The State of Jefferson

The view from Interstate 5 heading towards Mount Shasta. Courtesy of ArtBrom/Flickr.

Trucks shuffle in the slow lane.
Mt. Shasta’s a crazy white cone.
I drive as fast as I dare.
Car my shelter, my tiny house
of spiders’ nests and trash. Even
in an imaginary land,
you need to refuel: 8.5
gallons of unleaded and
I-5’s traditional cuisine:
crinkly bags of Chex Mix and
Sour Worms at Manfredi’s
Food & Gas Depot in Dunsmuir.
On the passenger seat, a
thumb-sized jar of my father’s
ashes. I’d be lying if
I said it didn’t give me
a weird little thrill to have
him sit where I sat as a
child, those deeply dull hours
in our Dodge Dart, him driving
too fast and lecturing me
about dog breeds and the French
Revolution. Just after
the sign that says “College Weed”
with arrows in front of each
word pointing in opposite
directions, I take the curve
a little fast, reach over,
right the jar of my father’s
ashes, saying, sorry, did
I scare you?
We hurtle past
the “Oregon Welcomes You”
sign with its eight black trees spot-
lighted in the evening
dusk. I’m flying, faster and
faster down the mountain to-
wards Ashland but we’re still in
Jefferson, my father and
I, land of the elegantly
rusting Penelope the
Dragon, of signs proclaiming
“No Monument” and “Bigfoot
Crossing,” of few people and
a few million cows. I chew
the last of the Sour Worms.
High-fructose powder dusts my
fingers. How you doing, dad?
He doesn’t answer. Perhaps
at last, he’s fallen asleep.