The Pacemaker (Jennifer Semple Siegel)



Hurtling on I-70, through the flattest part of Indiana.
Mile marker 191.
Plans to break at exit 208 for lunch.
Husband, at the wheel for the past two hours, stares straight ahead at the broken white line.
Highway nearly empty, one small orange semi square far ahead.
Gerry and the Pacemakers’ “Ferry ‘Cross the Mersey” croons through the speakers.
*Life goes on day after day…*
“Boring drive,” I say, noting the endless cornfields on either side, brilliant blue skies.
No answer.
He stares ahead in total concentration.
Mile marker 195.
*Each with their own secret care…*
“Well, then…” I brush off the perceived slight.
His body looks stiff and unyielding.
“At least it’s not raining.”
No response.
Dead stare.
Is he playing a cruel joke on me?
Slight panic. “Honey?”
Still nothing.
Mile marker 197.
His breath seems steady and regular, no sign of pain, color looks good.
Always a concern with a cardiac patient.
*Hearts torn in every way…*
Yet the car remains steady, cruise control on, slight curves navigated perfectly.
The blankness scares me.
My God, is something wrong with him?
*And always take me there…*
Yes, we’re almost there.
*So I’ll continue to say…*
Exit 208 ahead.
“Stop! Stop! That’s our exit!”
Without a word, Husband zips the car toward the ramp and slows down.
“Wha –?” He shakes his head like a dog.
“We’re here.”
“I lost 17 miles. What happened to miles 192 through 207?”
*We’ll never turn you away…*
“Hello! The miles didn’t disappear. You did!”
Husband slows down and switches on the right turn signal – when exiting to an unfamiliar place, he always turns right – one of his quirks.
“Oh. I remember now,” he says.
Green road sign at the T:

Liverpool      1 mile

“Liverpool?”
There’s a Liverpool in Pennsylvania, but no signage has indicated an Indiana Liverpool, at least from I-70 and, specifically, exit 208.
“That’s right.” A strange red glow emanates from Husband’s eyes.
Panic rises in my heart. “I think we took a wrong turn.”
“It’s gonna be all right, all right.”
“What? Are you kidding? We’re totally lost.”
“Here we’ll always stay,” he says, his voice not quite – him.
I suddenly get a whiff of salt air, mixed with that of marine life – not something I’d associate with Indiana.
The squawk of seagulls.
Gulls invading mid-America?
Back home, they often travel inland and hang around malls, about 50 miles from the Chesapeake Bay.
Gulls would have to travel hundreds of miles to be here.
And why?
Husband sings along: *‘Cause this land's the place I love…*
“What are you talking about? Indiana?”
“No. Liverpool.” He takes a deep breath. “They'll never turn us away.”
“Who?”
“Scousers.”
“Scousers?”
“Commonly known as Liverpudlians.”
Another sign:

Ferry      1/2 mile

“Ferry?”
He sighs impatiently: “We’re taking the ferry ‘cross the Mersey. The River Mersey.”
*We don't care what your name is…*
“A place we can love.”
A boat ramp materializes before us.
“Here we’ll stay.”
Forever here.
Ahead, a foghorn wails.
 ______________________
(500 words)

_______________________


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