The Ride by Mickey Miller



I’m a free man, and it’s time to start over. So where should I go? The East Coast?

Maybe. Where precisely, though? Florida is too hot for my bones. And anywhere Massachusetts and way north—that’d be too cold. I draw a circle around where I imagine the Carolinas are. Maybe somewhere like Charleston would be the Goldilocks zone for me. Not too hot, not too cold. I’ve heard good things about that area, and at least the weather would be agreeable.

Mulling over the midwestern portion of my map, I think about getting the hell out of Blackwell and where I could end up. Michigan? Nah, too cold in the winter.

Maybe I could go somewhere like Nashville. Excitement rushes through me at the thought. I have a friend from the joint named Andrew who moved there after he was released. I bet he could put me up, no problem. Plus, it is one of the music capitals of the U.S. Which, if this night is any indication, I need more of.

The singer finishes her song.

“Thanks, everyone. Once again, I’m Harmony. Have a good night and see you back here, same time next week,” she says simply and shyly compared with how she was just singing her heart out.

Harmony. What a perfectly appropriate name for someone with such a gifted voice. I guess God knew what he was doing when he named her.

The voices of the people in the bar blend into an indecipherable hum and I turn back to my map.

The bartender puts a tab down in front of me. I lay some cash on the bar and get ready to leave.

But I hesitate, not wanting to leave just quite yet.

What I really want is for Harmony to sing more, but I’m pretty sure it’s near closing time.

I glance around, seeing that she’s cleared her guitar, amp, and mic stand away from the stage. She’s gone. And there is just one other guy left in the bar now, staring into his glass of whisky. He probably wanted her to keep singing too.

I stand, staring at the empty stage. Maybe Harmony was just a figment of my imagination.

Maybe I’d dreamed this whole thing. I wouldn’t put it past me. It’s been a few months since I got out of jail, but things still seem somewhat surreal no matter where I go. Everything on the outside world seems a little like a dream—not quite tangible—and she definitely was too good to be true.

Talent like that on the outskirts of Blackwell? Come on, now.

Swiping my napkin map from the bar, I fold it and put it in my pocket. I’m the last patron to leave this place.

Outside, the stars, the full moon, and the fresh air greet me. There is just one car left in the dirt parking lot, and my bike.

I wheel my gaze around, then I spot her.

Harmony is curled into a ball sitting on top of her amp, her hands on top of her head and her face pressed into her lap. Clutching her phone in her hand above her head, she looks as if she might chuck the thing into the cornfields behind us.

My boots sound on the dusty earth as I come around to approach her from the front.

“Hey,” I say. “Nice show.”

“Thanks,” she says, looking up and offering me a forced smile.

“You okay?”

She struggles to push the frown off of her face.

“I’m fine,” she mutters, but the tone of her voice tells me she means the opposite.

I nod back, glancing off into the distance. “You played damn good up there, I gotta say. Thanks for that.”

She blinks a few times. “Oh, really? Did I? I’m always my own worst critic.”

I smirk. Does she really not understand how amazing of a singer she is? “Yeah. Really.”

“Well, thanks again,” she blushes.

I bring my eyes back to her. She’s looking up at me, her expression softer now. Neither of us says anything as we soak each other in.

“You waiting for a ride?” I ask.

“My stepmom ‘forgot’ to pick me up,” she says, using air quotes. “And my phone is dead. So, I don’t even know what I’m waiting on. I have no way of getting home.”

I nod slowly, tipping my chin in the direction of my motorcycle. Her gaze follows my line of sight.

“Have you ever ridden on the back of one of those?”

Her eyes go wide as she looks at the bike, and then at me.

“I can’t say that I have.”

“Really? Never?”

“Never.”

“Well. Do you want to go for a ride?”

She hesitates.

“I don’t know how to ride one of those,” she says dismissively.

“It’s not hard. Not for you. All you have to do is just hang on.”