by Caleb Coy


I ask my dad how to spell “run away,” because I’m not sure if “away” ends with a y or an e. I tell him it’s to make a sign over my door that says, “Run away, monsters!” My hand is over the computer screen, so he doesn’t see what I’m really typing.

I bring him the note while he’s mowing the back yard. He reads it. He frowns.

I walk my wagon down the driveway, look both ways, and cross the street to the curb opposite. I look at my wagon of supplies: two plastic chairs, my backpack of food, a stuffed bunny, some rope. I take one of the chairs out and sit on it. Mom steps outside and asks me where I plan on going. By definition, I am no longer at home, and so by this measure I did initiate running away. The wagon heads up the driveway.


We just came out of the Tennessee Aquarium. My dad has to go to the restroom, so we wait by the fountains in the plaza. The Chattanooga summer sun is bearing down on my eyes. I walk over to one of the fountains and stare in the water.

An old, chubby policeman steps up. “Howdy, son. Nice day?”

I squint upward at him, the sun behind him, just a silhouette of authority.

“Um, hello.”

He glances around the wide space. “Where are your folks?”

I keep my eyes to the water. This dramatically funny idea comes to me, maybe because I heard the line in a movie.

I’d say, It doesn’t matter. I can’t go back. Then I’d take off across the plaza, just to see if he’d chase me.

I look over at my mom and brother, her letting him flick his fingers in the other fountain. “Oh, my mom is just over there with my brother. We’re waiting on my dad.”

“Oh, okay then,” says the friendly officer. “Have a good day.” He strides away, situation under control.

He was pretty heavyset. I could have easily outrun him.


“Now that I’m seventeen I can legally get emancipated,” says Michelle.

“Wait,” I say, “what’s that?”

“Even though I’m not eighteen I can legally get free of my parents.”

“So, like, what did they do to you?”

“They’re just stupid. Like, they argue with me all the time. They make me feel horrible. I’m responsible, but they won’t let me show it. If I get emancipated, I can get my own place, work a job, and be free. Hold on, my mom’s yelling for me.”

I lower the phone for a second. I think I hear someone leaning against my door, trying to listen.

After a minute, Michelle says, “Okay, they want me to go with them. We’re going to go see a movie. Hold on, I need to get my shoes on.”

I picture her putting her sneakers on her pink, woolly socks. It’s the most intimate thing Michelle has shared with me. If I were in her room, I would tell her that as soon as she puts her shoes on she could run away with me. Or I could tell her how I felt, we could get emancipated, and get married and live in a house together, just to prove to her parents and mine that we were adults. I picture her slipping her shirt over her shoulder to climb out of it, rather than taking it off the way everyone else removes a shirt. My cousin would believe in us and help move a couch into an apartment for us, like I did for her. Sometimes freedom is the impoverished commitment of two lonely people who have fled.

“I don’t want to get you in trouble for talking to me,” I say.

“I can talk to whoever I want,” she says. “But yeah, I have to go. Call me sometime.”

I will call her one more time.


I’ve been in the car for three hours, about five more to go from Jackson to Roanoke. I pass by a sign for Waverly. I’ve passed by the names of several towns I’ve either only heard of or have only seen the name of on a green sign.

What if I just turned in to one for no reason and I didn’t tell anyone where I was? I’d find one of those cheap campgrounds, find a job at a Subway, and pay a daily campsite fee. I’d meet only travelers. Never finish my senior year of college, and just live simply on next to nothing, not knowing anyone any more from my previous life. I would have to write them letters to tell them I was fine. They would track me down. The lot of it would be a hassle.

Another nameless exit, just the same as the one before it. I pull in, looking for a Subway. A sandwich, some gas, and to check how much longer the map says I have to go. It’s already six-thirty. When I arrive, I’ll have to enter quietly so I don’t wake the dog.


My four-year-old son is playing in the dirt mound in the back yard on the edge of the neighbor’s property. His brother will be here in just two months. We live on one side of a small duplex, and the space is pretty cramped. My wife is tired most evenings and already we feel outnumbered. The world is shrinking, the air is thin. I had a handful of dirt in my hand, but I’ve let it slip out of my fingers.

There is a sound barrier behind the houses across the street. Beyond that, road, then hills, then places beyond this where a person can disappear.

“Daddy, you’re going to dig with me to find precious rocks for my rock store.”

I take the shovel and peck away at the dirt hill, half of me here. Sometimes love is clipping your errant wings.


Photo by Manuel Meurisse on Unsplash