by Holly Collingwood
I reach into my back pocket and pull out my Candy Land cards. Their corners are beat up and creased. I pop my knuckles and listen to the rush of cars blowing past me, then shuffle my cards seven times. Not eight. I only did that once. That turned into a very bad day. Now I pay more attention.
The cards are ready. There are twenty-five cards because this is I-25. With their white borders and perfect squares they are so beautiful. I put the stack in the dirt and keep one finger on it to keep the breeze from scattering my cards. That happened once, too. That was another very bad day. “Please don’t be a double purple,” I close my eyes and pray to the cards. There are not many purple cars and if I get a double purple, I’ll have to wait a long time. A long time. And then I’ll be late for work. I hate work. I love my cards. With a deep breath, I turn the top card over.
Okay. Double yellow. This is new. My fingers shiver. I’ve never even drawn a single yellow before. This will be good day.
The waiting is the hardest part. I rock back and forth on my heels and pick at the hangnail on my thumb. Silver. Blue. Black. White. Blue. Yellow cars are rare. Not as rare as purple. But not as common as blue. The silver, black and white cars are never chosen. Those colors don’t exist in Candy Land.
Green. Blue. Red. A yellow is coming. A jeep. I check the chosen card again. Still a double yellow. I let this one pass. It is not the chosen car.
I wait. My hangnail is bleeding and I wipe it on my green t-shirt. It leaves a carrot shaped dark smear. The cards picked my shirt this morning. I drew a single green, so even though my arms are chilly in the Colorado morning, I don’t wear the matching sweatshirt.
I wait. I draw another card. Double blue. I squeeze two blue M&Ms from the corner hole in the package. With my tongue I push them up high between my gum and my cheek. One on each side. They slowly drip chocolatey saliva onto my tongue and I try to make them last until I see another yellow car.
Eleven cars pass. The rush of swirling wind from each car almost reaches me, but it stops in the tall dry grass in just front of me. Seventeen more cars pass. Trucks too. And finally there is another yellow. A Volkswagen Beetle. It’s coming. Its sunshiny happiness hurts my eyes. “You have been chosen by the cards,” I whisper to Double Yellow. My stomach rolls as I line up my sight.
Exhale. Hold. Squint. Squeeze.
The windshield explodes. Double Yellow brakes, swerves and rolls three times. The crunch of metal bending and skidding on pavement satisfies my ears. Double Yellow stops upside down. The wheels are still spinning. I have made the cards happy.
But I lied. The leaving is the hardest part. Not the waiting. I want to stay to smell the smoke. I want to stay to hear a scream. I want to walk closer and breathe gun powder from Double Yellow’s air bags. I widen my nostrils and inhale hard. I can only find the briefest tinge of smoke.
I must leave Double Yellow. The cards will choose another tomorrow.