscape from window pane to window pane and beyond. He looked around for his traveling companion but couldn’t find her in the driver’s seat. He looked to his other side and found her sitting on the edge of the van, drinking something. It smelled like coffee. And not the crappy stuff they were forced to make some mornings.

“How long have I been out? And is there more of whatever you’re drinking?”

“Nine hours, and yes. I got it from the ranger’s station a mile down the road.” She handed him a cup and he took a long satisfying sip. It was creamy, strong, and “magically delicious,” he said. This brought a slight chuckle out of her.

“So I see we made it to the mountains. What time is it by the way?”

“It’s about 6:00 in the morning.” She turned toward him and started laughing. “Hey. You wanna know something hilarious?” She had exaggerated the syllables in the last word, making it sound like this was something he may not enjoy hearing.

“Sure,” he said cautiously.

“Grand Teton National Park isn’t in Colorado.”

“Right, it’s in Wyoming. I could have told you that.”

“Well you didn’t. And now that’s where we are.” Yelling, she added, “WE’RE STILL IN WYOMING!” There was a distant bird call in response to her anger.

“Ok,” he said slowly. “Well, that’s alright. We’ll just stay here for a day or two. Maybe three and then we’ll head down to Colorado.”

“There’s a problem. The finances are running low.”

“How low.”

“We need to start selling things.”

He was even more cautious with his next response. “What kind of things?”

She looked at him as if to say, seriously? “I’m not suggesting our bodies dummy.”

“What have I told you about calling me a dummy?!”

“I’m sorry, but I’m really upset about this!”

He cooled down. They didn’t need for both of them to be angry. “Ok, so what do you suggest?”

“Well I have my camera. And there’s a diner about five miles away that looked promising for potential customers. We’ve been taking pictures all summer and we can take pictures here. Maybe try to get some wildlife shots or something to mix it up. Or! We could take portraits! Yeah, we’ll set up a little studio outside or something, and we’ll charge people to take their portraits.”

He thought about this for a moment. That actually didn’t sound half bad.

“That doesn’t sound half bad,” he said. He wondered why they hadn’t been doing this earlier.

“Why haven’t we been doing this earlier?” he asked.

“No idea! It’s brilliant, but I guess we didn’t have the pressure to come up with it.”

“Alright, we can do this. Is your camera film or digital.”

“You’ve been using it all summer and you don’t know this by now?”

He looked at her, waiting.


“Good. We’ll take a few photos of each person. I can load them onto my laptop -”

“Why not mine?”

“Mine’s faster. And I have an external hard drive.”


“And we’ll let the people look at them. But first we need to find a good photo center.”

“Ooh! There’s one online! And they offer matting and framing too! We can have our customers watch us and choose the specifics on each order and we’ll have them pay for shipping and handling – no, wait. I just signed up. I get free shipping and handling for a year with this company! Perfect. So they pay us cash and then they pay for the matting and framing if they want and they can watch us type in their address. Then the photos will be shipped straight to them!”

“This is brilliant,” he said grabbing her face and giving her a quick kiss on the lips. “Brilliant!” He was beaming. She was taken off guard.

“What was that for?”

“For the stroke of genius you just had,” he said slightly ruffling her hair. He went to work putting away the bedding and went outside to freshen up and go to the bathroom. She could only sit there. She was still only sitting there when he returned five minutes later.

“Ready?” he asked her putting away his toiletries.

“Hmm? Oh, right. Yeah, let’s get started.” She dug around for her camera materials and started setting up. “I want to get in a few test photos first and I figured we could um, we could walk around or something…”

“A mini hike? Sounds good to me.”

She finished putting the camera together and started walking. He followed closely behind. He knew what he did had taken her off guard and probably confused her. But it was all he could do to not look frazzled by his actions and break down and start apologizing. He had to keep it cool. They just had to finish this road trip and then maybe, just maybe he could tell her. But it was possible that she would bring it up. That was just the type of person she was. He’d be shocked if she didn’t bring it up later in the day. He watched her stop along the way and find different things to take photos of, taking a few seconds to look at the picture on her camera, judging if she should retake it or not. She still looked puzzled and he knew that this was probably eating away at her. He couldn’t let her go on like this for three more weeks. It would be cruel. If she didn’t bring it up within a day, he would. He’d tell her. And he wouldn’t be shy about it. He’d be direct. And if it really screwed things up, he’d purchase the plane tickets himself and they’d go home and probably never talk again. But he’d hate that. He would really hate that. Maybe he should just bring it up now. Yes, now is as good a time as ever.

He started to speak when she turned to him and said, “Ok, I think I’m done here. We should go check out that diner. Maybe even try and find the nearest town so we can get more customers.”

Maybe this wasn’t eating away at her. Maybe she was fine after all. Now he was confused. “Ok, sure. If you’re ready.”

“I am.” And she started walking.

They made it back to the van quickly. She got in the driver’s seat, he in the passenger’s. She started the van and turned it around, driving back down toward the diner. She was silent. She didn’t even bother to put the music on and he was afraid to ask about it. So he remained silent as well, looking out the window and occasionally he took small glances in her direction. Her expression was stoic as she looked straight ahead, as if she had a target and wasn’t going to let anything distract her. Not even the moose that appeared on his side of the road about fifty yards away from them. He decided now was not the time to bring anything to her attention. Not the moose. And definitely not his feelings toward her.


Him, her and the summer solstice

“Hey! It’s almost 1:00, you’re gonna have to start looking for a spot to pull over!”

“And why am I doing this?” His voice was strained. It had been a rough night with his driving companion sick and unable to take the wheel so he could sleep. She was still sniffling and consuming the majority of the tissues, stuffing the used rags into the plastic bag they had positioned between their seats.

“Because! At 1:16, the sun will be at the highest spot it can reach in the sky. At least from earth’s perspective. And then at 1:17, it’s going to slowly go south, which means winter is on it’s way once again.”

“But that’s the fact of life. That happens every year and you’ve never made a big deal about it before.”

“I know, but it just hit me this year that this is the point when winter is on the move.”

“Isn’t that a line from the Chronicles of Narnia?”

“I hate winter. Sure it makes me appreciate summer, but I still hate it. Yes, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe I believe. Anyway, we need to at least pull over for a minute and take the time to revel in the peak of summer!”

“Alright. I’ll pull over…if…you take the wheel when we get back on the road.”


The two drove along the seemingly abandoned highway until they found a good spot to pull over. But really any spot would have been fine. She jumped out of the car like a five year old running toward the ice cream stand in the park. He pulled himself away from the steering while and driver’s seat and gave a loud yawn to the open sky, stretching until he almost got a charlie horse in his left leg. He quickly retracted his stretch and walked over.

“Ok, 1:15. One more minute! You know, we should probably grab the sunglas – ”

Before she could finish her sentence, he held out her pair of sunglasses. She smiled sheepishly and took them. They took small, short glances toward the sun, smiling, sweating, swatting away the bugs hungry for their UV burnt flesh. She looked at her watch.

“1:16! Happy summer solstice!”

“Happy summer solstice,” he mumbled. But he couldn’t keep himself from smiling. He looked over to her and found her smiling back. Then her face immediately turned. She found and looked around, worried. She quickly turned her back and ran a few feet away. He heard the heaving and liquid hitting the dry ground as he walked around the van and slowly climbed back into the driver’s seat with a heavy sigh.

Photograph by Georgi Licovski, European Pressphoto Agency

Him, her and Bloom

“You ready?” she asked.

“Ready for what?”

“Start the van!”

“Oh, right.” He stuck the key into the correct position and turned it slowly for a more dramatic effect. The van came to life.

“Good boy, Bloom,” she said rubbing the steering wheel.

“We talked about this, we’re not naming this van Bloom.”

“You didn’t have any other options and we cannot start this trip without having a name for him.”

“Well why is it a ‘him’?”

“Because his name is Bloom.”

“And remind me why its name is Bloom again?”

The Brothers Bloom.”

“I’ve never heard of it.” That was a lie. He just did not want to admit it because if he did, then he’d be acknowledging her love for the actor who played Bloom. And he really did not want to do that.

“Well I recommended it to you. You know, the brothers who are con men trying to swindle this woman out of all her money?”

“Vague recollection. Anyway, he’s Bloom for now. But don’t get attached to the name! Now, can we please go over the checklist?”

She turned to him with a dead look on her face. “We’ve gone over it three times.”

“Only two times. And three times the charm.”

“You only want to go over it again because you can’t stand even numbers.”


“Alright, alright.” She did her best to hide a smile turning up from the corner of her mouth as she grabbed the checklist.

Five minutes later they had finished it after running back into the house only once.

“I knew that’d be a good idea,” he said as he reached for his iPod. Luckily, she had found a van with a new stereo system installed. It went against the classic road trip rules, but it was a luxury he was grateful to have. A week ago the two of them had spent the entire day composing several road trip playlists, each one specialized to the type of road they were driving on and/or the time of day. He chose the playlist for getting out of the city. He grabbed his cup of coffee from the cup holder she had built for the trip, took a sip, and returned it to its holder. He let out a big sigh while placing his hands firmly on the wheel and looking straight in front to the end of the driveway.


