The car, a wedge of dark brown metal dissecting the landscape, cast a long, slender shadow as it sped east along Route 140. It ran on autopilot, because Kara had a headache. She rifled the glove compartment for ibuprofen. She felt cool, so she rolled up the window. Her legs, though, were hot and tingly. Too much sun. She glanced down. Her thighs seemed redder. Funny, I usually tan easily. She remembered the anti-depressants. The doctor said the drug would leave her photo-sensitive. Stay out of the sun, she’d told Kara. They’d both laughed. Who worries about too much sun in a Seattle winter? She’d hated the pills and chucked them.
The low sun bronzed the underside of the thickening dark clouds that hung over the Oregon plateau. Earlier the car had climbed a steep grade (7 percent, the sign said) to Blizzard Gap (elevation 6,100 feet). No more trees. No more soft, calming green. Just a featureless, undulating plain dotted with tufts of stuff that looked like sagebrush — Isn’t that what it always is in the cowboy movies? Unkempt fences isolated dense slabs of dirty snow from the highway — bad-ass snow reluctant to step aside for spring. It’d been hours since she’d seen a house or even another car. Near Hawk Valley a rusted, burnt-out frame of a trailer lay broken-hearted next to the highway. Just west of Guano Valley, she passed a half-eaten roadside carcass of a deer or an antelope. Wolves? Buzzards? Monsters? Maybe one of the coyotes she’d seen loping in the brush near the road had eaten it. They’re scavengers, aren’t they? She thought of Sheepskin Hat. If he’d asked, would I have gone through with it?