Every Hand Turned Against Itself

Cedar buys a ticket at one of the small hotels built along the side of the road. The roads through the mountains are steep, unpaved, and too narrow for automobiles, so the coach that stops for her is an old-fashioned buggy, like what the Model A was based on, except instead of an engine or even horses there’s a bunch of ropes and sweaty, miserable people hauling on them. “You’re lucky, miss,” the driver tells her as he lifts her luggage into the coach. “You’ve got a seat up top. Not everyone does.”

“What do they do?” she asks. “Ride with the bags?”

The driver laughs and slaps his whip against his thigh. “They pull,” he says. “Yah!” The coach rumbles up into the mountains, her fellow passengers groaning and straining against the ropes. When the road gets steeper, Cedar leans forward and asks, “Is it my turn? Can I help?”

The driver sneers at her. “Help? If you get down in the ropes you don’t get back up again. Help, lady?” He cracks his whip at the sweating backs below. “You go ahead and help, miss. You just go ahead.”

“The hell you say,” says Cedar, and climbs down. The driver grabs for her, but she’s grabbed a rope and bent herself against the weight of the mountains.