“Go,” he replied putting the van into gear. They slowly rolled down the driveway and turned in the direction of their road trip.

“Que bueno,” she said taking her coffee.

“Con queso,” he replied completing the joke.

She quickly rolled down her window and pumped her fist into the air, “Si!” she cried.


Him, her and the book list

“I need to go to the bookstore and library before we leave,” she said somewhat absent-mindedly looking out toward the street from inside their favorite coffee shop.

“But you already have a ton of books,” he reminded her.

“Yes, but I’ve read most of them. And there might be one or two that I’ll take with me from my own collection, but I need new books,” she replied turning her attention to him as he sipped his dry latte. She continued to pick at her croissant with Nutella. That was one thing she loved about this cafe; it was one of the few that served true European style croissants and Nutella. Il est parfait, she thought. She watched the cars and people go by the window and thought about the time she had been in Stratford, Canada. This particular street reminded her of that town and it’s European architecture. So far, that town, this street, and her croissants were the closest thing she had to Europe. She’d go someday, hopefully.

“Anyway, there are a lot of really great books that have been coming out recently,” she told him. “I’ve been reading some great reviews and they all sound like must-haves for a road trip.”

“Ok, so tell me some of them,” he said.

“Well, one that’s not so recent is Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar – ”

“Why would you want to read that?”

“Why not? I don’t know. Well, I was talking to one of my friends who really likes Plath and I found the book for really cheap at a used book store, so I bought it and figured it was a good summer book.”

“Alright,” he said slightly giving in. He still would not understand the fascination women had with Sylvia Plath, except for the fact that she killed herself by sticking her head in the oven, and women didn’t even really focus on that part. Maybe they could talk about it during the road trip. “What else is on your list?”

“Don’t mock me -”

“Never,” he joked.

“But, I picked up Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.”

“Isn’t that a children’s book?”

“Possibly, but ever since I saw the movie and discovered it was adopted from a book, I wanted to read it. And, well I was browsing through the young adult section at the library and found it. I figured, why not?”

“It’s adapted, not adopted. And you were in the young adult section?”

“Don’t tell me you’ve never gone over there? There are actually a lot of good books in that section. And I remembered a lot of books I read at that age and thought I’d try to find them.”

“Ok, ok. Any other books?”

A Wrinkle in Time by – ”

“Madaleine L’Engle. Go figure. Others?”

“You’re mocking. You better watch yourself or I’ll read everything out loud in the van.”

“Only if you want me to fall asleep at the wheel and die in a fiery death along with me,” he retorted.

“Whatever. Well I also heard about this book called The Paris Wife or something like that. It recently came out and I thought I’d check that one out too. Oh, and Leaving Van Gogh sounded really good. I saw a post about it on Twitter from Random House. And that’s it for now. Maybe some John Steinbeck. I’ve still never read Of Mice and Men. But I did just see pictures of him when I was looking up some of his other titles. He wasn’t a bad lookin’ guy.”

“That’s irrelevant to me.”

“Well, what if you’re looking for a guy to model yourself after, you know? To find out what looks good and what doesn’t. What if other girls have seen pictures of John Steinbeck and thought he was handsome. Wouldn’t you want to find out what makes him handsome so you could make some of the same fashion decisions he did?”

“I’m pretty sure the 1950s are over.”

“I’m just sayin’.”

“My own fashion choices haven’t failed me.”

“That’s what you think.”


“Never mind. Are you ready to go? Do you want to go to the bookstore with me? Oh, and I was thinking about going to the paper store too to buy some stationary or a journal. Wait, no. I’ll make another journal. But they do have those old fashioned ink pens and inkwells there. I think I’ll get those. Oh man, this is going to be a great summer!” She got up from her seat and grabbed her sweater and bag. He followed suit, patting his pant pockets to make sure he had everything. Two mismatched coffee cups not entirely emptied and one plate of a two-thirds eaten croissant with Nutella were left on the table by the window facing the front street.






Him, her and chinese take-out

She was quickly getting frustrated with her paper crane attempt when he walked in from the kitchen.

“Hey,” he said digging into her pint of Ben and Jerry’s Boston Creme Pie ice cream.

“Hey,” she replied distracted.

“What are you working on?”

“Blasted origami,” she replied as she threw it down on the floor next to her. “I’ve been working on this stupid paper crane since this afternoon!”

“Here, let me see it.”


“Why not?”

“Because the minute you pick up that piece of paper, I’m gonna be lookin’ at a paper crane in less than five minutes…I can’t handle that right now.”

