Roadside Attraction

Roadside Attraction

Erin Dorney



The moment you step out of the car, you’ve lost your keys. They are not in the car. They are not in your purse. You decide to put off locating them until after you’ve seen the exhibit; it’s been a long day. You walk in, pay your thirteen dollars. Inside smells like harsh lemonade, a sort of weird lemon mirage in the middle of this desert you’ve been driving through. The first glass case contains approximately ten objects, several of which you recognize.

Your retainer.

Your high school class ring—emerald, princess cut.

Mr. Rabbit.


Those Swarovski earrings your brother got you for Christmas in '08. God, those would have looked good at the wedding. The Star Wars Boba Fett figurine you had a crush on. Mauve scrunchie from Kara. Legends of Zelda Gameboy cartridge. A rectangular placard attached to the bottom of the case includes your name, “Kate Wenda, Ages 2-29.”

To your left is a small platform, lit by a single bulb hanging low from the ceiling. On the platform are thirty six half-used lip balms. Strawberry Bonne Bell. Original Chapstick—you used to get it in your stocking every year. Vanilla Softlips—your ex’s favorite. EOS spheres—multiple flavors and tints. In the center of the lip balms is a pile of hair accessories: rubber bands, bobby pins, the polka-dotted headband you wore for three months straight in middle school and then never again.

At the very top of the pile is mom’s silver cat barrette.


There is a chest-height shelf around the circumference of the room. You walk slowly. It’s holding the Simba doll dad won for you at a carnival in Atlanta, circa 1996. A copy of Infinite Jest (water damaged). The flash drive containing files for all the papers you wrote in grad school. Your high school band jacket. Your high school boyfriend’s band jacket. Hello Kitty chopsticks Ashley brought you back from Japan. Your keys.

Your keys.


You look behind you. The blonde-haired ticket-taker’s head is resting on the table. You grab your keys. Walking towards the exit you grab a stick of lip balm off the platform—Calypso Punch Lip Smacker with SPF. It won’t be missed. You’ll need it in the sun. You pause for a moment, check the ticket-taker’s motionless curls. You sneak your hand up inside the case and grab the crystal earrings. There’s still time.

In the parking lot there are mismatched buttons scattered in the dirt near your back tire. Kicking at them, you notice a tuft of red fuzz sticking out of your exhaust pipe. Your troll doll smiles up at you with its gemstone belly. You grab the doll, unlock the car, and toss it to the passenger seat floor. It lands on your Van Gogh Starry Night t-shirt and shorts set, neatly folded. Your half of Emily’s heart-shaped best friends forever necklace hangs from the rearview mirror. You put the car in reverse.

As you speed out, an animal darts into the road. A dog—too fast—you collide. He yelps, and you remember when your parents said Wags has a new home now…

Springy black curls shoot out from the vents as you drive the car away from his dead body. At 75 miles per hour, you throw the lip balm out the window. You finger the earrings in your left hand.

A plastic bottle of vodka hits your windshield and bounces sideways. Then your Cabbage Patch doll, Miss Ellie. All the notes Leah wrote you in high school flutter down and as you try to shoo them away with your wipers you notice your pink iPod mini stuck beneath the blade, going back and forth, back and forth. It’s raining now—prescription sunglasses, your Cinderella watch, the VHS tape of your college graduation ceremony, Polaroid pictures, Volcom jacket.

The Motorola RAZR you left on the edge of a lunch tray flies through the driver’s side window almost hitting you. Baby teeth tat-tat-tat the glass before you fling the earrings out.

The rain stops. You drive on, the pile behind you growing smaller in the distance.

Erin Dorney recently moved to Minnesota from Lancaster, PA. Her creative work has appeared in Hobart, The Fledgling Rag, The Pinch, Potluck Magazine, and theEEEL. She curates the “From the Desk of” series at Real Pants and serves as poetry editor for Third Point Press.

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