“Everything here reminds me of her, too. We used to talk about going to Paris. I mean, I don’t even want to go to Paris, but I just keep imagining how excited she’d be at the Louvre. We’d go to great restaurants and maybe drink red wine. We even looked for hotels on the Web. We could have done that on the KranialKidz money. ”14
“Dude, if Kentucky is going to remind you of Paris, we’re in a hell of a pickle. ”
Colin sat up and looked across the poorly kept lawn of the rest stop. And then he looked down at Hassan’s clever handiwork. “Baguettes,” Colin explained.
“Oh, my God. Give me the keys. ” Colin reached into his pocket and tossed the keys lazily across the picnic table. Hassan snatched them as he stood, then made his way to Satan’s Hearse. Colin followed, forlorn.
Forty miles down the road, still in Kentucky, Colin had curled up against the passenger window and was starting to fall asleep when Hassan announced, “World’s Largest Wooden Crucifix—Next Exit!”
“We’re not stopping to see the World’s Largest Wooden Crucifix. ”
“We shitsure are,” Hassan said. “It must be huge!”
“Hass, why would we stop and see the World’s Largest Wooden Crucifix?”
“It’s a road trip! It’s about adventure!” Hassan pounded on the steering wheel to emphasize his excitement. “It’s not like we have somewhere to go. Do you really want to die having never seen the World’s Largest Wooden Crucifix?”
Colin thought it over. “Yes. First off, neither of us is Christian. Second off, spending the summer chasing after idiotic roadside attractions is not going to fix anything. Third off, crucifixes remind me of her. ”
“Of her. ”
“Kafir, she was an atheist!”
“Not always,” Colin said softly. “She used to wear one a long time ago. Before we dated. ” He stared out the window, pine trees rushing past. His immaculate memory called forth the silver crucifix.
“Your sitzpinkling disgusts me,” Hassan said, but he gave the Hearse some extra gas and shot past the exit.
Two hours after passing the World’s Largest Wooden Crucifix, Hassan brought it back up.
“Did you already know that the World’s Largest Wooden Crucifix was in Kentucky?” he shouted, his window down and his left hand waving through the fast-passing air.
“Not before today,” Colin answered. “But I did know that the world’s largest wooden church is in Finland. ”
“Not interesting,” Hassan said. Hassan’s not-interestings had helped Colin figure out what other people did and did not enjoy hearing about. Colin had never gotten that before Hassan, because everyone else either humored or ignored him. Or, in the case of Katherines, humored then ignored. Thanks to Colin’s collected list of things that weren’t interesting,15 he could hold a halfway normal conversation.
ed miles and one pit stop later, safely removed from Kentucky, they were midway between Nashville and Memphis. The wind through the open windows dried their sweat without actually cooling them much, and Colin was wondering how they could get to a place with air-conditioningwhen he noticed the hand-painted billboard towering above a field of cotton or corn or soybeans or something. 16 EXIT 212—SEE THE GRAVE OF ARCHDUKE FRANZ FERDINAND—THE CORPSE THAT STARTED WORLD WAR I.
“That just doesn’t seem plausible,” Colin noted quietly.
“I’m just saying that I think we should go somewhere,” Hassan said, not hearing him. “I mean, I like this interstate as much as the next guy, but the farther south we go, the hotter it gets, and I’m already sweating like a whore in church. ”
Colin rubbed his sore neck, thinking he would never spend another night in the car when he had plenty of money to pay for hotels. “Did you see that sign?” he asked.
“The one about the grave of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. ”
With little regard for the road, Hassan turned to Colin, smiled broadly, and punched him softly on the shoulder. “Excellent. Excellent. And anyway, it’s lunchtime. ”
As Colin climbed out of the passenger’s seat in the Hardee’s parking lot at Exit 212 in Carver County, Tennessee, he called his mom.
“Hey, we’re in Tennessee. ”