“But I’ve never done origami before.”

“It doesn’t matter. That’s just the way you are. You’re so blasted good at everything, this is just another thing you’ll be able to add to your list of accomplishments. Gimme that,” she said when she noticed the pint of dessert in his hands. She grabbed it and began scooping the bits of pound cake, cream filling and chocolate bits into her mouth.

With her attention focused on the ice cream, he took the unnoticed time to grab the paper crane and instruction manual. Each held a strong concentration on their tasks, not taking notice of the other. She began to hum to herself and he, knowing the song, joined in with the harmony part. Still, neither took notice. By the time she had finished what was left of the dessert, he had completed the paper crane. They both looked up in time to take in each other’s accomplishments.

“Blast,” she said.

“Sorry,” he replied.

“Oh well. You can teach me how to make one on our road trip.”

“Speaking of…are we going to plan this thing tonight?”

“Yes. Give me a few minutes. I’ll order the take-out. You go grab the planner, map and calculator from my work room.”

“What do we need a calculator for?”

“To budget.”

“She says as she goes to order the take-out,” he mumbled as he walked away laughing to himself.

“It’s just necessary to have take-out when planning something like this,” she called from the kitchen. He could never understand how she was able to hear him when he mumbled. She was so hard of hearing with other people, but every time a word was muttered under his breath, she picked up on it. And sometimes she’d say something, and sometimes she wouldn’t. He recalled a wedding they had gone to a couple years ago. At the reception they were both speaking with the bride’s brother. The brother had made a comment that gave him good reason to mumble. As the brother walked away, all she could do was nod in agreement to what he had supposedly only said to himself.

He entered the work room, a tidy room but filled with piles of papers neatly organized. Somehow she was able to keep everything and make it look like she barely had anything at all. Well, at least in this room. The rest of the house was filled with mismatching furniture, piles and piles of books, CDs, movies, antique figurines and paintings. And yet it all looked perfect. He loved spending time in this house because he was able to be himself here. At work he had to be professional, at the gym he was Mr. Buff, at dinners with friends he was the guy who pleased everyone else. Here, he was just himself. Which he figured he didn’t really know what it meant to be himself because he didn’t know who that was. But it was something in this house. He just had to figure out what.

He quickly found the planner and the map and took a few extra minutes searching for the Ti calculator she had had since high school. He finally found it buried deep in one of the Ikea organizational boxes on the shelf.

Back in the living room, he found her holding the paper crane, turning it over and over while looking puzzled and frustrated.

“No, you cannot take it apart.”

“Awe, why not?”

“Because I worked hard on that.”

“Yeah, well you weren’t even supposed to make it.”

“I’m ending this particular conversation now and changing the subject. I have the map, planner and calculator, which I had to dig for and finally found it, but don’t worry, I made sure everything was put back as it was.”

“Good. The delivery guy should be here in about ten minutes.”

“Whadja order?”

“Sweet and sour with fried rice, the steamed dumplings with a side of white rice, and two egg roles.”

“Perfect. So should we wait for the food, or start planning?”

“Well I think if we grab ourselves a drink then we can start planning before the food gets here.”

“Alright. Two drinks it is. In the fridge?”


He walked into the kitchen and grabbed two drinks from the fridge, opening them both with the help of the front tail of his shirt. He handed her one and took a long sip of his and sat down on the floor opposite her.

“So where are we headed first?”

“Well,” she said unfolding the map and studying it. “I thought we could start with Boston. We’ll grab some Boston Creme Pie, try and get into one of the baseball games, visit an Irish pub and try to get everyone in it to join in ‘Sweet Caroline’ or something, then head for New York City. Then Chicago for the concert. And we must make sure we get the deep dish pizza this time,” she added pointing her finger on the map to emphasize each word.

“Right. How long in each city?”

“Mmm, maybe three or four days in Boston, a week in New York, the weekend in Chicago, and then use time after that to take our time getting to the west coast.”

“Sounds good. We should try and get on Route 66 for a little bit. Maybe not the entire way, but part of it. We can see if there are any cool diners with good blueberry pie.”


There was a knock at the door. She went to answer and pay for the food. When she returned he had already grabbed the two pairs of chopsticks she had received from her younger brother when he had gone to Japan. They opened the little boxes with the red dragons printed on the sides and started eating, continuing to talk about their plans. There were a few arguments about which roads to take, whether they should really pay attention to what roads they were taking, and what cities to visit. Eventually they settled on the majority of the trip’s plans and decided they would talk about the rest once they had started their trip. They said good night to each other and he left for his one bed, one bath, tiny kitchen apartment in the city and she to her full size bed in her lavender bedroom.

Him, her and a 1967 VW van.

“Summer is well under way now, or at least a week into it. And I’ve got BIG plans,” she said with gusto and a fist pump to the unsuspecting air.

“Oh yeah? Like what?”

“Well…” she smiled coyly at him. Or at least she thought it was coy until he said something.

“What is that face? What are you trying to do? Is that…is that coy?” He couldn’t help but laugh. This was absurd. What could she possibly have planned for this time? Every summer was the same. Stay at home, work, swim, occasionally babysit or house sit. He sat down, crossed one leg over the other and folded his hands in his lap with a look on his face that said This is going to be amusing, but please, do continue. She took no notice and she moved around the tiny kitchen, her thrifted floral print dress swaying with every movement.

“Coy, no. What? Anyway, this summer…” she took a big breath before continuing. “I’m going to travel across the country!”

The amused look on his face dropped. “Seriously?”

“Yeah! It’ll be great! I’ll work on my writing, live out of an old VW van…I’ll be the next Jack Kerouac, just with different body parts.”

He was astounded. She had never done anything like this. “What about money? Food. Comfortable sleeping? Showering? You hate going without showers.”

“Well I have some money. And I’ll be working a few more weeks before leaving. So I’ll use most of that for gas and food. And showering, well I’ll figure that out as I go. I’m sure there’ll be creeks and stuff along the way.”

He reiterated his point. “But you hate going without showers.”

“I know. But I’m trying something different.” She sounded pleased with herself. Then another idea came to her. A wide Cheshire cat grin appeared on her face. “Wanna come?”

“Uh, no,” he said very matter-of-factly, slightly scared of the grin that continued to get wider. How is that possible?

“Oh come on. It’ll be great! The writer and the artist. Oooh, we should invite other people. Like a chef. Who do we know that can cook? Oh and someone who knows a lot of useful things about plants and stuff.”

You can cook well and I majored in plant biology before art. But that’s besides the point. Listen, this is crazy! What drove you to do this?”

“Well I never do anything excited for the summer. While everyone’s off on an island or meeting celebrities – ”

“Ok, who do we know that met a celebrity?”

“Jen met that one guy from that soap opera.”

“No one watches that. He’s barely famous…”

“Whatever. I’m tired of spending my summers doing the same thing! I wanna go see the country, meet fascinating people in grungy diners with really great pie and coffee.”

“But you make great pie and coffee! Why can’t you just stay in your own kitchen?”

“Listen. I’m leaving in a few weeks. I’ve already got the van. I’m eating the bare minimum so I can save the food and the money I would have spent on the food, and it’ll be great! We’ll get a tent and some tiny mattresses and we’ll sleep under the stars. Ooh, see the mountains! Come with me!”

He could only sit there. His leg now uncrossed and both feet firmly on the floor. It’s not that he wasn’t the adventurous type, but to hear this from her was unfathomable. But why shouldn’t he go? If anything, she’d need someone to protect her from eating the wrong plant, going into the wrong diner, parking the van on the wrong side of the road.

“Ok. Ok. Let’s say I do go on this trip – ”

“Ah! I knew it! You couldn’t resist the call of the wild!”

“First of all, it’s not the wild. It’s the open road. Second, I’m speaking hypothetically right now.”

“Ok, ok. Continue.” But she couldn’t keep the grin off her face. She knew she had won him over. There was just one last detail she had to convince him on.

“Where would we go? How long? Do you have any sort of destination in mind?”


She paused for a second.

“Well?” he asked.

“I wanna end up somewhere on the west coast.”



“Portland? And that’s where I’m out.”

“Please?! I just don’t know why you hate Portland so much.”

“Well it could be due to the fact that she lives there.”

“Portland’s a big city,” she said innocently. “We’ll probably never run into her. It won’t be so bad. Maybe she’ll have moved too by the time we get there.”

“What’s in Portland, anyway?”

“Only the greatest food and music festival ever! So I thought I’d spend the entire summer getting there.”

He thought about it for what seemed like years. She started fidgeting.

“Stop fidgeting,” he said.


He thought some more. The second hand ticked past the numbers and notches, getting louder for her with each tock. Finally he stood up. He walked over to the fridge, opened it, and grabbed a drink. He took a long sip before finally speaking.

“Alright. I’ll go.”

“Yes! It’ll be great! I promise. We’ll start planning tomorrow!” She walked over to him and gave him a bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. She smiled, took his drink and walked out to her apartment balcony to finish it. He sighed, grabbed another drink and went outside to join her.