Zane's Trace

Zane's Trace

by Allan Wolf


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A coming-of-age road story with a supernatural twist — and a compulsively readable poetic novel about identity and belonging.

Zane Guesswind has just killed his grandfather, or so he believes. So he steals the 1969 Plymouth Barracuda his long-gone father left behind and takes off on a manic trip to his mother’s grave to kill himself. Armed with a six-pack of Mountain Dew, a jumbo pack of Sharpies (for scribbling all over the dashboard), and a loaded gun in the trunk, he’s headed to Zanesville, Ohio, with no rearview mirror and no more worries. On the way, he meets Libba, a young hitchhiker who shares his destination, and other mystic and mysterious characters. With each encounter, and every mile marker he passes, Zane gets farther from the life he knows — but closer to figuring out who he really is.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780763628581
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Publication date: 08/28/2007
Pages: 208
Sales rank: 752,516
Product dimensions: 5.81(w) x 8.56(h) x 0.91(d)
Age Range: 14 Years

About the Author

Allan Wolf, an expert poet and storyteller, is the author of the award-winning New Found Land: Lewis and Clark's Voyage of Discovery. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Read an Excerpt

334 Miles to Zanesville

When I die
I want to come back as a 1969 Plymouth Barracuda midnight blue with black-tape accents,
twin dummy hood scoops,
and a 440 big-block engine stuffed between the fenders.
An engine so big they had to install it with a shoehorn and a hammer.

I’ve got a six-pack of Mountain Dew,
a book bag filled with Pop-Tarts, a jumbo pack of Sharpies, a change of socks,
fifty dollars cash, a credit card in my wallet,
and a loaded gun in the trunk.
No rearview mirror. And no more worries.
It’s just over three hundred miles to Zanesville, Ohio.

A straight shot.

Gotta make good time.
The sun’s already up.
By now they’ve probably found the old man’s body.

332 Miles to Zanesville

My mother used to read me this book,
Harold was a little kid who made anything happen just by drawing it.
He could draw a horizon, or a window,
or a door, or stairs, or stars or a boat or a spaceship. No trouble existed that Harold couldn’t fix.

A few years later
Mom kept getting sicker, so Grandpa moved in with us for good. That’s when I started writing on my bedroom walls.

Harold had a purple crayon. I’ve got Sharpies --
medium-tip mostly,
the occasional king size for big ideas.

I figured I could make everything work out if I just wrote on my walls. If I just wrote the right phrase the right number of times or in the right color.

Give my mother back her mind.
Calm the demons in her head.
Leave the darkness far behind.
If need be, take me instead.

My Wyandot shaman father was not around to give me spiritual guidance.
So I created my own heaven, Zane-atopia,
and I drew a picture of it on my ceiling.
Zane-atopia existed at the top of
Mount Guesswind, and my life was the climb.
The earthly world was a dragon’s tail wrapped around the mountain’s base. The bad times were dark clouds. The good times a rainbow.
A bright flash of light shone at the tip-top point of the mountain (where good people went to live with God) and inside the light was my mom and my brother, Zach, and Stanley (he’s my dad),
and even the old man.

All of this I drew on the ceiling until my arms were like lead pipes and my neck was a train wreck.

But it felt good in my stomach.
Like Michelangelo must have felt painting the Sistine Chapel. Like reaching up to touch God’s fingertip.

Now my walls are whispering ten miles back.
I’ll never draw on them or write on them again.
But I can’t help looking at the Barracuda’s dash:
an empty space waiting to be filled.
These Sharpies are dependable.
The only thing I can count on.
They’ll write on just about anything.

The thought of it makes my fingertips itch.

331 Miles to Zanesville

I never did belong in Baltimore.
It hit me like the voice of God a few weeks ago, with summer break gasping to an end:
You don’t belong, Zane.
You don’t belong.
I wrote it on my walls all day.
Don’t belong. Don’t belong. Don’t belong.
Till I got fed up and Googled myself.
And there it was, just a couple pages in:
"Zanesville, Ohio -- population 25,586.
Home of the world’s only Y Bridge."
A bridge where three roads intersect!

A town named after me with a bridge that asks, Why, why, why?
I drew the bridge. I drew myself in its center.
And I gave it a caption. I inked it into my walls.
Zane belongs in Zanesville.
Zanesville is the place for Zane.
Why had I not thought of it before?
Zanesville is the town where Mom is buried.

I may as well be buried there too.

329 Miles to Zanesville

Give my mother back her mind.
Calm the demons in her head.
Leave the darkness far behind.
If need be, take me instead.

The day I began to write on my walls
I was listening to the old man hound my mother in his usual way.

Ee-liz-a-beth, this. Ee-liz-a-beth, that.

My grandfather’s voice carried down the air ducts to my basement bedroom,
poisoning the stillness, dimly lit.
The floor was gray cement, the walls light blue,
the ceiling bright white and easy to reach.
I was lying on my bed flipping a penny and considering my options--
should I smother the old man with a pillow?
or plunge a knife into his black heart?
heads, tails, tails, heads, tails, heads--
when the penny took a wild hop,
fell between the bed and the wall,
and lodged in a gap behind the baseboard.
And just like that, it had disappeared.

Ee-liz-a-beth, this. Ee-liz-a-beth, that.

That’s when I heard the music in my head.
Music like a wind-up jack-in-the-box ready to pop.
This was the first of the usual signs:

A seizure was on its way.

327 Miles to Zanesville

I knew from experience
I had about five minutes till the seizure hit.

Ee-liz-a-beth, this. Ee-liz-a-beth, that.

I broke into a sweat. I felt dizzy.
I began to hear the voices.
My mother. My brother. The old man.
All of them calling to me.

But they weren’t there.
The penny is hidden, I thought.
Hidden behind the baseboard.
No one will know. Only me.
My responsibility.

I had to tell.
Someone had to know.
Not about the seizure,
not about my mother, but the penny.

So I pulled my bed away from the wall.
And very carefully.Very lightly,
in pencil, just above the spot where the penny had gone, I wrote:

Penny lost here by Zane Harold Guesswind.

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