By Leslie Lindsay
He propped his left arm up on the car door, resting it on the open window, his right hand draped languidly over the avocado green steering wheel. Slouched down in the driver’s seat, the torn vinyl upholstery gaping in places, filling the openings with yellowed foam, he sucked in a deep breath, blew it out of his tighten lips as though he were smoking. Grandma wouldn’t allow that in the car, not with us kids inside, anyway.
He cocked the bill of his baseball hat over his face slightly. His bright blue, nearly translucent eyes squinted and looked up at the gray sky as the old car rumbled along the country road, “The fog’ll burn off,” he told us with utmost certainty.
I nodded, my chin quivered. I hoped he was right. Not only did I want a sunny day, I needed one.
It was the middle of a nasty divorce for my parents. They spat words at each other as if the other person was the devil incarnate. My brother—a year old—and a total jerk either ignored me or pushed me around the only way he really knew how to show his affection. I needed a bright, sunny day to forget all of the crap in my life, even if it was just for awhile.
Today, we were headed to Wonderland Falls. It was a small amusement park just outside of town. Nothing too special—but it was a diversion. Dad had given Uncle Joel cash for our admission, pulling out two slightly wrinkled twenties from his wallet, enough to get us into the park, plus a little extra for lunch and maybe a small souvenir.
Uncle Joel rolled the money into a tight little pack, placed it in his money clip, and it into his worn Levi’s. “Thanks, man. You know I’d pay for ‘em if I could.”
Dad nodded, his eyes soften. “Yeah. Money’s tight for everyone.”
The Buick climbed hills and eased into valleys wheezing down the country roads; I swear Uncle Joel lifted his feet off of the gas pedal as we dipped down giving Grandma a little scare. He’d chuckle and look over at her, “Relax, ma. Just savin’ a little gas.” And then he’d look back at us kids in the rearview mirror, testing our expressions.
It was summer, and if the old car had ever had air conditioning, I never knew. But I did notice a sliding lever on the dashboard that read, “Cool.” It never cooled down. Instead, the windows were at half-mast the whole time, blowing my hair into tumbleweeds, whipping against my face. I looked out the window when I could stand the wind in hopes that looking would somehow make the sun appear. It was working in some regard. The sun was pushing through, casting a beam of light in the cow pastures.
I’d glance at my brother sitting opposite from me and try to make wordless conversation with a tilt of my head or a shrug of my shoulder. He only gave me nasty looks or flicked a booger in my direction.
By the time the clunker rolled into the Wonderland Falls, the sun had broken through the clouds; it was no longer foggy or dreary. The crisp blue sky illuminating the sign at the park’s entrance, “Welcome to Wonderland Falls…where the sun never stops shining.”
We were the first to arrive that day, the parking lot just beginning to fill. I had hoped that Uncle Joel would park the car at the far end of the asphalt lot. He didn’t. Easing into the front row, he let the car coast in to the empty spot as he killed the engine, “Rock star parking,” he mumbled. “Just for you,” the corners of his mouth rolling up.
The four of us tumbled out of the car, pressing the locks down as we slammed the heavy doors. Locking it for what, I wasn’t sure. It’s not like the thing was worth much.
Immediately, Uncle Joel lit up a cigarette. Grandma shot him a look of disapproval.
“What?! It’s not so bad. We’re outside, for Pete’s sake. The kids’ mother smokes, you know. They’ve seen it before…jeez.”
Eric’s Converse sneakers went shuffle-shuffle-flop as we made our way to the admission booth, the star dangling off. I rolled my eyes.
Okay…I am asking for your advice on this piece. Would you keep reading? What do you like? Why? What would you like to see happen next? I’m up for anything…post your comments below: