Damage Artwork

Damage by

With the thick grit of road dust in his mouth, the boy gripped the armrest and chanced a glance at his dad. The old man’s eyes looked blearier, and his lids were drooping more. His hand seemed limper on the wheel.

Not good.

The boy sat up straight as he could. Acting casual, he glanced past his dad through the dirt-covered side window. He tried to see how far the mountainside dropped off below the road. It should have been easy high up in the truck. The dirt road was narrow, and the wheels were most always on the edge, but he was short for ten.

The old man didn’t notice. Still, the boy couldn’t tell. He’d have to risk it.

He stood on the floorboard, arched himself against the seat back, stretched his arms.

Crap.

 He could see way down, but couldn’t see bottom.

The old man shot a glance. “Watcha doin’?” Suspicion and accusation. The boy’s stomach tightened.

“Stretchin’.” He yawned, covered his mouth, sat back down. Please look back at the road, he willed the old man. It was the first time Mom let him go by himself. He couldn’t blow it.

“Why’ncha hand me another beer.”

The boy’s stomach churned.

The old man gave him a stern look.

Please look back at the road.

“How long before we get there?”

“Not long. Hand me a beer.”

The boy stalled, but the glare was too much.

“How about we wait ‘till the road levels out?”

“Why the hell would I do that?” The old man looked mad, but not too mean.

“I don’t want to distract you.” He pointed. “Curves.”

“What the hell you talkin’ about? I can drive this stinkin’ road with no hands.” He demonstrated. “Now gimme a beer.”

The boy quickly reached down and grabbed one. While bent, he glanced sideways and saw the old man steering with his knee. The boy opened the beer and handed it over in one practiced motion, then took back the empty and drank the last couple of swallows. He turned to look out the window on his side.

Maybe he’ll grab the wheel if I’m not watching.

The boy held off long as he could before he dared look. One hand on the wheel again. The boy loosened his grip on the door.

At every sharp corner, he told himself they almost never saw other cars. They probably wouldn’t crash.

The wheel caught something and lurched left. The old man grabbed the wheel tighter and pulled it back.

Probably wouldn’t go flying over the cliff in flames, doing somersaults all the way down.

He counted the empties, eyed his dad.

Gradually, they descended.

Gradually, the road flattened.

He was relieved.

Surprised, even.

The boy thought it was a miracle each time they didn’t crash that summer. He thought the same on every one of the gut-wrenching drives over the coming years.

He thought the damage had passed him by.

 

 


 

 

After countless jobs ranging from scooping poop to selling Burger Kings, Dann Wonser settled on the least lucrative career of all, writing. He is author of the book Second Wind: Thriving With Cancer and can be found at www.dannwonser.com.

 

Original artwork provided by Genevieve de Renne – www.dannwonser.com/genevieve

 

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