Saturday, December 6, 2014

Free Story

BADLANDS
by
David B. Riley



Dan looked over the application for a moment, then placed it back on top of the desk. “Why do you want to work for Stacy Tours?”

“Uh, I’ve heard really good things about your company,” the pretty brunette said. “I’ve got a degree in travel and tourism.”

“I see.” Dan picked back up the application.  “Very impressive, but there is one thing.” He placed the application back on the desk. “The next place you apply to, there is no North Dakota State College.”

Her eyes widened. “There’s not?”

“Afraid not,” Dan assured her.

“I don’t get the job?”

“No.”

She stood, stared blankly for a moment, then walked out of the office.  Dan nearly made it back to his desk when he heard the voice of his employer. “Dan!”

He turned and smiled “Yes Stacy?”

“Have you been interviewing people again?” she asked.

“No. Whatever do you mean?” he asked.

“Then, why is there an application on my desk.”

“There is no North Dakota,” Dan said.

Stacy’s pretty blue eyes seemed to try to roll up inside her head. “Not that again.”

“We book hundreds of vacations each day.  I checked in the computer, not one single booking for anyone from North Dakota.  It’s some kind of conspiracy.”  Dan picked up his telephone headset.  “There is no such place. It’s some kind of government thing.  Three electoral votes to do with as they please. Have you ever even met anybody from North Dakota?”

“We take people there. We just did a Mt. Rushmore tour, last month,” she insisted.

“South Dakota.”

She crossed her arms in front of herself. “We went to Little Bighorn.”

“Montana.”

She started rubbing her temples with her thumbs.  “Unbelievable.” Stacy sighed. “Dan, you won’t be needing that headset you’re holding”

“How come?”

“I think you need some time off.”

“How much time off?” he asked.

“As much time as it takes to find another job,” she said.
***
Dan’s alarm went off at four thirty.  He grabbed a quick shower, then strolled over to the parking lot.  The charter bus pulled up right on time.  The door swung open.  “Hi Chuck,”

The driver looked around. “Where are the people?”

“Just me,” Dan said.

Chuck looked at his manifest. “You chartered a bus, just for one person?”

“Yep.  It’s on the Stacy Tours billing account..”

He shrugged.  “Where we going?”

“North Dakota.”

Chuck looked over his worn Texaco road map.  “Never been there.”

“I thought as much.”  Dan relaxed in the front row.  “Let’s go.”

They got out of Denver with minimal traffic and headed north.  They made good time and were in Wyoming before lunch time.  Dan didn’t want to, but Chuck insisted on buying Fritos at a Wal-Mart in Casper.   Then, they headed east.  It wasn’t long before they passed a welcome to South Dakota sign.

“We’re there, “ Chuck announced.  “Where are we going?”

“North Dakota,” Dan insisted.

“Oh, yeah.”

They refueled and ate burritos at a truck stop in Rapid City.  All gassed up, they headed north.  They drove and drove for a really long time.  Chuck seemed to be nodding off.  Dan shook his shoulder.

“Can’t we take a break?” Chuck asked.

“We’re almost there,” Dan assured him.

Ten minutes later, they drove up to a place that looked like an awning across the highway. They stopped at the stop sign.  A man in a clean white uniform approached the bus. “Welcome to Canada,” he said.

“Canada?” Dan asked.  “What happened to North Dakota?”

“You just left it.  What is your business in Canada?” he asked.

“We’re apparently lost,” Dan said.  “Can we turn around and go back?”

“Suit yourselves.”

As Chuck turned the bus around, Dan did not like the way the guy at the border station was talking into his radio. Something just didn’t seem right.  They sped back down the highway they’d just come from.  “There’s no North Dakota sign. No U. S. Customs.”

“Beats me,” Chuck agreed.

They drove for about an hour before a car with red and blue lights pulled them over. Dan opened the door and got out of the bus. “What’s the problem, officer?”

The car with the lights said South Dakota State Police on its door.  “Where are you fellas heading?” the trooper asked.

“North Dakota,” Dan said.

“This is South Dakota.”

“Go figure?” Dan shrugged.

“Just two of you in that bus?”

“Yep.”

“I see.” The trooper went back to his car.  Dan didn’t like the way he was talking into his radio.

 Then, he returned.  “I need you boys to put your hands on the hood of the car.”  His gun was drawn.

“There is no North Dakota!” Dan screamed.

“Put your hands on the hood of the car and nobody will get hurt,” the trooper insisted.


This story first appeared in The Writer's Post Journal

No comments:

Post a Comment