Fall, Freshman Year
Margaret Emma Brandl

Fall, Freshman Year

“Potato Creek.”

“The roads—?”

“I’ve done it before.”

“Potato Creek? After snow?”

Marta sighed, exasperated. “I’m not dumb, Elise. I’ll be careful.”

“Why would he be all the way out there without his car?”

“That’s just how we divided it up. Searching in all directions.” Marta looked like she was about to say something else but didn’t. The moment passed, and she was silent again.

It was because I had happened to be placed next to Marta in our band chair order that I had already been out to Potato Creek State Park. Back in August we’d driven out there on a Saturday to climb around on the playground equipment and walk a short trail. Marta had said she wanted me to see all that South Bend had to offer—sarcastically, of course, but we found places to explore. Marta was always inviting me to go places with her. It was just Marta and her mom back home, and she didn’t seem to like spending a lot of time there.

The drive to Potato Creek State Park went from highway to roads through the middle of nowhere, from nowhere to nowhere squared. There weren’t very many people living out this way and driving these roads, so not even the heat of cars could make up for poor plowing like back in South Bend. We skidded a little on a curve once, and I saw Marta’s face tighten, but she didn’t say anything and we didn’t hit anything so we just kept going.

Once I glanced at the clock and remembered it was last period. Marta interrupted my train of thought: “Hey, get that cell phone out of my backpack so we can hear if it rings.”

I reached in and extracted it: a blue brick, Nokia. I knew the phone had been a gift from her mother, in case of emergency. The screen said “Searching . . .”

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Margaret Emma Brandl

is a Ph.D. candidate in English specializing in creative writing (fiction) at Texas Tech University, where she teaches English classes and serves as an associate editor for Iron Horse Literary Review. Her writing has appeared in Gulf CoastThe Cincinnati ReviewPithead ChapelHobart, and other journals.