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TOFORPOMP vopu g 8.08:400:MIPINION.40:em. N=, “IflIS GIRLjj The following excerpt is taken from the novel All That Road Going, by Amarillo writer A.G. Mojtabai, recently published by Northwestern University Press. The novel’s title is taken from the closing passage of Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. Chapter 3, “This Girl,” is reprinted with permission. illustration by Maggie Brophy 0 ught to be over it by this time; after all, I’ve been driving buses for more than twenty years. But some things never change. Setting out, my feelings are always the same, always double. First off, I never know who I’m going to meet or what might come up. Second my second thought: I’ve seen it all, pretty much everything, by now. Things you wouldn’t believe … I’ve seen quickie marriages consummated in the back of the bus. Well … not marriages, quite, and not seen, exactlybut glimpsed enough to know what was going on. Don’t ask me what happened a few hundred miles down the freeway. Could guess, but it’s a rare sight for the same passengers to come round again on my particular shift. But then, while I was thinking this, the rare thing happened. I recognized this girl, inching forward, in the lineup of new boarders. Already she had her ticket out of the envelope, though it would be a couple of minutes yet until I got round to her. It sure looked like the same girl, barely into her teens, snub nosed and freckled with straw-colored hair and, now as before, much too pale for anyone healthy enough to be standing or walking on her own two feet … Where was it then? Missouri, someplace. One of those little lost “misery towns” as a smart aleck on board liked to call them. The town was only a flag stop; no real depot, just a doughnut shop doubling as a ticket office, with no direct service anywhere. I could see it clear as yesterday. Hinton? Hanton? HunSomething. H-something Junction … Pain in the neck for me: the town of whatever \(the name on the tip of the regular depot in Stanton and I’d been called to fill the gap. Then it came to me. The name was Hunters Junction. A day unseasonably warm. Like Indian summer, in late October … I remember thinking that a girl her age ought to be in school. Instead, she was about to set off on a long-distance bus. AloneI knew right away that she’d be traveling alone, even though she was well fenced in with company at that moment. Church ladies, judging from their hair buns and dark, drab, homemade dresses, cut from the same swatch of cloth, the same patternall severe, but for the curious flare of their puff sleeves. They weren’t old, those ladies, but so prim and grim it was hard to imagine they’d ever been young. I figured they belonged to one of those hellfire and brimstone holiness churches you’re JULY 11, 2008 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 5