CaravanAfterwards he wasn't sure what made him notice, waking up from the molasses daydream of homeward bound Los Angeles rush hour traffic to notice the red Ford Focus in front of him. The same year and color as his. A mile or so further it was still ahead of him. A few cars had merged into their lane and then out again. He edged closer; the license plate was close to his, probably issued within the same month. When the red car switched lanes, so did he. Five minutes later they passed his offramp. He had nothing waiting at his apartment, another red Focus had pulled into line behind him, and he could turn back any time, maybe drive out to Riverside and have dinner before turning back. They passed another red Focus who pulled in behind them. By the time they reached Riverside, he had lost second position, but the group of cars headed down an offramp and into a diner so he followed them. No one knew who the lead car was. He sat with an older woman, like him diverted from her commute, and a teenager who ordered a chocolate milkshake and fries for dinner. The conversation was congenial if not deep, and when people left, he did too. No one else turned back, so he joined the line moving eastward again. They stopped in Indio for the night. Most found rooms in town, with a few going on to Coachella. More red Ford Focuses joined them as they passed through the desert, materializing from the sand and cactus. In Phoenix, the local news had dispatched reporters. Once again no one could find the lead car or where it had started. No reporter asked him and his personal theory was the driver of the car ahead of him hadn't realized he was at the head and later became just another car in the bunch. By St Louis, the caravan was several miles long, subject of national news, and local police were wondering how to deal with all of the traffic, but never could find any ordinance that was being violated. A few cars were issued speeding tickets, but that would be the case in any large group. There was some panic when the caravan seemed to head toward Washington, DC, but it turned south long before the military roadblock set up to stop or divert it. It finally stopped up against the ocean in Virginia Beach. Drivers got out and stretched their legs; some bought a souvenir, or lunch. It took two days for all the cars to come into town and by then most of the first arrivals had left. A magazine reporter looked for the commonality, asking drivers about the reasons they had bought the Ford Focus or why they wanted it red. The answers seemed as diverse as the drivers. He left before the last car arrived and took a different route back to Los Angeles.
23 Dec 2008
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