Summer Syndrome

Author’s Note: This piece is the first short story I have ever had published. It was published in Polar Expressions Publishing’s short story anthology ‘Let There Be Dragons’ in the early spring of 2014. 

red-car.jpgThe summer I turned sixteen, Grandpa taught me how to drive. Most kids learn in a parking lot, but I was taught on the back roads in a truck that was as ancient as Grandpa himself. That truck was my baby: rust-red with windows that had to be rolled down all the time because the AC was busted and summer in Kansas is hotter than hell. I went out driving every day. Because I’d be damned before I spent all day inside. ‘Course I technically shouldn’t have been driving on my own, but it was a small town and grandpa knew the sheriff and the sheriff knew me.

None of us gave a damn.

I had been living with Grandpa just shy of six months at the time. The only time we were more than civil with each-other was when we were driving. That’s only ‘cause we were both so focused on the car we didn’t notice each-other. I guess I reminded him too much of Ma and he reminded me too much of Pa for us to get along. Nobody likes a constant reminder of people buried six-feet-under who you never got to say a proper goodbye to. Nobody likes a ghost, especially a living one.

The summer I turned seventeen, things happened a little differently.  Reason being, you could hardly call it summer. It rained until I was sure God was trying to wash Kansas clean-off the map.

It was also the summer I took the truck out driving and never came back.

Call it selfish, but in that house I felt like I was being condensed into a preservative jar and later I’d be cracked open and have my insides eaten. And maybe I felt a little bit guilty, but that didn’t stop me from leavin’.

It rained hard that night.Thunderstorm2_large I could barely see, but I still kept on driving because if Pa taught me one thing, it’s that once you make a choice you can never go back.

I didn’t stop until I reached the city. Haven’t gone back since. It’s been five summers since then. In all that time, I haven’t driven the truck once. I just can’t bring myself to touch her.

See the windows don’t roll down anymore. They haven’t since that night in the rain. No matter how many mechanics I take her to, none of them can fix her.  But every time I think of scraping her, my hands start shaking and Grandpa’s face flashes in front of my eyes. It always ends the same way; with me cracking a window, gulping back air, and then turning around, pretending to have regretted nothing.


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