Suicide Knob, 2014

My daughter’s bare feet rest on the seat back between my son who’s driving and me riding shotgun. It’s a Tuesday in early Fall and the interstate south of Montgomery is wide open, practically deserted. I sip my water and watch the trees along the roadway reflect in the glossy clear coat on the midnight blue hood of the 442. Finally painted her after almost thirty years when my son turned sixteen. Everything’s cherry now except that old, chipped suicide knob. The boy drove it for eighteen months and never took it off. Then once he’d saved enough at his various jobs, he bought the truck he’d always wanted. He’s headed for basic training in a few weeks so he wanted to be the one driving down to the Gulf one more time for this long weekend before he has to report. The girl never wanted to drive it but made me teach her then just complained about how the Hurst shifter works but she was talking to me so I never cared. She comes back to me more now.

“I want to drive for a while,” she says.

“No one wants to hear you complain about the shift,” my son says.

“I still need to be able to drive it,” she says. “Just in case.”

“In case of what?” he asks, laughing. “You just want to be the cool girl who knows how to do everything.”

But she never cared about how it worked or about being the cool girl. She just wanted to know me, and to understand how my son knows me.

We cut the music off and put the windows down to catch some airflow. It’s still just warm enough and the air whips through making talking difficult which is fine by me. We said most of what we had to say the first hour and a half. Talked ourselves out. My phone beeps and I check it. Email. Wife’s lawyer finally sending the papers. My son hits my shoulder and I look up. I’m pushing this down. Deep.

“Read that shit later,” he said. “We got nothing but time.”

Can he see it in my fucking posture?

My heart is broken for these kids. They’d made it through some bad years and assumed nothing but blue skies ahead. But the world doesn’t quit spinning out of spite or pity. It keeps pushing the future at you. If my daughter sees me the least bit shaky, she cries or gets angry.

When I wake up the air is salty and see we are winding down the peninsula to our neighbor’s beach house. That neighbor couple is older than me. The boy and I have always helped them out with their vehicles and big projects, and they’ve always given us some time at the beach in their old shack. We’ve helped keep that up, too.

We keep fishing gear there and the gulf always feeds us. Whiting. Redfish. Pompano. The occasional flounder. We’ve been coming here near twenty years but were never just three before. I wonder if my wife knows what she’s missing or what she’s giving up.

“Home sweet home away from home,” my son says right on cue. He parks in the shade under the house and pops the trunk. We get out and I stretch. The gulf tide laps the shore forty yards away and I can see the setting sun on the trunk lid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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