NOT TWENTY MINUTES after leaving the motel, young Ruby fell asleep upon her bag in the back seat. As the BMW crossed the border into Colorado just before lunch, Ruby had still not awoken.
“When did you know?” Ray asked Duncan. He put down his book and looked over to the driver.
“Did you just decide it one day or did you always think it?”
“Maybe it’s just a feeling,” Ray surmised. “Like people who think that everything happens for a reason. But you don’t think that, do you?”
“I think some things happen for a reason, sure,” Duncan said.
“Why would there be a word for fate if it didn’t exist?”
“There’s a word for unicorns, isn’t there?”
“I think there has to be some kind of plan,” Duncan said. “You can fall off the path or change direction, but you can’t run from who you are.”
“What’re you guys talking about?” a voice said from the back seat.
Ray curled his head around the over-sized headrest.
“Oh, nothing,” he said. “Just something we started a long time ago.”
“No. Not unicorns.”
“It sounds like you’re talking about unicorns.”
“Ray’s been trying to understand how I can believe in God,” Duncan said.
Duncan looked in the rear view mirror to see if he could catch Ruby’s reaction. He couldn’t even see the top of her head. Though awake, Ruby had slouched down even further and curled across the entire back seat. She rested her head on her bag and shut her eyes once more.
“Arguing whether there is or isn’t a God is like arguing whether or not a song is good,” she said. “You can never be right and you can never be wrong.”
“You believe in God?” Ray asked.
“I don’t know.”
“You don’t know?”
“I’m assuming you don’t?”
“Not for a second.”
“How can you be so sure?”
“The evidence against it is overwhelming.”
“So then what happens to you when you die?” Ruby asked.
“You die,” Ray said. “You’re dead. End. Over. Bye bye.”
“I think I believe in reincarnation,” Ruby said, her eyes still closed. “Haven’t you ever met someone that you feel you’ve met before, or that you know from somewhere else? And what about all those people that just seem so new?”
“Well, if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I’d come back as a cat,” Ray said.
“A cat?” Duncan said. “You hate cats.”
“For the same reasons I’d want to be one.”
“A housecat, yeah. I’d lie around all day. Someone else would get my food, rub me down, and no one would give a shit if I ever paid any attention to them.”
“Pray on it,” Duncan said.
“Don’t you want to be in heaven?” Ruby asked. “Don’t you want to think that once you die you’ll get to be with the people you love? The people you’ve lost?”
“I think it sounds like a pretty crowded place,” Ray said. “And no, I don’t think I’d want to be anywhere where I had no purpose.”
Duncan shook his head.
“Can we stop?” Ruby asked.
“Yes, please,” Duncan said. “We’ve been talking about it forever and we never get anywhere.”
“No, can we stop. I’m a girl, small bladder.”
“Oh, yeah, sure,” Duncan answered. “I’m hungry, anyway.”
“Yeah, a cat.” Ray said. “That’s the life.” He nodded as he looked out the window at the grass whizzing by.
Duncan pulled off Interstate 70 at the outskirts of Grand Junction, Colorado. He screeched into a gas station and Ruby sprung from the car and scurried to the washroom. Ray got out to stretch his legs; Duncan began refueling.
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Genre – Contemporary Fiction/Literary Fiction
Rating – R