Moving On, short story by Adele Evershed at

Moving On

Moving On

written by: Adele Evershed



On the radio, Simon and Garfunkle were singing about how long it takes to hitchhike from Saginaw, and there she was, like a time-traveling refugee from the sixties, thumb in the air and a sign with Greenwich written in pink bubble letters. She was wearing a long rainbow-hued skirt and a fringed waistcoat over a smiley face t-shirt; it looked more like a costume than an outfit if I’m honest. The only nod to today was her Jansport backpack, which I recognized from when my sister was obsessed with the brand. She had begged our Mom to get a lavender one for her first year of high school. When Mom found it cost $50, she said, “Don’t be ridiculous, Georgie, $50 could feed us for a week. We’ll go to Walmart next week, and I bet you we’ll find a lovely purple backpack for a quarter of the price.”

Was that why I stopped? That memory of Georgie–red-faced and crying, stomping out of the house. We all thought she’d be back by dinner time, but when she didn’t show, Mom rang around all her friends. None of them had seen her, and when she still hadn’t returned by nine o’clock, we rang the police.

I was leaving for University the following day and was furious with her. I was convinced she was hiding somewhere so all attention would be focused on her. That was seven years ago. I never went to University; instead, I went to the local Community College and spent every weekend in New York City looking for my sister. The first Christmas Georgie was missing, Mom bought the fancy backpack and wrapped it in paper with smiling Santas. It was the only gift under our artificial tree. Mom had dragged it out of the attic and wound it in fairy lights like some beacon to guide Georgie home. Later, she took the package and put it in her room, but she refused to let me put the tree away, saying, “Georgie loves Christmas. Let’s leave the tree up so she can see it when she gets home.”

Simon and Garfunkel’s song was winding down as I stopped the car. I wound down the window, and the girl ducked her head in and said, “Oh, I love that song.” Then she opened the door, stowed her backpack on the back seat, and left her sign on the hard shoulder. “I’m Kathy,” she said, “I’ve been waiting ages for someone to stop. I’ve always relied on the kindness of strangers.” “A Streetcar Named Desire, right?” I said. She wrinkled her nose in confusion, so I repeated, “Kindness of strangers- it’s a quote from A Street Car Named Desire.” “Is it?” she said, “I thought it was me. Maybe there are just no new things in this world. Everything’s been said before. Sad, really, when you think about it.”

“Do you live in Greenwich?” I asked her. “No. I drift here and there, trying to forget the sad things that happened to me,” she said with a smile. I knew that was from The Great Gatsby. It was one of the books I’d read multiple times. Once I had stopped searching for Georgie, I spent my weekends in the local library trying to escape into the stories of others, and the green light flashing hopelessly in the Fitzgerald novel seemed reminiscent of Mom’s Christmas tree. “But everyone has sad things happen to them,” she continued, “It’s just that most people can get over them. But not you. I can see that in your aura. You like to bathe in your sorrow and pull everyone under the surface with you.”

I was starting to feel uncomfortable; I busied myself adjusting the fan to give myself time to think about how to respond.

“It’s funny. All you have to do is say something nobody understands, and they’ll do practically anything you want them to,” she continued. “Now that’s from Catcher in the Rye,” I said like “I’m quite illiterate, but I read a lot,” Kathy sighed and stroked my arm. Her hand felt like a cool breeze. “See two can play at this game,” I said as I trawled my memory for another quote, but all I could come up with was, “It gets dark, it gets lonely on the other side from you.”

Kathy giggled and said, “Okay, you’ve got me. Sounds like something Poe would write?” I shook my head and looked over at her, “Nah, it’s from Wuthering Heights.” I paused for a beat and added, “The new song by Kate Bush’.” “Kate who?” Kathy said.

Now, I’m standing on the verge. Kathy passed me her backpack and said, “Pick your spot on the highway wisely. The person I picked up had spent a year standing about a mile down the road from a sign that said, ‘State Prison. Do not pick up Hitchhikers‘. He had no idea. It was only when he moved he got a lift.”

I felt dazed and said, “I don’t understand. What happened? The last thing I remember was talking about Kate Bush.” Kathy shrugged and gestured with her head behind me. My car was turned on its side, and as I watched, it burst into flames. “Did you get me out?” I said, “I don’t remember anything.” “Oh Brian,” she said, although I was sure I had not told her my name, “I’m afraid I didn’t. All I can tell you is the only way for me to leave is to find another sad soul to take my place. I resisted for the longest time but…” at that, she seemed to run out of words. “But why me?” I asked. “We all carry our sadness with us,” Kathy said, “I told you about your aura. Yours was as vivid as a slashed wrist, so it drew you to me. Now it’s your turn, to be released you must find somebody so sad they are dry drowning in this life and release them from their earthly bonds. Think of it as a kindness.” “Ha, the kindness of a stranger,” I said bitterly. Kathy shrugged, “Don’t waste too much time trying to figure it out. You won’t. So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.” And then she walked off.

After a long while, I looked inside the backpack. It was full of markers and cards. At the bottom, there were two books. I sat on the side of the road and opened Catcher in the Rye at a random page, reading, “I can’t explain what I mean. And even if I could, I’m not sure I’d feel like it.”

I let out a strange noise that almost sounded like a laugh, but of course, it wasn’t.

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