They were driving to New York with dirt under their fingernails and stolen bags in the backseat. Not stolen recently, but years ago, in fact, and they now contained so much of their own things that both Tom and Sarah thought of the bags as belonging to them. They were driving to New York from Massachusetts, along I-84, which they had reached via the Mass Pike.
"We're not taking them," she said.
"We're not taking them."
"She hasn't even asked us," Tom said.
"She will. I know she will."
"You don't know her like I do."
"I know her better than you do," said Sarah.
They were driving behind a UPS truck whose latch had not been properly sealed and was flapping violently across the tail of the truck.
"They're just dogs," said Tom.
"That makes me less allergic to them?"
"I'm just saying. Nobody else will want them."
"Exactly. And neither do I. This is so like your mother."
Sarah put her blinker on, pulled into the left lane and passed the UPS truck.
"She might be dying."
"She's not dying," said Sarah. "She just wants us to think that she might be dying."
"That's not very nice," Tom said.
"No, it isn't."
Tom took his sweater off and knocked Sarah in the arm in the process. He apologized and threw his sweater in the backseat, on top of the luggage. She moved her hand from her knee to his.
"What if it were your mom?"
"Please, don't compare our mothers."
"Right. Your mom has your father. And three other children. What was I thinking?"
"You're not funny. Besides, your mom would have more people that cared about her if she were a nicer person."
"She's a perfectly nice person."
"I know what you're doing."
"What am I doing?"
"You're taking it out on her."
Sarah looked at the sign for 684 towards and got into the right lane, ready to exit. They didn't speak to each other until 684 had passed and they were on the Saw Mill Parkway.
"I hate this road," said Tom. "It's too narrow. We should have taken 287."
"Our place isn't big enough for dogs," said Sarah.
She lit a cigarette and rolled down her window. So did Tom. The wind pushed Sarah's hair all around her face and when she tried to control it with her left hand her cigarette fell and hit the window before getting sucked out onto the highway. Tom reached over and cleared the hair from Sarah's face. He held it for her until she found something to tie it back with and lit another cigarette.
"Did she have long hair?" asked Sarah.
"Well, I know you love long hair. She would have to have had long hair."
"Sarah, don't do this."
"Something for you to run your hands through. Maybe even grab. What kind of hair did she have?"
The green light turned to yellow and Sarah slowed down, stopped.
"We're taking the Tappan Zee," she said. "Do you have money for the toll?"
"How much? I can't remember."
"I don't know. It's always going up."
Tom got out a ten dollar bill for the toll but they realized when they reached the bridge that they did not have to pay this direction.
"Where are the dogs now?"
"At my mother's. A neighbor is checking on them. Taking them for walks."
"They probably like being alone," Sarah said. "Having the house to themselves. Doing whatever they want."
"They hate it."
"You wouldn't know."
"I do. My mom told me they cry when she leaves them. They sit by the window and wait for her to come back, like they don't know what to do without her."
"It's true," said Tom. "Dogs hate being alone."
"Whatever. They're never really alone anyway. They're always with each other."
The traffic was heavy on the bridge. A blue Volkswagen pulled in front of them and slowed down. Sarah put her seatbelt on and gripped the wheel tightly. She stayed at a steady, slow pace and didn't move from the middle lane.
"Just keep your eyes forward. Look at the back of that car," Tom said. "Don't look at the water."
"I know you hate this bridge."
"It's scary," she said.
"Scary is a high bridge. Like that one in Newport. This bridge is low."
"That's why it's scary. It's too close to the water."
"Don't think about it. We're almost over it."
"No, we're not."
The blue Volkswagen was still driving slowly in front of them. It put its blinker on and started to move into the right lane. Sarah trusted its movement and started to speed up, but the Volkswagen changed its mind and moved back into her lane. She jammed her foot against the brake and shifted slightly left where another car, a red pickup truck, blared its horn at her. The green SUV in back of her honked too, even louder. She was inches from hitting the back of the Volkswagen when it finally moved into the right lane and Sarah was free. Open road.
"Are you okay?" Tom asked.
"No," she said.
"I never wanted to be this person."
"I know," said Tom.
"No," Sarah said. "You don't."
"I love you," he said.
They took exit 11 to Route 9. Then they took Polhemus Street to 59. They turned right onto West Nyack Road and took it all the way to Tom's mother's house. Sarah waited in the car while Tom went inside to check on the dogs. He got back in the car and they drove to the hospital.
"I give up. We'll take the dogs," Sarah said.
"You give up?"
"What else am I going to give."
Sarah gripped the wheel firmly and cursed the dirt under her fingernails. It was her idea to build the vegetable garden in their backyard. She jerked the car into third from fifth and a suitcase from the backseat hit Tom in the back of the head. It was Tom's idea to steal the suitcases from the luggage carousel after their honeymoon.
"She hasn't even asked us."
About the author:
Kelly Lundgren Pietrucha lives in New Jersey with her husband, Mark, and dog, Charley. She teaches at Temple University in Philadelphia and Camden County College in New Jersey. Kelly is currently working on her first novel.