You're riding along a back-country road towards Dunnsville Virginia. It's
mid-June, 1952. Peering out the side window from the right-hand back seat of
Dad's dusty green Buick, nose against glass, you're bored and itchy from the
long ride. Dreaming of the lazy Rappahannock, three miles wide at the summer
place. Lindan, named after you and your sister. She teases you that it has all
the letters of her name and just the last of yours. Anticipation is no longer
enough to make you forget car cramps and stir craziness that wind up an 8 year
old on the long ride from Richmond. You argue. It's three-letters each. You're
Ahead in the tall grass along the roadside, you see a red sign with white
letters. The steel sign is about three feet long and eight inches high,
fastened to a steel fence post driven into the sandy roadside. You can't make
out the weathered lettering. As you get closer you read it.
DRIVERS WHO SPEED
That's all it says. You wonder, chin hard against door sill. It makes no sense.
The fields are filled with watermelons and sandy vines beaten bright by the
sun. The melons are almost black. Fat. Silent Buddas. Sometimes hand-lettered
signs offer them for sale. Five cents. Those signs you understand. This one ...
you are stopped in space and time. A mile of grass and hot watermelons pass you
Suddenly ahead you spy a second red sign, the same shape as the first. This one
leans crazily towards the road. It's fainting in the heat. Interested now you
strain to make out the words before Linda reads it aloud.
TOO FAST DOWN THIS ROAD
Oh! It's a message, broken across miles of steaming summer road. Excited now
you watch carefully, anticipating, staring intently through the heat waves
shimmering up from country asphalt.
Another mile. There! Nailed to a huge old oak tree, always on your side of the
road, white letters on red:
WON'T GET WHAT THEY NEED
You're in the rhythm of the trip. Imagination compresses miles. Dust billows
up behind the Buick while you work out what might be the next rhyming line. A
mile. A minute to rhyme. Seed. Bead. Succeed. Bleed? Toad. Blow'ed. A
great game. Fantastic! There it is! The whole family is reading.
AND MIGHT WRECK THEIR LOAD!
Dad slows down a bit. It's an agreeable change since the kids are quiet for a
reads the last sign.
Forty years later, dust, heat, and watermelons in mind, you can see the red
and white signs. And you know about time compressed.
InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.InspectAPedia tolerates no conflicts of interest. We have no relationship with advertisers, products, or services discussed at this website.
This article series contains poetry, prose, short fiction by Daniel Friedman. For more of Daniel's writing see this link: Daniel Friedman's Poetry & Short Stories. Any relationship of text in these materials to persons living or dead is probably not a coincidence.
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