Motors

Skeet’s the one that stole the equipment. At least, that’s what Dad thinks, and I guess it make sense. Skeet hasn’t shown up for work all week, and he hasn’t called in. Plus, Skeet’s been complaining a lot lately, even around me. “What you going do, boss man’s son, fire me?” he said just last week, then laughed. “Hell, I wish you would. Then I’d be done with this shit for real.”

My dad figures Skeet’s going to try and sell it all quick—the push mowers, the blowers, the chainsaws, the riding mower, the rest. So after work, Dad says we should drive around Skeet’s neighborhood and see what we can see: Skeet’s old truck, maybe, or a sign taped to a telephone poll that says, “Landscape equipment, best price offered.” We know the neighborhood where Skeet lives, but we don’t know the street. The guys at work get paid in cash every Friday, and Dad says he doesn’t want to know the rest of it.

After we close up, I get into the passenger’s seat of the truck, and Dad reaches into the glove compartment and retrieves his pistol, puts it under his seat. That’s the first time I’ve ever even seen it, though I’ve always known it was right there. I’m 15, but I don’t care if I ever hold a gun.

In Skeet’s neighborhood cars are missing tires, or a door; the broken windshields look like spider webs. Toddlers run around in the front yard in diapers with no adults in sight.

“This is something else,” my dad says in a low voice. He reaches across me and locks my door.

After a while I say, “It’s too bad because I like Skeet.”

My father nods.

“And the customers like him,” I say. “He’s very friendly.” Part of me thinks that maybe we’re wrong about Skeet. Lots of people could have broken into the storage house. Lots of people have trucks.

“Oh, Skeet loves to talk,” my Dad says, not unkindly. “He’d talk all day if you let him. And that’s the problem.”

We keep driving up and down these streets, and the people who are sitting on the front porch and swatting at the heat glare harder every time we pass.

Nearly an hour goes by, and when we drive by the same rusty fan without its cover at the edge of a driveway, Dad says we should get on over to the hospital to see my mother. She’s been there two months now. When we step into her room Dad pulls up his chair next to her bed and holds her hand, and I do the same with the other hand. The machines she’s hooked up to fill the silence with their beeps. In those first few weeks, Dad liked to tell her about our day—the jobs we were on, the people we saw—but he doesn’t do that much anymore. In fact, mostly he keeps his head down as he sits there. And now I’m the one that kisses her on the forehead when we leave.

After we cruise another few blocks, Dad lets out a sigh that sounds like a valve’s been released, then says, “Well, I guess we should go on home and get cleaned up first.”

As we turn down the street with all the holes, I look out the passenger window, and that’s when I see, three houses down, Skeet’s white truck. He is standing in the cab amid all the mowers, and his arms are gesturing above his head. There’s a guy standing on the curb, and maybe he is wondering if anything Skeet is telling him is true. But my Dad is looking straight ahead and hits the accelerator. And so that I don’t do anything to draw his attention, I look straight, too.

The engine churns louder and fills my ears. All day long my ears burn from the crude roar of gasoline motors, but at night, the soft chirps of my mother’s monitors are almost soothing. It’s like being in a room of hungry baby birds, crying out to be fed.

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