Christina Xiong, Hauling Through Mountains

Christina Xiong

We don’t know it yet but it will take
four more hours, five more than usual,
to reach my dad’s new house in Orchard
Park. I will learn the term “house poor”
seeing their two story Colonial, barren
of furniture, with dad’s rusted black
Monte Carlo parked in the driveway.

We stop hourly so he can pour
water in the bubbling radiator to quell
its tantrum, cool its boiling. Our new stepmother
stands on the side of the road, silhouette
of Farrah Fawcett hair, feathered and golden.

I wonder where our new stepsister
is during this trip, imagine her with my
grandpa watching hockey, eating butterscotch

disks grandma keeps in crystal bowls.
My stomach growls. I pull a Snickers bar
from my stash, break off half for my older sister.

I can’t sleep. We are hauling
a trailer behind us, through Pennsylvania
mountains, June, but we see our breath
like clouds of marijuana smoke pouring
from the front seat, or the radiator’s steam.
The trailer holds a Chevrolet corpse.
My dad, a mad scientist, will resurrect
this El Camino, like Frankenstein.

Hefty bags with red drawstrings,
hold hand me down clothes that don’t fit,
crowd the backseat, provide cushion.
Somewhere in the mountains, I tear
a hole in one of the black plastic bags,
weed out a handful of too-small
turtlenecks, wrap myself up.

My sister rolls her eyes,
shakes her cloak of chocolate curls,
she fishes in the bag and finds
a maroon wool sweater, moth-eaten,
to wriggle her narrow shoulders into.

We loll against garbage bags, like bums,
eyes avoiding holes in the floorboard
blurred road sandpapering past beneath
holey carpet. I try cracking a joke
about the Flintstones, but it falls flat.
The car radio scratches out “Maggie,”
Rod Stewart, mountain reception rasping.

Another stop on the road’s shoulder.
Dad mutters “God damn it.”
Tractor trailers careen past hairy curves
harrumph, umph umph of Jake brakes.
I imagine my dad splattered on the side of the road,
heat blasting in the state trooper’s car.
He’d stop for burgers and fries, salty consolation,
shake his big trooper’s hat back and forth with a “tsk.”

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