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Summer-Fall '23

In Wait
Emma McCoy

The turn just past the bridge, but before the tunnel, was a sharp one. 

It was the reason for the yellow diamond sign: CAUTION 15 MPH. But drivers in the state park usually paid no mind. They whipped around the corner, sedans and sportscars and trucks alike. There was most of a guardrail, wasn’t there? It was bent, yes, scratched and torn off in a way that said there had been accidents before. But most of it was there.


A girl pressed against the twisted end of the rail and leaned over. Her hair got in the way and she brushed it back to get a better look: the canyon face dropped, loose soil and rocks slipping further and further while scraggly weeds clung to outcroppings, away from the wind. Deep gouges scoured the sides, the holes where rocks had been, like pitted acne scars. The bottom of the cliff disappeared beneath a dark forest that swept across the valley. 

The girl dug a small rock out of her shoe and chewed her gum as she stared. A few of the trees looked like they had been broken, splintered trunks bearing —

A car passed and she spun around, but it didn’t stop. Disappointed, she walked a little way down the rail and sat, pressing her back against it and wrapping her arms around her knees. As the brushes dotted the side of the road, she could hardly be seen. Another car tore around the corner, but it wasn’t her father.

He’ll come, she thought to herself. He had to. He would wake up, find no more beer in the cooler, and come looking for her. Surely he would, because this was the only way into the park. This road, between the bridge and the tunnel.

A truck passed, going just about the speed limit, and he made the turn with ease. The girl looked up at the sky, squinting, and was about to reach into her pocket when a red car, a little four-seater, came roaring up. The girl tensed, and just as it passed the caution sign, it hit something on the road and the front tire popped with a loud BANG.

The red car spun wildly to the side like a drunk man. The driver almost managed to straighten the back wheels, and for a second, the girl thought that the red car would make it. But it was going too fast, and it crashed into the twisted end of the guardrail. The car was close enough for her to see the driver: a young woman, face screwed up in terror, as the already belabored rail gave way and she vanished over the side.

The girl waited until the enormous crashing stopped echoing across the canyon. She looked across the narrow road, but it was empty all the way down to the bridge. She popped out of the bushes and once again leaned over the guardrail, careful to avoid the spots where the metal was uncomfortably hot. 

The car was gone. It had left more deep gouges into the cliff face, and if the girl squinted hard, she could see the burning remains of a tire by the grove of splintered trees.

The girl sighed. Not her father.

She reached into her pocket and tossed another handful of nails onto the road, before going back to the bushes.

Emma McCoy is a poet and essayist with a love for the old stories. She is currently pursuing an MA in Writing at PLNU. She is a poetry reader for Whale Road Review and Minison Project. Her debut chapbook is “In Case I Live Forever” (2022), and she has poems published in places like Flat Ink, Paddler Press, and Jupiter Review. Catch her on Twitter @poetrybyemma.

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