The road was white with ice. Gary could see that now that they’d stopped moving.
Don, putting the car in park, turned up the heater. Gary asked him, “Traffic just stopped?”
“Welcome back, wanna switch?”
Gary ignored the question, instead replying, “We’re still in Iowa?”
He’d had only woken up a few minutes ago, and they’d been moving at the speed limit of 65. He had a suspicion this was a “summer limit” and the “winter limit” signs had been blown away. No one could or should be moving this fast in the middle of winter. Not to Gary.
But it’d been over twenty years since he’d last seen snow, so what did he really know? “Think it’s a busy time of day for this part of the state?”
“It’s only one o’clock. So, no.” Don took a second to turn up the radio, a country song about Cheyenne. Gary assumed it had been on repeat since he’d fallen asleep, but Don was known for playing the same playlist over and over again, so you could never truly tell.
Don sighed, pointed out the passenger window. “Seen a lot of that since you’ve been out.”
Gary looked. Off the side of the road was a semi, turned on its side. There was a neon green flag on a pole sticking out the driver’s door, and the end of the truck was covered in snow. “The flag?”
Don replied, “Sometimes they leave the truck for a few days, let the snow settle. I think this jam goes for the next two miles or so.”
Gary tried looking ahead, but his view was obstructed by the truck in front of them. “I’m gonna check it out.”
He stepped outside and stretched, looking up ahead. Sure enough, far in the distance at a bend in the hill was a group of vehicles blocking the entire road. “Had to be an accident.”
“Maybe,” said Don.
“See no other reason to stop.”
“Then it’s probably an accident.” Don was getting testy, and Gary knew it was only a matter of time before he’d have to take over. He hoped it was after the road turned back to concrete instead of ice.
Since he was 16, and accidentally drove off the road on the way to his girlfriend’s house, Gary was wary of driving at all, let alone in the snow. It was a wonder that he’d been able to drive at various stages across the country with Don taking his power naps. “I think we can make it.”
Don gave Gary a look. “Say again?”
“Up ahead the road might not be completely blocked. Just, head right up the middle.” He stretched his back again, looked up at the blue sky above. “It’ll melt, maybe, but I’d rather not wait.”
He didn’t listen for Don’s reply, instead walked to the side of the road to get a closer look at the semi.
And then he slipped, and hit his head.
He was only out for a short time, and when he got up he looked at the nearby cars. There weren’t any drivers, or passengers, in sight. Then he started to notice them: the neon flags, tied to antennae and mirrors and spoilers.
Gary quickly, though carefully, stepped back to their car, noting that the sky overhead became overcast. He climbed inside, saying “We should get…going.”
He looked at Don’s corpse, and wondered how much longer they’d be there.