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Displaced in Folsom 

Finalist

Bobbie was driving in unknown territory. She had gone to a Pampered Chef party way up in Folsom, down a gravel road, intending to buy maybe a pizza stone. But she had succumbed to the seductions of the marvelous apple peeler, the one that clamped down on the table and made long ribbons of peelings. She envisioned herself on a cold December evening making apple pies in her warm, cozy kitchen. She'd be getting ready for a post-holiday gathering of friends, and they would have apple pie with cinnamon ice cream and some nice Earl Grey tea in front of the fireplace. People up north would laugh at the thought of a thirty degree Christmas being considered cold, but despite being a northerner herself, Bobbie felt that on some winter nights, what with the damp chill wind blowing from the lake, it could get plenty cold in the deep south.

Bobbie had come down to Louisiana from Cleveland, a casualty of a job transfer, and had been converted. It was lush and tropical here, morning glories grew wild, and live oaks grew legendary. She thought there was nothing quite so beautiful as a walk through the old section of town after a rainy spell. The little houses and wet, overgrown shrubs in the cool of an early summer morning reminded her of quintessentially southern literary settings. She could place Atticus Finch ambling down those very streets. When it was still a novelty and screamingly funny, she would tell her northern girlfriends in long telephone calls about how the neighborhood kids called her "Miss Bobbie" -- a charming and quaint habit possessed by apparently all southern children, regardless of social standing or accent or lack of any discernible accent. She could never quite get jaded by it; it always made her secretly smile.

Liz, the Pampered Chef hostess, raised horses, an exotic pastime to Bobbie. Bobbie had grown up in a city, and now lived in a suburban ranch home with a shopping mall down the road. The town, a bedroom community where most wives stayed home and played tennis, had doubled in size in the past five years, and in its homogeneity could almost pass for the San Fernando Valley with humidity. But if she drove just twenty minutes north she hit farms, David Duke for governor signs, and miles of unrecognizable terrain. If it weren't for the closet klansmen this would be a really nice place to buy a house, she thought. She contemplated these things, the things she loved about living here, as she negotiated Lonesome Road. She contemplated buying a house and a little bit of land, making a permanence here in the back roads of Louisiana, which left her bewildered and ambivalent because she really didn't want to call this foreign place home, or did she? It was comfortable, but was that enough?

There was a shadow in the road, something that wasn't supposed to be there. Bobbie snapped out of her reverie. The headlights flashed on an animal. Bobbie put her foot on the brake, a little too fast, a little too uncontrolled. The startled animal jumped, and then there was a bump and she veered into a ditch and the car stopped. It took all of two seconds. She tried to get out of the car but was barely able to open the door, the car was at such an angle and the door was hitting the side of the mud bank. "Oh, shit." She turned the ignition, the car started, thank God. She put the car in reverse and slowly tried backing out. The tires spun but the car did not move. After a few minutes she tried pulling forward a bit. This succeeded in pitching the car even further into the ditch and there was still no backing out to be had.

Bobbie's heart raced. She didn't have a cell phone, couldn't recall passing any open businesses at all since leaving Liz's house. She squeezed out of the car gingerly, afraid the jarring of the door would send it skipping headlong even further. The animal in the road, upon closer inspection, was an armadillo. It was dead, and smashed in the middle. Its armor, which it surely must have instinctually believed was inviolable protection, could not withstand the impact of a two ton automobile at forty miles an hour. Evolution had not kept pace with human technology. Even in the darkness Bobbie could discern the exposed grisly meat and blood. She averted her eyes, nausea temporarily displacing her panic. A car's headlights appeared in the distance. Bobbie considered what she should do. She could try to flag it down, and risk being raped and murdered. As she pondered this scenario, the car passed, cutting a swath of light into the night, the engine eerily thunderous. Then it was dark again. Bobbie decided to walk. Maybe somewhere around the bend there would be a gas station, an oasis of civilization for which she could be eternally grateful. She began walking in the direction of the interstate. The asphalt crunched under her feet, it was slightly crumbled at the edge of the road, and Bobbie felt conspicuously vulnerable.

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