The Spaces Between Your Fingers

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Northen told the story of his journey through the Mojave Desert.  His wife was nearly nine months pregnant at the time with their daughter.  Northen and his wife had been moving from upstate New York down to Southern California.  This story is about the last 200 mile struggle they faced. Northen was interviewed at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Sweat beads rolled off my hair prickled chin and onto the steering wheel.  Each crashed almost rhythmically as we passed telephone pole after telephone pole.  Adjusting my glasses I could see that the horizon of the desert had been lost.  The road was uneasy and littered with potholes. The trailer with all our earthly possessions bounced up in the back after each dodged rut in the road.  With every swerve the four uncomfortable cats in the back seat wailed in unison.  The boundless and flat Mojave desert that was before us was now blocked by a curtain of a hill.  

I felt my wife’s white knuckled fingers dig into my right shoulder.  I tilted my head toward her, trying not to take attention from the road.  She looked at me with face speckled with sweat from the now triple digit heat.  Through her clenched teeth she let out a hushed shout.

“Keep drivin Northen!”

I pressed my foot to the floor, building momentum to tackle the summit in front of us. No use in arguing with the woman holding my unborn child for nine months.  As we climbed I felt the trailer tugging us back down the road.  I jammed my toes almost through the floor of the car to get the old Honda to inch up the hill.  The space between the telephone poles felt like miles now.  My wife’s grip getting tighter and tighter until I felt a vice on my shoulder.  

“ARGGHH, Northen!”

“Wha, what is it!?”

“The contractions are getting worse!”

I couldn’t do much but get us over the hill and play pin cushion for now. The cats low meows turned into shrieks with every tug of the trailer.  

    “We’ll go to the closest Hospital!”

    “No, Northen, I don’t want our baby born here!”

    “Keep driving!”

California is far, and her contractions are getting closer.  The thought of the baby being born right here and now crossed my mind, but the slow crawl up the hill brought me back to reality. I felt a dash of relief as the setting sun began to peak over.  Slight whirls of smoke poked out of the front of the car, quickly extinguishing any relief I had.   The tension between the trailer and the Honda began to ease up.  The road seemed to slowly flatten beneath us. The now horizontal dry plane was ahead of us, and the mountain had passed.  I let out a muted howl of relief.  My wife was letting out frequent and short breaths, reminding me that a baby could be born any minute.  I returned my foot to the gas pedal.

    “Let’s hope this baby waits 150 more miles.”

    “Just don’t stop driving Northen!”

Desert Heat

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Mojave Desert, California

Northen told the story of his journey through the Mojave Desert. His wife was nearly nine months pregnant at the time with their daughter. Northen and his wife had been moving from upstate New York down to Southern California. This story is about the last 200 mile struggle they faced. Northen was interviewed at the Free Library of Philadelphia.

Decade: 1970s
Rating:
Recorded by Giancarlo Castaldo on May 6, 2014
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