Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Dreams of My Children. Part 11

"You had better put some air in those tires," the man said to his son.
"Yeah, OK, but I've got to hurry and take a shower," the boy said. "I have to pick up the guys at six."
"Go clean up then," said the man, heading to the garage to find the pump.

The car was old and crumpled, and as he leaned against the fender to pump the tires, a trace of faded blue paint wore off on his sweating palm.
They bought the car from a friend for $25 and had put 10 times that amount into it to make it roadworthy. It had been poised for weeks now, waiting for that day when the boy received his driver's license.

Presently, the boy came bounding out of the house, all arms and legs, wearing a ball cap and high-tops, baggy over-sized shorts and T-shirt, dog tags hanging around his neck, wire-rimmed glasses and a gold earring: your typical 16-year-old.
"Thanks for taking care of the tires," the boy said. "See ya later."
"Just a minute. I have some things to say to you first."
Watching from the porch, the boy's mother said, "I've already given him the big lecture." But she had a few more things to add. Watch out for children on bikes, and don't be a show-off. Call when you get to the mall. Call when you get to your friend's house.
"OK, Ma. Really!"

The boy climbed behind the wheel and started the engine of the old blue car. It sputtered to life, making the sound that exhaust systems make shortly before they must be replaced.
"Keep your eyes on the road, not on the radio dial," the father yelled.
The boy cupped his hand to his ear and looked at his father questioningly, then turned down the volume of the radio and said, "What did you say?"
"Aw, never mind, the man said. "Have a good time."

And he drove down the driveway, never looking back.

His parents stood in the driveway for a time, looking down the road, listening to the distant sputtering of the old blue car as it headed toward town.
"Now what do we do for the next three hours? Watch the clock and worry ourselves sick?" the man asked his wife. She put her hand on his shoulder and they turned and walked toward the porch together.
"It seems like just last week that we watched him get on the school bus for the first time," he said.

The warm evening passed, as least as far as the young driver's father was concerned, with maddening slowness. And at 9:35 p.m., they heard the old car sputtering up the road, and the man and his wife stepped out onto the porch and watched the boy pull into the driveway.
They joked with him, scolded him and peppered him with questions; they put their arms around his waist and walked into the house. They had let him go, and he had come back. Maybe next time it would be easier.

- June 1990

No comments: