Michael L. Woodruff: “Motels”

(photo courtesy Lynn Black)

I can’t sleep. It’s 2 a.m. in this small Colorado town, and I’m lying in my motel bed listening to the shuffle of feet in the hallway, doors slamming and the low talking of people — mostly teenage girls. My room is dark, except for the blue-gray light coming from the T.V. screen.The sound is muted. I’m watching QVC, and in my head I’m trying to guess the product being sold, what it does and the basic elements of the sales pitch. Both hosts are bright eyed, filled with their nescient conviction. Even without sound they have a desperate perky look. American dreams abound. They swim in the waters of their own making. And the gullible are slighted the dollars it takes to make these dreams come true. It’s the twisted circle of commerce, a trap, indifferent to the true needs of everyday people. And I believe, falsely, that I am a part of it.

It’s not the noise in the hallway that is keeping me awake; it’s my own restlessness, all inside, traversing my nerves and swimming through my veins. I listen, trying to catch something from the voices in the hallway … the tone and texture of the conversation, the soup of words that will send me into a deep sleep, all shaped by the suggestion of an idea. I hear the speaking in tongues and the confusion of Babel — again the teenage girls, so I get out of the bed and walk over to the door, my head against the hardwood, and I listen. It is silent. I imagine the giggling girls making their way to the lobby as nervous as the crack of hard candy, somewhat sitting on the sofas and chairs, looking like knitted throws, slapdash over the armrests and the backrests, craning their necks at the slightest movement, stealing brief peeks at the desk agent, a busy gay man dressed and pressed immaculately, who is wary of their intentions, but they don’t give him the slightest consideration, they are looking for boys, fresh boys, right out of the package boys, and there are none to be found.

My room is sterile, the look of business trips, everything is factory sealed, wrapped carefully to show it hasn’t been disturbed: drinking glasses, toothpaste, hairnet and soap. The roll of toilet paper is folded in a point to show it hasn’t been used. I always notice the quality of soap in a motel room. I want to see something European, green, smelling like lemongrass with the word ecological or earth friendly somewhere on the package. I put it up to my nose and inhale, a fragrance that cleanses. The bedspreads and curtains are Black is Black Modern Oud business stripe—brown and taupe. It darkens the room. The in-house service menu is nicely bound in a vinyl folder inserted in protective plastic … food contained. They do what they can to give each room an untarnished elegance.

The hallway to my room is a long hollow cave. It seems to go on and on…

I need my pillow if I’m going to stay at the door. So I get it and a blanket off the bed, and then I go back to the door, first putting my ear again to the wood. Silly — I can’t hear a damned thing through the solid wood, and then I lie down on the floor, my eyes trying to look through the crack at the bottom, into the slit of light, and I wait.

If I fall asleep right here, at the base of the door to the sound of silence, it will be because of my patience. I’m fine with that. Or, because the giggling girls are running up and down the hallway, late night music, wearing out the carpet and the buttons on the elevator. And I’m fine with that, too. I’m not going to sleep … not yet. I’m waiting for something else to happen, anything that I can muse over in my mind, mostly Beth, creating images to capture my imagination … the past. I just stare through the crack at the bottom of the door, something I do often when I stay in motels, till my mind wanders incoherently, looking for the shadow of feet, and I wait for people, any kind of people, anxious couples with heavy steps — even the repetitive tapping of teenage girls running across the carpet.

Earlier in the evening I stood at the second floor window of my room, the curtains wide open, watching the snow fall from the sky. The motel is my ark, safe and warm, in the middle of the business district: the flare of fast food restaurants and gas stations and the droop of telephone wires cutting along the sidewalks and across the road like thick eye liner. There’s a used car lot across the way. The cars snuggle next to each other with neatly heaped snow, accumulating two or three inches, still building, the look of winter frosting, layer after layer, over the tops of each vehicle — the cover for transgression and the decline of commerce absorbing the city. Snow also piles on top of the surrounding roof tops, thick cocaine lines, giving clarity to everything I see. A block away there is a traffic light, a beacon in the assault of white pushing through the gray. I watch it click from green to yellow to red and back to green. And each click is a clear message: go, damn it, go! There’s not a soul on the road. There is something anesthetic about watching snow fall from the second story window of a motel room. I love the pristine innocence, the chill, the unmolested opalescence of the white … building up. Out there in the night, the falling snow creates this new place, nature desperately trying to embrace the troubled landscape. The street lights burst out and up into the falling flakes, the look of an old photograph, not black and white, but nineteen forties-fifties, soft yellow-brown. The snowflakes are as big as duck feathers, slowly dropping with a monotonous consistency, always cold, always relevant — the tears of sad angels.

I love motels—all motels. I have always loved motels, ever since the first postcard I received from the Blue Swallow Motel in Tucumcari, New Mexico. It doesn’t matter to me if they are dives, smudges of the inner city — cinder block walls, the carpet having the smell of urine. Or, if they are sterile high rises, saccharine gutted and cemented along the interstate, the pretense of faux luxury and convenience, going places important; it’s all the same — all new worlds. Motels are philosophically flawed by definition, not quite homes, not quite homes away-from-homes, only stopping places like the paid showers and restrooms of the past, truck stops in tuxedos but with nicer façades. And even if they appear perfect, there is always the bubbling of drywall somewhere around the bathtub or the peeling of the veneer on the bottom of the doors, the splinter of neglect or the cracks in the ceiling, maybe minor, but visible to me along with the tacky artwork screwed into the walls. They have threadbare bedcovers — the true sign of why these places were built. There is always the hint of coming apart, the symbol of everything we pretend not to know. But it doesn’t matter, like I said, I love motels. They never lie.

 * * *

My first experience in a motel was the senior ditch trip in high school, going to my first new place, alone, without my father and sister — Six Flags Over Texas. It was only supposed to be an early out and late drive back trip. But that’s not how it happened.

We get to Six Flags Over Texas in the mid-morning, after a long drive, and it’s closed. The parking lot is empty, not a car in sight, as open as the plains. Everyone in the bus is silent. Maybe we’re early, someone finally jests from the back of the bus. Everyone laughs. Our chaperones never thought to make the simple phone call. It is assumed that the park was opened 365 days out of the year. And Six Flags Over Texas usually is open, but our chaperones, Mr. Tyson and Mrs. Larson, pick the week the park is making renovations, doing repairs to the rides — keeping up to federal codes. Our reward: a free night at a motel without any supervision. You are all adults now, so I expect everyone to act like it: teenagers on the cusp of adulthood, in an obscure motel, far from home, in a different state, acting like adults — well … not quite.

There are thirty of us, give or take a person, innocent demons looking for our slide from grace. The motel is a Travel Lodge, dull-blue and faded tan, simple, two floors, with the look of a Frank Lloyd Wright slanted roof. Everything about the place is function over form. It’s all intended to look like the place every person lives, complete with family sensibility. The clocks in the rooms have moving hands instead of digital numbers to remind us that time passes. Everyone needs to be out by 11:00 a.m. the next morning. The bathroom faucet in my room drips. We are given keys, our passports to independence and our roommate assignments, and it’s the last time we see Mr. Tyson and Mrs. Larson. They are mostly embarrassed. Though in retrospect I’m not sure the details of this trip were foremost in their thinking.

After we check into our rooms, I see very little of my classmates, including my friend Scott. All of us have better things to do … sex, or an attempt at it. Maybe some of my classmates stay in their rooms, not quite sure what to make of this new freedom, watching television or going to the swimming pool or to the Jacuzzi or in each other’s rooms half-naked, smoking pot and abusing each other with cruel humor … grab ass stuff. Or just maybe, some leave the building, walking away from the motel to the place that lures — exploring, losing themselves in the dust of the street lamps.

There is an eerie reality created by the moon, the mescaline glare off the windows of the cars in the parking lot, the spark of depravity coupled with the generous gift of freedom, the absence of supervision. Nothing is as it seems. And when I do see my classmates they look oddly different — half-naked, bare-chested in their own orbits, pretending to be adults — natural, like it’s all Sunday afternoon football and large bowls of chili and pretzels. There is a difference between seeing my classmates half-naked in the gym and half-naked in this place … far from home. They look aged, not mature. I want to turn my head. No one has luggage or spare clothing … just what they could fit in a daypack. Scott, my friend, is wearing a dress (whose dress I don’t know) with thongs on his feet and an ice bucket over his head just walking up and down the hallway looking for the right room. Three giggling girls skip across the carpet wrapped in white towels, their hair bunched in rubber bands. It’s all part of the mating ritual … the sniffing of asses. My classmates have all hooked up long before the bus stops at the motel, while sitting in the empty parking lot of Six Flags Over Texas, waiting for our chaperones to decide what to do. My classmates figured it all out long before our chaperones. And now, the moon crests the top of the treeline at the Travel Lodge, becoming the secondary light of night, the thin cover of a blindfold.

I’m no different, I ask Beth to take a walk with me as we get off the bus — if you’re not doing anything. I know what’s on my mind, and there appears to be consensus. Yes, that would be nice. Senior ditch trip: Beth with her long flowing orange hair — laser string under the bright lights of an angel’s halo. Not red—but pure orange with the soft shade of innocence, all teacup and saucer, child’s play, much like the small town where she was born, consumed by a virtue unaware. On this perfect night, the lush of stars and the full moon hanging just over the trees in the parking lot, she wants to let loose. Our school bus sleeps along the bottom of the tree line.

We are supposed to meet in the lobby at 9 p.m. but we connect at the elevator on the second floor, where the vending machines are located, and just as I come around the corner a candy bar drops and Beth is reaching into the holder to retrieve it. “A snack,” she smiles. We walk through the motel lobby — the perk of charm, austere, but nice, and both desk clerks are keeping busy, moving manila envelopes from one place to another and answering phone calls. So out the front door we go into the smile of a ceramic moon. She’s nibbling at her candy bar. “Do you want a bite?” And I tell her I’ve already eaten, a lie, but it doesn’t matter. There’s not another classmate in sight. We make our way to the back of the motel building, no plan or reason … just away, following the parking lot as it circles. We are guilty children, set free and all the time pretending this is just a walk. And then we stop and kiss, the brush of the lips and the exchange of saliva, foreign tongues meeting for the first time…detente and the taste of chocolate. We have no place to go, we both have roommates, and so we just walk until we slip behind the thicket of bushes, next to the maintenance shed and resume our kissing. Beth quickly drops her blouse, and she is bare-chested, no bra, white as the moon above us with the blush of pink. “Do you like what you see?”

* * *

The next morning we board the bus; the faces of my classmates are filled with late night television, sweaty clothes and the smell of morning coffee and pastries. Beth sits in the back of the bus; we make brief eye contact, but neither of us smile. Mrs. Larson is asleep next to the window. Mr. Tyson, sitting next to her, looks forward, stone-faced in guilty silence. Something’s not quite right. And I’m thinking we are about to get a lecture, but nothing happens. Mr. Tyson is not the superman he thought he was and kryptonite rules the morning. Jesus weeps. I don’t blame him. He can’t handle the sad stories of the previous night. How easily we fall. These sad stories line the seats in the bus, row after row with beaten teenagers, going all the way to the back along the emergency exit — sleepy-eyed kids, nowhere near the adulthood they imagined, but having exhausted the extent of their energy trying.

I sit next to Scott, his face heavy with the scent of pot and leftover sex. I don’t know why I’m not at the back of the bus with Beth. This is the moment, the time we should be together … the celebration of us. But instead, I choose to stay up front. After all, Scott is my friend. We didn’t talk the whole time we were at the Travel Lodge. And he looks like he could use a little company. He can barely keep his eyes open. It’s a decision I know will change the course of my life. Regret is seldom recognized until well after it is too late.

When we get back to our small town, not a word is said by anyone. We pour out of the school bus, making our way to the cars waiting for us … no longer children. We are back to where our naiveté covers our small town with a false polish, to where we started — home; the only difference is that we have been baptized in the Holy Ghost, gaining a Garden-of-Eden type of wisdom. We have tasted the forbidden fruit … our introduction into the adult world. We are banished from our innocence, condemned to become strangers. And I think this is what senior ditch trip is all about…goodbyes.

* * *

I’m a small child lying on the wooden floor by the staircase dowels, my right hand wrapped around the enamel and my head on a pillow. I can hear faint voices … a woman, my mother and a strange man. They are trying to talk softly. But I can hear it all.

“And the children,” the man asks. “What about the children?”

My sister is dead to the world ….  asleep; she can’t endure staying up too late. She falls asleep early every night. But I know how to keep myself awake, to listen to the voices of the adult world, and though I don’t understand everything that’s said, I know words.

“They will just have to understand.”

Understand what, I’m thinking.

And your husband?” There’s a laugh.

Quiet, you will wake the children,” the man says.

My husband will be fine. He has his little girlfriend. She lives in the country. He should have been home hours ago. It’s the way it is. I don’t give it much thought. We need to leave. I’ll call my sister to check on the kids in the morning.  Let’s load up the car before he gets here. I’ve had enough of this shit. I’m ready.”

I fall asleep to the shuffle of feet and the thump, thump soles of the luggage being moved, picked up and set down, dragged across the wooden floor. Finally there’s the soft shut of the front door, the last word in my mother’s strange story.

Wake up son. Your mother is gone.”

“Where were you?”

“Someplace stupid. Someplace very stupid, I’m sorry,” my father says. “Come on, let’s get you to bed.”

A week later my father hands me a postcard–from your mother.The front of the postcard is the picture of the Blue Swallow Motel. The neon lights are ghosts in pink and light blue along the roof edge. On the side of the motel wall, between two windows is the flare of a neon dove, descending — at least, I think it is a neon dove; the place looks like a religious retreat. The Blue Swallow Motel is a magical place. Vintage cars are parked in front at dusk. There is a route 66 mural on the side the building. And a caption at the bottom of the card: Tucumcari tonight…the gateway to the west … motels and murals. And the scroll of my mother’s hand: Children never think that I don’t love you. I miss you. Mom

Is mom on vacation?”

My father thinks for a couple of seconds. He wants to give the shortest explanation he can.

Yes, son, she’s on vacation.”

Motels are hellos and goodbyes at the same time, the coming and the going … a life in transition.

* * *

It’s been years since our mother abandoned us.  And in a few more days I’ll be going on our senior ditch trip. I’m all excited, making plans and packing. And while I fill my daypack, my sister stands at the open door of my bedroom.

“What did mom look like?” She asks.

She feels enough time has passed to bring up the subject. She asks because we are now older. She thinks I will know something that I didn’t know when we were small children. We’ve gotten past the awkward communication of our childhood. We are more direct. It doesn’t mean that we’ve learned to communicate.

“What I remember? What I can honestly say … she had angry hair.”

My sister thinks for a moment, pensive, and then she nods her head. “I understand.”

My sister loves to sleep. Unlike me, she can slumber through the full breadth of the night. It is difficult to get her out of bed in the morning. She wraps herself in the struggle of blankets and at times I worry that she might suffocate. She is so small. It’s hard to know she is even there. Her blond hair is a tangled puppy. But it’s the world she trusts. I don’t know where she disappears to when she dreams. But I’m not there and neither is our father. The three of us say very little to each other. There is nothing to say. And my sister invents a whole new place that is her own.

I remember walking into my sister’s bedroom one night to pull down the stained shades. The falling snow brightens the room from lamp-splash coming through the window and the laced curtains. Shadowed dots stream down the sides of her walls looking like an army of small spiders.

“Leave the windows alone,” she says, “I’m watching the snow.”

Her eyes are closed and her face is pushed into another pillow. Blankets are pulled halfway up the side of her face. I never question her. How can you watch the snow fall with your eyes closed?

I leave the room without a word. We have an understanding.

And our father .. .he’s in his own place far from us, never quite knowing what he was sorry for on the night our mother left. Some place stupid. Some place very stupid. I’m sorry. He still spends his nights at his girlfriend’s house in the country. She has two children about our age. I’ve only met her twice. We didn’t talk. He continues to rent this house for our benefit, but he’s never here. He has a new family, now. We find our own way through each day, making our own meals and watching television. And there’s a point … the passing of days, the weeks and the months and the years that the three of us disappear from each other’s lives. Me, first, when I graduate from high school. I can’t explain it any better than that. It’s not for any lack of affinity. I care about my sister. But it just happens. The history we thought we had, it was never really there, and the little we do have between us simply vanishes.

* * *

I get a job that involves travel. I stay in motels. And people ask me, “What do you do for a living?”

I tell them I sell widgets, and it’s not far from the truth. I get paid well enough for doing it, but it’s still the selling of other people’s dreams. And in the process I lose mine. I try to convince myself I have no regrets, that life has been good to me. But I know it’s a lie. The success I chase is an ever rising ceiling, an open sky, filled with a nothing I will never touch. It’s all illusion. I was never in control from the beginning. My hopes drift into the sky, getting farther and farther away the more I try to follow it, and finally, it disappears into the blue and the clouds. I have come to understand that what I do, my job, doesn’t have an end. My goals are purely contrived. And I lose Beth along the way.

And no, I am not married. How could I be married? I’ve never had a girlfriend or children — at least none that I know about. Most of my life is on the road. And when I’m not on the road, I live in a very small studio apartment, one room with a bathroom, what used to be a neon motel along route 66 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Now the neon glass is broken. You can’t make out the words. The place has the smell of sickness. It’s filled with prostitutes and street dealers and transients and young couples with no imagination or money. People are always moving in and out. The blue and red lights of police cruisers constantly illuminate the parking lot. Every day I am there people stand outside their rooms, under a questionable sky, in the graveled parking lot, throwing things at each other and screaming. It’s an angry place to live, but cheap. Albuquerque is only two hours away from Tucumcari, from the Blue Swallow Motel, but I’ve never been there.

I don’t need much room, just a place to store the few things I do have. I’m hardly ever there. My room has a dusty bed, never made and a splintered chest of drawers and an afflicted television set filled with the blur of color and the interruption of static, and when I have sexual needs, I pay for it, to the woman who lives next door. She is happy to take a night or two off the streets when I’m there. I pay her well for the convenience. She has a faint scar across her lip and the right side of her face sags. Her hair is mop-water brown. She’s years younger than I am, but it doesn’t show.

I’m not going to be here forever like the rest of these girls. I plan to buy a small house.”


I said that I’m going to move one of these days.”

What happened to your face?”

Carelessness.” She just shrugs. She becomes quiet. And I let it go.

I keep everything in my life simple. The decisions I make are spontaneous, not wanting anything to complicate my days: definitive yeses or no’s, all made in the moment … like not letting the woman who abandoned my sister and myself to contact me, and then finding out later she died the next week. I don’t know how I feel about that. I push it to the side. It’s a non-issue. There’s nothing more I can do about it. Those feelings left me long ago. I ignore the reality of having parents that didn’t care. My mother is a fish. William Faulkner said that. I picture her with angry hair at the side of a pond, her face pushed into the mud gasping for air…alone.  I do nothing to help her, to toss her back into the water. Her one eye is distant, and I stand there long enough to watch it turn white. Her gills slow to a stop and finally she lies perfectly still … harmless.

* * *

I watch QVC each night I stay in these motels. Not because it is something I like to do, but because it is a mirror into my own soul. Those people are me, distant and hopeful. This is the lie I tell myself, pretending to be something I’m not…a great salesman. I tell myself that the life I live is natural. I’m the norm. Every job is a sales job, the false embrace of an ideal that includes everyone but the ones who own the goods. I find my stream, living a fluvial existence, becoming the water that finds its way down, through the side of a mountain, cutting out canyons, making my mark in the landscape. I flow into a river, and finally feather into a larger body of water where I disappear.

And sometimes, in the winter, I watch the snow fall from my motel window. What is the falling of snow if not the growing nostalgia for all the things I’ve left behind, the things I wished would have happened differently in my life … but now gone: the love of a mother I never had. Or, the high school girl, whose love I was afraid to claim. My chest is hollow. Out there past the falling of snow, where the sky becomes opaque, is the ghost of Beth Myers. I see her face, vaguely, through the drop of flakes, always thinking it is her. I look hard into the gray, through the falling white, and she motions me to come. It’s an invitation I just can’t ignore. But there is a chasm between us … this snow, the clutter between the open space. I never know how to get there … to where she’s standing.

* * *

I hear the thump of a candy bar which falls in a vending machine. My head moves forward hitting the door, how long have I been lying here, maybe it’s Beth. Is her hair now gray, I mean when does red hair begin to turn gray … 40, 50, even 60 years old? Is it still long, falling past her waist? I picture her face the texture of wet chalk, yellowed … old age, much like mine, both of us having the same lines and the sag of time, our eyes lost light.

I should get up and go to her. She is probably waiting in the lobby. We still have to finish our walk. We never made it past the maintenance shed. And if she isn’t there I need to find her, walking through these hallways, always empty, in these motels, all these motels, nightly, listening for the sound of her voice: There you are. Finally, I’ve been looking everywhere for you. Will she look so different after all these years?

It’s a mortal sin that some age so well and others don’t; time is not equally cruel.

* * *

I lie on the floor near the door, naked, and I imagine the giggling girls in their room down the hallway with disheveled beds and clothes draped everywhere over the tables and chairs, liter bottles of pop, shredded bags of potato chips and candy bar wrappers spread all over the room. It’s their version of living the life. Is this their first time staying in a motel … probably. Like me, they make memories. They’re having a rock and roll party, all glitter and make-up, the blast of female glam … dedicated groupies: I’m with the band. They are always with the band. The meanings of their lives go no further than the moment. They are blessed.

