For Your Reading Pleasure: Where the Map Ends by Ron Rash

This is a short story by Ron Rash. It appeared in the collection published by HarperCollins entitled “Nothing Gold Can Stay.”


They had been on the run for six days, traveling mainly at night, all the while listening for the baying of hounds. The man, if asked his age, would have said forty-eight, forty-nine, or fifty, he wasn’t sure. His hair was cut short, like gray wool stitched above a dark face. A lantern swayed by his side, the twine that secured it chafing the bullwhip scar ridging his left shoulder. With his right hand he clutched a tote sack. His companion was seventeen and of a lighter complexion, the color of an oft-used gold coin. The youth’s hair was close-cropped as well, the curls tinged red. He carried the map.

As the foothills became mountains, the journey became more arduous. What food they’d brought had been eaten days earlier. They filled the tote with corn and okra from fields, eggs from a henhouse, apples from orchards. The land steepened more, and their lungs never seemed to fill. “I heard that white folks up here don’t have much,” the youth huffed, “but you’d think they’d at least have air.” The map showed one more village, Blowing Rock, then a ways farther a stream and soon a plank bridge. An arrow pointed over the bridge. Beyond that, nothing but blank paper, as though no word or mark could convey what the fugitives sought but had never known.

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