Moreland, Georgia—it is almost midnight. The stars are out by the billions. I am pumping gas at a filling station, watching them.
I like watching stars. I don’t know why. Somehow, they remind me that I am never forgotten by this universe.
A few hours ago, our plane touched down, and it felt like coming back from the moon. The South is my home, and when I’m gone too long I start to miss it.
We’ve been traveling for seventeen days—most of those days were spent out West, where humidity is a foreign word. And I missed home something fierce.
We left the airport and I started driving southward on a dark highway with windows rolled down. I passed kudzu, longleaf pine trees, and old barns.
I drove past trailer homes with lit windows glowing in the dark. And tiny churches, abandoned long ago. I passed a stray dog, wandering the highway in the dark.
If I had a nickel for every stray on these backroads.
And I pulled over here, to fill our tank in Moreland. I still have a long way to travel, but I’m close enough to be excited about seeing my front porch.
There is a gentleman on the other side of the pump, filling his tank. He drives an ugly truck. He wears boots. He shows a two-finger wave.
I return the favor.
He introduces me to the dog in his front seat.
“Her name’s Uga,” he says. “‘Cause I’m a dyed in the wool Georgia Bulldog fan.”
Nobody says things like “dyed in the wool” out West. But they say it in our part of the world.
My favorite writer was from Moreland. I read every one of his books before I hit age thirteen, and I silently declared to the Georgia stars, one summer night on my aunt’s sleeping porch, that…