Auto-Drift, or A Devised Dérive – Part 1

by | Dec 22, 2015 | Fiction

A few blocks from Chuck Berry’s statue, MetroLink trains accelerated, maintained, braked, and lightly eased into the Delmar Loop Red Line station, traveling in both southeast and northwest directions, parallel, headed towards Forest Park-DeBaliviere, Central West End, Grand, through Ewing Yard to Union Station, Civic Center, Stadium, 8th and Pine, Convention Center, and Arch-Laclede’s Landing, as well as, towards Wellston, Rock Road, UMSL South, UMSL North, North Hanley, Lambert Airport East, and Lambert Airport Main, respectively.

—Ding, ding, ding, ding, the light rail wailed.

A cool autumn’s morning; the conductor of the light rail bundled into his light jacket and announced over the intercom:

—Red Line to Shiloh-Scott. Stand clear, all doors are closing.

The train eased out, accelerating southeast.

Right and left parallel smoothly skimming two trains shot by each other’s port.

—Our next stop will be Forest Park-DeBaliviere. Doors will open to my left. If you wish to go to Shrewsbury-Lansdowne I-44, please exit and take the Blue Line west.




Matt Lane lay sleeping, snug tight in his bed at 9 am on a Saturday morning in a St. Louis autumn. Warm and toasty in his bed, lay he. When his alarm went off, he ignored it for ten more minutes, before slowly rising from his bed and heading towards the bathroom for his morning ritual shower. Hydrophilic Matt stood before the streaming jets of hot water and woke up from his drowsiness, almost as if the ritual shower was equivalent to a morning’s cup of coffee.

—Hurry up, Matt! his father called from below, we’re going to be late.

Alright, alright, jeeze, still groggy and morning grumpy Matt thought. Morning, what a horrible time of the day.

Hundreds of miles away, in Valparaiso, Indiana, Earl Turneskay lay out of it, in non-REM blackout sleep, passed out and sleeping off a hangover as a consequence of the previous night’s bout of drinking. He drank so much as to the point that his legs went numb from being so fucked up.

Hundreds of miles back, Russell Spiel sat in his office chair at work. The office was a Chesterfield Charter Communications building lying in the county west of downtown St. Louis. Though he was scheduled to take off about thirty minutes previous from his 3rd shift IT night work, he was filling in for a late employee until he could arrive. Russ talked with his co-worker about football and music while he sat idly at his desk scrolling through Facebook, waiting for the 1st shift worker to relieve him.

Edwina Kitshe was currently making whip-cream at the Highway K O’Fallon Starbucks, which lay further to the west of Chesterfield, for her early morning customers.

Charley A. Magne du Burg stocked groceries of bubble gum and candy packages at his Des Peres Schnucks job while a woman shopper came up to him and asked him where the potato chips were.

Louise Johnson lay sleeping, dead to the world, in her waterbed, in her small dark cave cavern of a room, in her Lincoln County home, dreamless and out of it, like a stone.

It was 55 degrees outside in St. Louis.




Dérive-“in psychogeography, an unplanned journey through a landscape, usually urban, on which the subtle aesthetic contours of the surrounding architecture and geography subconsciously direct the travelers, with the ultimate goal of encountering an entirely new and authentic experience.”

Guy Debord-a dérive is “a mode of experimental behavior linked to the conditions of urban society: a technique of rapid passage through varied ambiances.”




Earl walked exhaustively to the local Panera Bread from his boyfriend’s apartment in Valparaiso. It was rainy and cold and the horrid disgusting traffic of the city made for an all too depressing atmosphere. As he near-shuffled along a crosswalk at the junction, a car slammed on its breaks right before meeting Earl’s tired bodily form. The driver blared the car’s horn at the poor tired Earl:


Earl, too jostled from lack of sleep and hydration, panicked instead confronting the driver, and ran across the crosswalk to avoid any further trouble. He was then almost sideswiped by a cyclist on his bicycle.

Angered and fully awoken now, Earl grumbled on his continued way to Panera Bread.

Russ lay finally sleeping from a long night’s work at Charter Communications, shirtless and stomach rounding upwards towards the ceiling, in his bed. The fan above slowly swooped around in his darkened stark white suburban home.

Edwina the barista sat at a table in the back of her workplace, taking her final ten minute break of a six hour shift.

Charley broke down boxes and placed them in the single-stream recycling dumpster in the back of the behemoth store.

Louise sat cloistered in her back hidden officeroom, gazing at her computer screen while controlling digital simulations of human beings in a digital simulation of a game known as life.

Windy fall belched forth onto the plains as Matt drove, and the sun cast a mellow cool light upon the half-overcast midfall day. It was 12 pm, high noon, when he had rode out.

Here we go, he thought.

It was 60 degrees outside in St. Louis.




The near taciturn dance of the scattering leaves on the abandoned West County office building parking lot on a lazy Saturday afternoon gave Matt an extreme calm and peace of mind. A bird harped alone calling out to declare his solitude. The mailman let his engine idle as he took a break from his slow and low workload day.

Green verdure leafed trees stood in contrast to the already vibrant yellow and orange leafed branches.

Matt drove west, a flaneur on wheels, a deep topographer, Kerouacian wayfinding, down quiet suburbs, lonely for interaction, humming the day away in their isolation. A woman on her lonely driveway eyed him with a half-focused fatigued look as she sprayed down the concrete with a power washer. Another woman, in a business suit, arranged items in her small compact car. Was she just getting out of work from a lazy halfwork day Saturday? Neither of these women knew that they were the subject matters chosen for this written recording; on this day they were oblivious to the immortality they would eventually receive in literary posterity.

The clouds gathered in together to block out the sun, as if it were about to lightly rain, a weeping mother holding her child off from an aggressor.

The radio sang a lovely lilting lavender-voiced female tune:

What you had and what you lost and what you had and what you lost. Thunder only happens when it’s raining…

Matt drove along a curvy lane, stretching left. To the right arched a gallery of falling leaves: Tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, tree, all in curvilinear.

Nearby, a lodge and an old casa lay. Adjacent to the casa was a rib town: ye olde rib inn. Further adjacent was a pizza hut, named D_______.

An old man, mustached, walked along the sidewalk, twenty pack in hand. He walked past a geodesic geoidal dome, an abode for salt pseudogeodes, and then, a house of mercy with multiple chromatic crosses.

Someone carved a dead tree stump into the form of a Groot guardian statue in their front yard, an icon to protect the home during the spooky hallows month.

A plague of leaves whirled around; the wind was dancing and having a gay time on this day of ease and lightness.

Suddenly, Matt descended into the deep wood valley, almost like a park for the residents to frolic in. This wooded valley straddled a major highway artery vein of the city, bringing in and out the living red blood cells known as citizens, playing a balancing act lest it be overwhelmed by sheer number and die from lack of life. A stark contrast: the deep quiet of the neighborhood wood and the noise of the crowded clogged highway. Traffic jams: the blind leading the blind.

A giant chessboard gulfed deep into an eccentric resident’s yard.


The train tracks separated the two valleys as Matt ascended up, over the tracks, and then down into the river valley.



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Photo by Daniel Lu

About The Author

Matthew Lane

Matthew Lane graduated from St. Louis University with a degree in English in 2013. He can be reached at