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the drive

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How small we were sitting in the backseat of that mammoth car. We were dwarfed on the giant sofa-like bench waiting like a great amusement ride about to start. While we waited we explored our new surroundings. The lining inside the cavernous car was short-hair and smooth and as we ran our small hands across the surface, it felt like a young boy’s scalp after his first summer haircut. It was grey, the color of an elephant toy that had been won by our uncle last year at the fourth of july carnival. We explored the shiny chrome ashtrays. You could see your reflection in them like a mirror and we wondered if the owner used them to shave in the mornings as his chauffeur drove him to work. They were spring-loaded and snapped viciously at our little fingers. They smelled of foul ash and stale gum. There were large cranks with polished brown knobs, handles that controlled the windows. Turning them took all our strength like cranking the hand pump for water in the kitchen at Grandmas house on the farm. There were baby windows beside the big ones and they closed with little widget clips, swiveling inward so you could control the direction and amount of air that rushed in when the car was in motion. Too small to see outside, we sat dwarfed in the backseat watching the tops of trees go by and playing with a doll and a green plastic soldier. The doll was homemade from an old sock. The soldier, alone, separated from an army of plastic soldiers that came in a bag we could not afford. He was found, as most toys were, in the gutter or on the schoolyard, abandoned by the more affluent children. Small, simple toys that would not be missed from a rich kids over-stuffed closet. We knew we had to be quiet, for to make noise would be to draw attention that would come in the form of punishment. A slap on the bare thigh of a young boy in shorts or a young girl in a dress would leave a red welt for hours. The ride always seemed so very long that soon our patience would give out and a bump in the road would trigger a tidal wave of emotions; a push escalating to a shove, a pinch and then a shout. The crested wave would end in a crashing roar with a parents’ curse, a stinging slap, and a whimpering cry. Only puddles remaining, tide pools composed of wet pants and tears.

Copyright © | Year Posted 2021

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