These spaces which our cars have taken over

“How do you keep yourself from just flooring it?”

Dad laughed at my question. “I guess you just get used to it.”

The one-way roadway begged me to go faster. SUVs on either side both faced the same direction. Overhanging branches created the impression of endless tunnel, with its unmarked asphalt speeding toward a singular vanishing point. Everything about the street, how wide it was, how straight and smooth and black, expected speed — except some tiny sign? The black-on-white lettering obviously lied. If I were driving my dream car, a Tesla Model S, I would rip this local autobahn…


The Amtrak overlooks a lot of cornfields in between Chicago and St. Louis. Of course, there are also creek beds, interstates, and cul-de-sacs; minor league baseball stadiums; and a graffitied concrete beam at Union station which reads, “Have a great day.” However, the train’s predominant view consists of corn: row after row of that patchwork Midwest quilt knitted in the Earth. It was strangely captivating.

I used to take the Amtrak at the end of every quarter. I could have driven, if I owned a car, or flown from Midway airport, but the Southwest flight cost $138, while a single…


Eight months out of the year, most people called it the multipurpose room. It had the proportions of a dance studio or a chemistry lab — although it was neither — and inhabited the same basement hallway as the weight room and the lockers, containing neither weights nor changing areas. Two collapsible pitching cages hinted at one function, tucked against the near side wall, but for the most part their rolled-up turf served as a convenient bench for changing out of tennis shoes, not in use. Above these, gray steel beams supported the corrugated ceiling, covered in an insulating foam…


Professor Lyons possessed the sort of casual self-importance which only former consulting attorneys and underpaid professors are capable of. He had elbow patches on his jacket. His favorite movie was The Big Lebowski. Every day, he carried a leather messenger bag stuffed with graded papers, syllabi, that day’s reading, and several cans of green La Croix, which he drank periodically throughout the class while one or another “that kid” spouted their opinion — as if the Wisconsonian sparkling water lent him willpower to listen.

The students in my section were ill-prepared for the likes of Prof. Lyons. We had just…


Professor O’Leary wore circular spectacles and a wide brimmed wizard’s hat. Actually, it may have been a modest bucket hat, but the man so much resembled a wizard himself that the gray conical cap seems more likely in my mind.

Peter, as he preferred to be called, spent Tuesdays on campus. He taught a number of courses in creative writing, including the succinctly titled Wizards, and the much beloved Intro to Genres: Science Fiction. Among undergrads, Wizards and Sci-fi had an awe-inducing reputation. I just barely managed to secure a seat in both, first by carefully planning my schedule (second…


The lake is fifteen minutes from my parents’ house, which makes up for some of its other qualities. Dense thickets and collapsing mud walls encircle the water, interrupted by abandoned camping chairs and a mossy picnic table, which sinks into the Missouri mud. After a rainstorm, the Meramec surges into the lake, depositing Anheuser Busch cans and Marlboro butts all along the shallow cover, where bass like to hide. A thick, foamy film clings to the surface. Mercury levels make the fish not-quite-edible. A park pavillion overlooks the scenery on one end, a boat ramp on the other.

Dad inherited…

Benjamin D. Killeen

PhD Student @JohnsHopkins. I write creative nonfiction, usually about growing up in the American Middle West.

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