Issue #16 |

Mobilization

We were multitudes, we were millions. We lived within dimensions up to fifty feet long, fourteen feet high, but never more than nine feet wide. We were drivers, asphalt-lickers, road-runners, gearheads: the denizens of motorhomes who rolled across the country en masse, a fleet of rubber-soled seekers. We were a city on wheels. A city on the go. A growing city: more motorists joined us each day. Newbies drove shiny RVs off the lot—Class A motorhomes with leather interiors, granite countertops, TVs, bonus sleeper sofas—or they purchased tow-along teardrops. Fifth wheels. Cab-overs. Pop-ups for pickup truck beds. A wealthy actor built a double-decker apartment on a tractor trailer—hot-tub on the roof. We let him join, too. We didn’t discriminate. We welcomed families of five crammed into campers, as well as heavy metal-screamers straying with bandmates from their touring paths. Oddballs joined in custom trollies made from salvaged wood and glue. Whatever works, we said. What mattered was that everyone was always at home, but always away. Gas pedal down, we cracked the code humanity had wrestled with for too many millennia: how to have an adventure yet keep your home close. How to wander the world yet never get lost. If only Odysseus could have taken Penelope and Telemachus with him, could have taken the old lady and the looms, the goats and farmers and the grape vines and Ithaca’s gravelly shores, because we did. We brought our Siamese cats and Welsh corgis. One man had a sixty-year-old Greek tortoise that rode in his passenger seat. He let it roam during pit stops; it never got far. We brought our children, cousins, parents, partners, best friends, neighbors—packing together, as condensed as the sardines we ate—everyone headphone-wearing, video game-twitching, knitting, audiobook-listening, steering wheel-gripping. The cramped quarters were worth having the whole country to roam. We furnished our vehicles with macramé. Strings of dried chili peppers. Prayer beads. Great-grandma’s ashes sat in an urn on the dashboard. May she rest in peace, we said, forever in motion. We stowed gold bullion in our glove compartments, just in case. Also a couple revolvers. Hydroponic pot plants trembled over speed bumps. Cacti we kept duct-taped to windows. Bicycles, we lashed to the roof. We towed jeeps. Ski-Doos. Kayaks. By Lake Erie, we splashed into the water, kept an eye out for snakes. In Telluride, we made hundreds of snow sculptures—left them to liquefy. Down south, outside El Paso, we lay in the sun and let its rays fry us. There’s always room in the desert, we told one another. We meant it. In Quartzite, Arizona, we purchased gemstones by the armful, installed amethysts by our sinks. Helps with digestion. We pulled into grocery stores, bought out their tuna, pita, eggs, cinnamon, pickles, OJ, Coke, basil, bananas, hot dogs, buns, ribs, batteries, coffee grounds, Band-Aids, beer, Pop Tarts, gummy bears, Gatorade, iceberg lettuce, salsa, ham slices, sugar-free gum, hand soap, toilet paper.

We moved on.

Sometimes stationary people decried us, jeered at and protested us. Local kids watched wide-eyed from scooters. Local teens shot our flanks with paintball guns. We waved back nonetheless. We tossed candy from our windows in one long parade. We set off fireworks to show our shared patriotism: our love of the country we roamed. We played our radios loud, tuning them to many thousand frequencies, and once in a while to the same station—everybody loved Talking Heads. Take you here, take you there / We’re on a road to nowhere. We pitied these stationary citizens: stuck, trapped, misguided. We pitied their homes rooted into the earth, the burden of a basement. We pitied the necessities of lawn care. Mailboxes bursting with bills. We pitied their scorn. They don’t know what they’re missing.

 

To read this story in its entirety, please purchase a copy of our spring 2023 issue or subscribe to the magazine.

Allegra Hyde is the author of Eleutheria, as well as the short story collection, Of This New World, which won the John Simmons Short Fiction Award through the Iowa Short Fiction Award Series. Hyde’s writing has also been anthologized in Best American Travel Writing, Best Women’s Travel Writing, Best of the Net, and Best Small …

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