There’s No Right Way to Say This – Yen Radecki

Now that we were off the freeway, the scenery was getting downright pastoral. Trees crowded in on one side of the car while water stretched out on the other, sidling close and then rolling away until it was just a blue-grey glint behind vacant billboards. We passed rusted mailboxes abutting roads to nowhere, clearings of dismantled cars and jacked boats half-covered in tarp. I tried to imagine Jay growing up here, the awful dull comfort of it, where everything was flat and there was nothing to follow but the powerlines. The closer we got, the more I could feel the others trying too.

Redbridge, when we reached it, was too small to have a sign. The only warning that we got was the local general store: a stout wooden building with a peaked attic and a small flag taped to a traffic cone out front. The cursive B had been freshly repainted. Libbie slowed the car to a crawl and rolled down her window to stick her elbow out. For some time now, we’d been the only car on the road. Arjun leant forwards in the back to read the clock on the dash.

“Shit. We’re early.”

I rolled down my window too and looked out. Google Maps hadn’t lied: Redbridge was a single street as far as the eye could see, punctured errantly with wide dirt roads that led off to clusters of thinning spruce trees. In the distance, I could see pylons and broadleaf trees: sleet grey road meeting muddied sky like the horizon line over a sea of dust. Somewhere beyond my sightline, on this little patch of earth, was Jay’s family home, with Jay’s family inside it, mourning a son they’d never known.

Libbie was half out of the window now, Arjun’s phone held close as she squinted at Street View.

“Well, good, ‘cause it looks like this place doesn’t do street numbers.”

“Of course it doesn’t,” Marco muttered behind us, and the car came to a sudden stop.

“Want to give me a hand instead of bitching about it?”

“Sure. I’ll get out and walk.”

“Me too,” Arjun said, clicking off child-lock. “I want a smoke before this thing starts.”

This was how we arrived: in slow, drunk diagonals down the street, while Arjun and Marco followed the tire tread, sharing a cigarette and shivering. Jay’s family home was an old pine two-story with a front veranda and an unkempt lawn out the back—the kind of predictable family white-picket where terrible things happen in adaptations of Stephen King. A small group of adults was huddled beside the mailbox in muted clothing, thumbing at phones as big as bricks. One of them raised a hand as we pulled up, in welcome or in warning.

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