Willie McCovey has long believed that the cartographers are blind to possibility. Their learned embroideries bring out the interstates, the arterial highways with the color of the northern cardinal in nesting season. The remainder they leave to less arresting hues. Yet it is through those sweeps of castleton green and the brown of owls and silt that signify a nine-hole public golf course or a forest preserve or the dead corridors known only to folkways — the rural route or the byway lost to wild briars or the unfinished symphony that is every dirt road — that Willie McCovey makes it from here to anyplace else in no more than two hours and 48 minutes. Anyplace, not anywhere.
He put galvanized steel body panels on his Seville and added the tailfins from a ‘59 El Dorado. His chronic detours demanded no less. He could not make it from Mobile to California in two hours and 48 minutes if he didn’t guide that Cadillac straight through the woods when Highway 98 curved north just beyond Wilmer and Big Creek Lake. The V-8 would’ve hummed less surely along Silopanna Road and perhaps even buckled under the weight of what was asked of it had Willie McCovey not provisioned it with a home-cooked fuel injection system using a bovine inseminator and boiling-hot Taster’s Choice coffee.
When he can no longer parry sleep, he ramps off the nearest levee onto the top of a passing boxcar on the Kansas City Southern Railway. The map is not the territory, he whispers during the furthest reaches of that four-minute nap he takes up there. Locomotive engineers and deputized pastors have agreed this is no call for outlawry, at least when Willie McCovey does it.
When plowing through a barbed wire fence, he dodges the upright rebar rods. Instead, he aims for the corner post of black locust lumber, which ensures his Caddy will have berth enough. His front plates brand “WM 44” backwards on the snapped fence post. As he crosses the pasture, he affixes a crisp $100 bill to a fishing sinker and tosses it out the window to cover the damage. If it can take a striped bass rig to the bottom of the Tombigbee, then it can pin a C-note to the soil until the inconvenienced farmer happens upon it. “Willie had to be someplace, I reckon,” he’ll say while tucking the bill into the chest pocket of his overalls. Someplace, not somewhere.
If the miles ahead of him require it, Willie McCovey will cut through a country cemetery — respectfully on two wheels, of course, taking care to doff his Lundberg stetson as he slaloms among the headstones. He’ll barge a swath through a field of harvest-ready corn, and no one will raise a cry because Willie McCovey has adjusted those tailfins to create a breeze that will detassel corn for a quarter acre on each side. In places where there are no such birds, they do not say, as the crow flies. Rather, as Willie McCovey drives is their testimony to unswerving forces.
He prefers all four windows rolled down, as he likes it when the twigs of shade trees bend inside the cabin and brush his face, but in deep winter, when the chill is too much, those windows fog with yearning. The A.M. radio crackles as he caroms off frozen haystacks. He’ll make it yet.
Now he has arrived at this someplace in no more than two hours and 48 minutes. He parks the Caddy vertically in a grain elevator, front end pointed toward that which we mistake for heaven. The harvest, blood, new, and gibbous moons that lit his way for the last 30 minutes and 600 miles nod approvingly.
“It shall be all right,” Willie McCovey says to them.
“Well,” say the four moons. “It shall be.”
“All right,” says Willie McCovey.