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The Ophelia Todd Map Company

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I don't reckon anyone will believe this whether it's writ down or not, but soon maybe I'll be the one to start forgetting so this is writ for me, just me. Could be back in Castle Rock they've already forgot there was ever a man named Homer Buckland anyhow, that Worth Todd was ever married to somebody else. Don't matter none. I knew what I was doing when 'Phelia turned up in her go-devil, lookin' like something Dante Gabriel Rossetti himself painted into the driver's seat.

Of course I was gettin' in. Wouldn't you?

When the world goes sideways, a guy's gotta find something to hold on to. Or when a world goes sideways. One of the worlds. 'Phelia, she's got her Mercedes and her gas pedal and her rear view mirror. And me, well, I've got her maps.

She don't look at them no more, the maps. I reckon she's got them all in her head now, what she's picked up here and there and a bunch that Mr. Rand and Mr. McNally never even dreamt of. None of them are flat anymore, or even just bent over worn out folds. 'Phelia's maps are origami, bent this way and that with pins going from here to there. One of them's twisted right around. I bet she could make it from New York to Los Angeles in an hour or less on that one, if she wanted to. A nip here, a tuck there, and you've got a back road through hell's half acre and the devil himself clinging to your bumper.

It still don't bother her none.

"You hang on there, Homer," she said once, right before she gunned it towards a little gap in the trees, couldn't have been made for more'n two cart wheels and a prayer, and you shoulda seen the grin on her face. "And you put a pin it it too, 'cause this is a new one." Sure enough there was a path there just big enough for the go-devil and we come shootin' out the other side before long with only me the worse for wear.

Ain't always woods either, those places in between. Bits of desert sometimes. Patch of jungle next to a slithering river. Don't matter how dark and sinister, though, 'Phelia just rides on through with joy and moxie.

The wind blows something fierce when you hit one of them barren hills right when a storm is kicking up, so much dust in your eyes you don't know whether to rub 'em or excavate 'em. 'Phelia, she loves that wind Dust wouldn't dare get in Ophelia Todd's eyes, and nothing would dare grab hold of her hair or touch her skin. She's something else, and I don't just mean that in the way men mean it when they say it. Ophelia Todd is something else and that's a fact.

I don't always know where we end up. She says we never left Maine, but I don't know half the places we gone to, gas stations at the edges of little towns I never heard the name of before, even though by my reckoning we're only forty miles from home.

Sure enough, I'll check the maps and on one of them or 'nother I'll find it right there in tiny print on fading paper. Maine, but not my Maine, that's for damn sure. Her Maine, though...they're all her Maine now, when it comes down to it. Makes no difference to her, one or the other, where she ends up, as long as she gets to keep on going.

At least all them Maines, they have good enough grub, and soft enough beds, and they keep the go-devil on the road well enough. She gets dusty and she don't run on air and sunshine, but that in-between place is nearly as good to the Mercedes as it is to 'Phelia. Still ain't good friends with me, but as long as I run with Ophelia Todd it leaves me mostly alone. I might see teeth glinting in the depths of the undergrowth, and it gives me pause to think what'd happen if one of them things ever went shooting out the other side with us, but they don't latch on very often. Lost a few patches of hair, though.

More of it to lose these days, too, and when I get a glimpse in the rear view mirror it's back to iron instead of snow. Don't know what to make of that, any more than I know what to make of the girl 'Phelia who takes me tearing around the world these days.

"You pick the route," she says to me sometimes, knowing full well that I only ever find what's on the maps to find and not what's not there till she puts it there. I'll tell her to take some little dirt trail called Marsh Road or summat by the locals, and she'll take the map from me and squint at the road and when I get the map back there's a new fold in it halfway up Marsh Road.

Ophelia doesn't read the maps anymore because she's the one writing them.

Maybe I got a knack for finding the shortcuts too, just not seeing them, not till we're halfway down already and I realize we've gone from one place to the next and we're sure not in Kansas anymore.

There's a border on this map the other side of Castle Lake, and border of what I want to know because there ain't no border there that I've ever heard of, and seems to me that's a border we might not want to cross. Not in this here and now anyhow, no matter how much 'Phelia's eyes might glint when she looks at it.

"Bangor back to Castle Rock in fifty-seven miles, Homer, I bet you we can do it, I bet we can," says Ophelia. We aren't in Bangor now but I reckon we will be soon, and won't be staying long. Been a long time since I saw Castle Rock for real, since we did more'n skirt around the edge and turn around and come back again. Don't know if I really want to or not. I finished up there, fair and square, and chances are if I go back something new'll kick in. I don't much like unfinished business.

Maybe that's why I went with Ophelia when she asked. Maybe that's why I always knew that I would. Me and Ophelia Todd and her shortcuts, that was the one bit of unfinished business I had left. Thing is, it's business that won't ever be finished.

I'll tell you this, though, and I'll say it here so I won't ever forget it: I ain't never regretted loving Ophelia Todd enough to come with her, and that's the God's honest truth.