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Sal and Dean Are Dicks photo

Russ?? Is this you? I have pictures of yr new
daughter if u want to see her. She looks just like u
res[pond if you want to see her

I receive this text right before I have to teach a class. I’m not Russ and I have no idea who he is. During class, while my students talk about the cultural tropes of masculinity in the road novel, I think about the message. Russ has a new baby! He’s a father! A woman just pushed a baby into the world, and she’s on a text quest to find Russ. I recall the agony of giving birth to my son, and a phantom pain shoots through my pelvis.

“Sal and Dean are dicks,” says a student.


I consider glancing at my phone, but for the NO-PHONES-IN-CLASS clause I put in my syllabus.

“Dean uses women like Kleenex!”

“And don’t even get me started on Sal pretending he’s a migrant worker.”

It’s clear that most of these students hate Sal, Dean, and Kerouac.

“These men are trying to escape the constraints of mainstream culture,” someone pipes up. “Ain’t nothing wrong with freedom.”

Apparently, there are some holdouts. I tell my students to find evidence to support their claims, lie to them about a forgotten assignment sheet in my office, and bust my phone out as soon as I’m in the hallway.


She is tiny. Her fingers r so small
Are u there? Russ??

An image sits below this, a red-faced infant swaddled inside one of those hospital-issue baby blankets, the tiny white ones with blue and pink stripes. The dots that pulse while someone types appear and disappear, appear and disappear.

She is beautiful, I text back.
She is perfect, I respond.

image: Sean Fitzgerald