“Sure, lady. Blame it on the hitchhiker. I’m even heavier than I look.”

“Look, mister. I stopped and gave you a ride, no questions asked. You can’t be bothered to change a flat tire for me, or even get out to take a look when asked. And me wearing my best tuxedo like a good daughter.”

“Fine. What kind of name is Conor for a girl anyway?”

Not a girl. Not a boy: Trans. Even freaks don’t understand it.

“Look at yourself. Unshaven and bedraggled and getting worse by the second it seems. Greasy hair covering the boils on your neck. You sit there, why, you think you’re above this whole damn earth. Admit it. Above the dirt itself.”

“I have finite experience in the arena of motor carriages.”

“You are something else. Listen, if you can’t change the tire, I think you’d best be going. Take your clomping work boots and walk to the next exit. It’s just a few miles. Send someone back. And see if they’re not headed where you are.”

“But you’re going in my direction.”

“I don’t know why I picked you up. Matter of fact, I don’t even remember picking you up.”

Dad’s famous with farmers across the state for having perfect timing, everything from the first frost to the last, never mind matters of real estate and merger with ConAgra. Trading up, he says, Now that’s what takes Vermont forward.

“You didn’t pick me up. I materialized.”

“Peachy. So you’re a ghost.”

“A wave, actually, a complex combination. Consider the talk radio.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Would I lie to you?”

Out the window a sign for White River Junction. “My talk radio does.”

“Then consider this a trade up.”

No. No way. “You did not just turn my car pink.”

“I did nothing.”

“Of course not. You’re an apparition, an irresponsible one, completely blameless in supernatural matters obviously under my own control.”

“I am a product of the mind.”

“Some mind.”


“Whatever. You’re getting off at the junction of I-91. I don’t care if you sit in a Dunkin Donuts all day. We’re done, you spooky piece of shit.”

“Spooky piece of your shit.”

“I’ve seen you in Halloween movies and Poe stories. You’re a cliché.”

“Name calling is never productive.”

“That sounds familiar.”

“It should.”

“You told him that when you were a girl, a young woman, years ago, before the hormones, the surgery, the paperwork. Told him that before all those things, before the day that he reached into his file cabinet and ripped up his will—which as you know now was no piece of empty dramatics. All because of one letter.”

Cell phone dead, no choice remains but to walk to town to call AAA. Forgotten: the expired membership.

“Hey mister, can we stop this conversation?”

“It will stop instead for you.”

“You belong to AAA?”

The man who turned the car pink shakes his head. “We could discuss the matter of your salmon motor carriage.”

“My pink car. This should be priceless.”



“Recovery. Where I come from—most recently, anyway—it is a common ailment treated with over-the-counter medication. You may know it as memory.”

“Memory as a disease.”

“MEMORY IS A DISEASE!” The man clears his throat as if to excuse an indiscretion. “Where I come from.”

“Here too, friend.”

The man clears his throat again. “Disease, if broken down into parts, is the correct phrase. Unease, an inconvenience. Where I come from, where we’re going, it is an uncomfortable vestige that irritates constantly and is as damaging, Caitlin, as being a girl was for you.”

“I’m leaving.”

“Go ahead and try.”


The man who turned her car pink holds a cheap jack from her trunk. Her last lover refused to use it, called it shoddy.

“We have been here for eternity.”

“Come have lunch when you finish up here. Turkey sandwiches with Swiss. Your favorite. You can find it. You will, no problem, my dear, my darling, my child.”

And the cheap jack falls, eliciting some physical sensation from Caitlin and Conor and the rest of the people inside. To it call it a cathedral would be hyperbole, and any conclusion is partially conjecture. From any wreck, there are limits to what may be recovered.


# # #

Recovery by T.K. Dalton
originally published August 11, 2008



T.K. Dalton is currently a writer in residence at the Montana Artists Refuge, where he is finishing a novel. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in Red Rock Review, Bent Pin Quarterly, Peeks & Valleys, High Country News, The L Magazine, and Rain Taxi.  

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