Sitting in the back seat of her parents Suburu, Clementine stared out the window. They had been driving for days, and she'd never had so much to see before. It had surprised her, how the world looked different from state to state. They had passed from the familiar hardwoods of the east--where you couldn't see anything from the road because it was hidden by the trees, to the rolling green hills, and then corn fields, as far as the eye could see. She saw a man on a tractor, the only person in a vast expanse. He raised his hand and waved to her, but she didn't think to wave back. They had crossed huge rivers, and she had quietly tossed a nickel out her window, hoping that it would reach the water and sink down, down into the muddy depths. Proof that she had been here.
Now, they were getting closer. Her little sister huddled against the car door, playing handheld video games or watching movies on her dad's laptop. She had cried for three states, clutching a stuffed koala her BFF had given her. She was 9.
Now, on the last day of their trip, the road wound through the trees, slightly upward, for what seemed like forever. Occasionally Clementine saw handmade signs for pottery, or small cafes offering huckleberry jams and ice cream. Clementine had never tasted a huckleberry in her life, and could only think of Mark Twain and his Huckleberry Finn. Suddenly, ahead, they came into a broad valley, rimmed by mountains. Her mother turned toward the backseat and smiled encouragingly, "We're almost home."
Home, as it turned out to be, was a hunkering brick house with a nondescript yard. Chainlink fence. A black mailbox that said SWENSON. Her father pulled into the driveway, put the car into park, and turned the key. There was silence as they all opened their doors and slid out of their seats. Her mother stretched. Her dad cracked his knuckles. Clementine just stood behind her open door, and looked.