by Courtney Clute
The next stop on our road trip is Yellowstone, which is 56 miles away, but we’re here for the night because it’s cheap and a good stopping point after driving from Montana, with its glass blues, deep greens, blinding whites, and mountains that shoot toward the sky. Saint Anthony. Population: 3,542. Founded: 1888 by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
We exit our Airbnb, our stomachs gurgling, leaving the door unlocked behind us, because we learned no one locks their door in this town. Rain pelts at our hoodies and spots eyeglasses, but the pull of the one open restaurant—Subway— half a mile away makes it okay. The GPS takes us close to a roaring sound which we discover is a river: a pleasant sight even in the ugly confused color of dusk. At the adjacent intersection, a truck coasts through a green light, dipping into a pot hole filled with water, the first sign of life we’ve seen since leaving the Airbnb. We stop to Snapchat the river because it’s pretty enough to be Snapchatted, maybe the only enjoyable thing around: the sound soothing, the rocks jutting from the tiny rapids make it unique. On the other side of a bridge: an army tank. We’re confused by the tank and want to know why it’s in a town like this. There’s a plaque in front, but the grass is too muddy for us to make the effort to read it.
We jaywalk to the gas station that’s adjoined to the Subway. Our hoodies are soaked, rain seeping onto the shirts we wear underneath, and we shiver. Once we get there, it’s dark. It closed an hour ago, the gas station attendant tells us over bubble gum smacks and long nails clacking against her phone. We feel cheated that Google betrayed us, but we don’t think technology and civilization are really in sync here. We’re glad this is only a one-night stop, that we won’t have to deal with it much longer. We wander back to the house, passing a Mexican-American restaurant with a light that flashes OPEN, yet chairs are neatly stacked on top of tables. “Mexican? In Idaho?” The rain beats down harder, the river thunders louder, the sky grows darker, green lights reflect off the pool of water in the middle of an intersection, and we still see no one, our hunger turning into aches sitting at the pit of our stomachs. Arriving back at our Airbnb, the glow of the lights looks welcoming compared to other sleeping houses. “I can’t imagine growing up here,” we say. “Imagine this being all you know.”
Courtney Clute just completed her MFA at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida, where she studied flash fiction. Her work has appeared in Passages North and Z Publishing’s “Florida’s Emerging Florida Writers: An Anthology.” You can find her on Twitter at @courtney_clute.