“I know it like the nose on my face,” said Clarence Travers. “How would you like to ride on it?”

“Oh, Clarence, now

“I mean it.”

“Oh, Daddy, could we?”

“All right, we’ll do it,” he said decisively.

“We can’t!” said Cecelia Travers. “It’s probably against the law. It can’t be safe.”

But before his wife could finish, he turned off the freeway and let all the swift cars rush on while he drove, smiling at each bump, down over a small ditch, toward the old road.

“Clarence, please! we’ll be arrested!”

“For going ten miles an hour on a highway nobody uses anymore? Let’s not kick over any beehives, it’s too nice a day. I’ll buy you all soda pops if you behave.”

They reached the old road.

“See how simple? Now which way, kids?”

“That way, that way!”

“Easy as pie!”

And he let the car take them away on the old highway, the great white-gray boa constrictor that lashed now slowly this way in green moss-velvet meadows, looped over gentle hills, and lowered itself majestically into caves of moist-smelling trees, through the odor of cricks and spring mud and crystal water that rustled like sheets of cellophane over small stone falls. They drove slow enough to see the waterspiders’ enigmatic etchings on quiet pools behind dams of last October’s leaves.

“Daddy, what are those?”

“What, the water-skaters? No one has ever caught one. You wait and wait and put your hand out and bang! The spider’s gone. They’re the first things in life you can’t grab onto. The list gets bigger as you grow old, so start small. Don’t believe in them. They’re not really there.”

“It’s fun thinking they are.”

“You have just stated a deep philosophical truth. Now, drive on, Mr. Travers.” And obeying his own command with good humor, he drove on.

And they came to a forest that had been like November all through the winter and now, reluctantly, was putting out green flags to welcome the season. Butterflies in great tosses of confetti leaped from the deeps of the forest to ramble drunkenly on the air, their thousand torn shadows following over grass and water.

“Let’s go back now,” said Cecelia Travers.

“Aw, Mom,” said the son and daughter.

“Why?” said Clarence Travers. “My God, how many kids back in that damned hot town can say they drove on a road nobody else has used in years? Not one! Not one with a father brave enough to cross a little grass to take the old way. Right?”

Mrs. Travers lapsed into silence.

“Right there,” said Clarence Travers, “over that hill, the highway turns left, then right, then left again, an S curve, and another S. Wait and see.”




“An S curve.”

The car purred.

“Another S!”

“Just like you said!”

“Look.” Clarence Travers pointed. A hundred yards across the way from them, the freeway suddenly appeared for a few yards before it vanished, screaming behind stacks of playing-card billboards. Clarence Travers stared fixedly at it and the grass between it and this shadowed path, this silent place like the bottom of an old stream where tides used to come but came no more, where the wind ran through nights making the old sound of far traffic.

“You know something,” said the wife. “That freeway over there scares me.”

“Can we drive home on this old road instead, Dad?” said the son.

“I wish we could.”

“I’ve always been scared,” said the wife, watching that other traffic roaring by, gone before it arrived.

“We’re all afraid,” said Clarence Travers. “But you pay your money and take your chance. Well?”

His wife sighed. “Damn, get back on that dreadful thing.”

“Not quite yet,” said Clarence Travers and drove to reach a small, very small village, all quite unexpected, a settlement no more than a dozen white clapboard houses mossed under giant trees, dreaming in a green tide of water and leaf-shadow, with wind shaking the rocking chairs on weathered porches and dogs sleeping in the cool nap of grass-carpeting at noon, and a small general store with a dirty red gas pump out front.

They drew up there and got out and stood, unreal in the sudden lack of motion, not quite accepting these houses lost in the wilderness.

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Categories: Bradbury, Ray