I wrote this story for Terrible Minds, yet again! The assignment only had one requirement: must contain a map.
Lost and found
Harlan didn’t trust GPS. The first time he used it he had ended up somewhere in bum-fuck-Egypt. At that point, he had been infinitely grateful for the stacks of fold up maps stuck in his glove compartment. Back then, everyone had maps. Most people used them. People understood geography and how routes connected to state highways, interstates, connecting all the states to make us somehow unified even from thousands of miles away. Now they summoned Siri and asked her to take them to a location. How did they know she’d comply? That’s what Harlan wanted to ask them.
Cheree thought he was ridiculous. A few years after GPS came out she’d bought him a TomTom. It sat in the box under the wilting tree for a few days. Then one day it magically appeared in the front seat of Harlan’s car, still in its box. It sat there too, until Cheree had to borrow Harlan’s car because hers needed an oil change. When she came back from work that evening the TomTom had been installed. Harlan had never so much as pushed the power button.
Which is why at this point, he was ticked off. The map open in front of him did not show the road he had been driving down. He knew he had made a wrong turn somewhere, but he couldn’t figure out where. And he sat, air conditioner blaring, needle precariously close to Empty, on the side of the road with his finger on an empty space in the middle of nowhere where clearly, in real life, there was an actual road. The TomTom glared at him, willing him to push the little power button. But he felt in this predicament the TomTom would have no idea the road existed either. Plus, it might drain his gas reserves even further. And it was the principle of the matter after all. All these years, the maps had always been right. This was not the time to change his firmly held beliefs, damn-it.
He turned off the engine and stepped out of the car. The heat beat down on him with its blaring desert-force. He kicked the tire to his 2009 BMW, because that was helpful. He stood in the breakdown lane with his arms over head and sweat stains spreading out on the new Oxford shirt Cheree bought for him. The heat played in dancing waves over the desert surrounding him.
He walked around to the other side of the car, opened the passenger side and took out the stack of maps. Nevada. He had two other maps for Nevada. They looked older than the one he had been using. He opened one up and laid it out on the hood of the car, then planted his hands on the black paint before realizing this was a mistake. The sun-heated metal burned the palms of his hand.
“Shit,” he said, shaking his hands in the dusty air.
He stared at the map, placing his finger at the location that looked like an undeveloped piece of land in the middle of the desert. He looked around, and sure enough that’s what it was, with a goddamn no-name, no-route road running through it that he’d been lucky enough to turn onto somehow.
Cheree would be worried by now. He knew she was sitting at the bar at the Bellagio having a gin and tonic and checking her iPhone for the time. God, he wished he had one of those too. Then he could call her if he could get reception out here. They had tickets for Cirque du Soleil at 7 PM. He knew he’d never make it if he didn’t find his way out of this place. He just couldn’t remember if he’d taken a right or left, then another right or left, and it was a horrible time for his memory to fail him. Or his sense of direction.
Cheree always joked that for someone who loved maps he got lost an awful lot. He always smiled and nodded when she said it in front of other people, but in reality the statement pissed him off. But now he knew she was right and that if he didn’t find his way out of this nowhere road he’d die of thirst and hunger in the middle of the desert.
“Stupid no-good maps,” he said.
He folded them up, stuck them in the glove department, slammed the passenger’s side door then walked around to the driver’s side. He started the car then powered on the TomTom. His first thought would be that it would need updating, and he’d still be lost, but to his surprise it had been updated and there were even addresses loaded into the machine. God love, Cheree. Always there for him. He pulled out his notepad with the address scrawled on it—3600 Las Vegas Boulevard South—and plugged it into the machine.
The little dots swirled around in a circle: Calculating.
And sure enough the road appeared. Continue for 35 miles, take a left. Clear cut directions on a road that did exist even though every single map he owned said it shouldn’t be there.
Maybe Cheree was right after all. GPS had its benefits.
Follow Lauren Greene: