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To the Stars through Difficulties
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To the Stars through Difficulties

“We’re off to see the wizard!” my father keeps saying. On the other side of Kansas is Denver, and the assisted-living

home he’s picked out. The atlas tells us that Kansas’s state motto is Ad astra per aspera, To the stars

through difficulties. My father’s blue-mapped hands grip the wheel, refuse to surrender to cruise control.

The land dips once, outside Topeka, then shoots straight west. The pills tire him, and outside of Salina

he asks me to drive. When I turn on the radio, he snaps it off, tells me to watch the semis.

He reads all the funny town names from the map they’d handed us at the visitor center: “Enterprise! Freedom!

El Dorado! Colby, like the cheese! Manhattan! Liberal! Derby, like the hat! There’s a Clyde, but no Bonnie!”

Then he is quiet for a long time. When I look over, my father has fallen asleep. He knew [End Page 578]

he was never coming home, but I did not. I was forty, educated but stupid. In the Rand McNally,

all the states are scaled to the page: Hawaii is as big as Montana. Even Texas gets only half a spread. Kansas is just

another state, long as a life. In six months, my father will go off to the see the wizard on a one-way ticket.

I will make the trip across Kansas, alone. It will be August. It will be sunflowers as far I can see. [End Page 579]

Christina Olson

Christina Olson is the author of Before I Came Home Naked. Her poetry and nonfiction have recently appeared in The Normal School, Gastronomica, and Hobart. She is the poetry editor of Midwestern Gothic and lives in Georgia.

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