There are small things that always bring up the past … the thickets of bushes that surround the motel property, parked school buses, a full moon and long orange hair, blouses … the color of eggshell, poor with no frills, the status of a life fixed, postcards of motels with neon lights and the giggle of young girls running up and down the hallways. They make me turn my head, remembering the past. I don’t want to miss a thing.

* * *

The last sound I remember, before falling asleep, is a couple walking down the hallway, the jangle of car keys … at sometime past 2 a.m. in the morning, maybe 3 … in the snow? At least I think they are going out into the snow. I can barely hear their voices. The woman is making sure the man remembers their room key. They are shuffling quickly past my room. They must be running late. I can see the flash of their shadows as they pass my door. Where could they be going at this ungodly hour in the morning? These thoughts circle in my head, it conjures up scenarios, trying to find a nest of reason. And finally, I slip into slumber.

I wake to the soft knock on the door, “Ha-low,” the Mexican maid. She opens the door, hitting my body. “Oh, sa-ree.”

“Can you come back later?” I look up through the crack of the door, but she’s already moving down the hallway. She doesn’t answer but I hear the wheels of the service cart moving away. There is the squeak of wheels. I’m sure the cleaning lady has stories she can tell — people in awkward situations, people like me, cartoons of themselves … the tangle of life. And it’s all public show in these motels, a microcosm of the bigger world. I can’t leave in this weather. It’s too cold outside and I’m certain the roads are slick. It’s not like I have to be anywhere. I get up, off the floor and call the front desk, “can I keep the room another night…the weather, you know. Thanks. And please, tell the maid she doesn’t need to clean.” I’m in luck; the room is available. I lie back in bed. Now, I can sleep the whole day.

I notice the vague cracks in the ceiling and the peeling of paint more than most people who stay in motels, more than the people who run these places because I love motels, blemishes and all. The older I get the more I see these details. It’s what I look for … the flaws, the evidence of wounded humanity moving in and out of these rooms nightly. I smell their ghosts. They live in the thick air. It shows in the chips in the furniture and the wear of the sheets; they may have the scent of fresh linen, but they are filled with the copulation of desperate lives…one night stands, anxious men trying to jump start their futures, the tears of a mother running away or couples trying to salvage their bruised marriages.

* * *

If I stay long enough, Beth is certain to return. All things come back to their origins. I will become young again, my second chance, and everything will be the way it should have been a long time ago. I believe I can still make this happen. I remember Beth’s hair, the look of light clay in the desert sand, the pink in her skin … Mother Nature in the prime of her passion, let loose on the land. She is the desert on a cool summer night, the place I now live … Albuquerque. She taps at my skin. Out there, somewhere, are the soft legs of a 60 year old woman … Beth, and I wonder if someone is touching them.

Where were you?

Where was I? I was in the same place as you. I was there … looking.

You were looking in all the wrong places.

Well, that’s true enough…I mean, constantly looking in the places she doesn’t exist. I keep missing Beth, always staying in the wrong motels, always walking down empty hallways. I listen for the sound of candy dropping. There are thousands and thousands of these temporary lodges out there. They come in many styles, stacking up into the heavens, commercial, bigger than life or the string of single level buildings, poor, the blur of neon, filling the span of the landscape. They line the highways I travel. And I go through state after state seeking them out. I do understand the odds. The numbers are not good. But one day I believe we will connect. Somewhere, she is waiting. It’s the thought that drives me forward. I have to believe she is out there, thinking the same way, staying in other motels. My veins flutter with noble gas, the ghost in the tube. I live in the past, in the fictions I create, where the neon flows freely, finding its way through the spider of passageways in my arms. There is old dust in my blood … clotting, and it thickens. It does slow me down. But I accept it. It becomes my partner on the highways I travel.





Michael L. Woodruff is a graduate of the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska in Omaha. While at the workshop, he received the Reikes Scholarship for Writing. His stories have since appeared in a number of literary publications. He was nominated for the Robert J. Dau Award for Emerging Writers. He was born in Los Angeles, California and currently lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In addition to writing and reading, Mr. Woodruff spends his time hiking the deserts of New Mexico.