Monday, September 3, 2012

Learning to Drive

LitStack Flash Fiction Challenge #9

It's been a few months since my last post. You could say that I've been otherwise occupied--but I won't bore you with the details. Not today, anyway. The wonderful people at Litstack  have put up a new flash fiction challenge, and I just could not resist. Plus, it's Labor Day and I'm taking a bit of time just for myself. My draft, which I began about two hours ago, was almost 700 words. Whittling it down was tough when I reached 560, but I finally made it (with small breaks for iced coffee and email) to exactly 500. I hope you enjoy it. 
Photo Source

The gap between the door and the top of the crooked doorframe gave Abby a narrow view of the backyard. She could see the rear of the baby blue Toyota that had brought her to this place. When she was nine or ten, her dad had let her steer their Impala up and down the driveway, but that was the end of her experience behind the wheel. She was sure she could figure it out, though. Pretty sure.

An electric lantern provided most of the light in the room, but in the early daytime the gap in the door let in a sunbeam. It ended on the wall just above Jeremiah’s shoulder as he slept on his cot. The man who made her call him Father would likely still be sleeping too. He’d been up all night, and while he’d had the presence of mind to take his empty vodka bottle when he stumbled out, he’d been sloppy refastening the fetter around her ankle. He’d also left his keys. She’d heard the heavy ring fall out of his pants during last night’s visit, but he hadn’t noticed. She found a skeleton key for the door to their shelter and one marked Toyota. No more visits or sore ankles.

The boy was only five, but sometimes she saw a familiar meanness that turned his eyes from pond water to gravel. There was plenty of time for him to forget. But the next child, she vowed, would never see this place. On tiptoe, she scanned the backyard for movement. The tall weeds swayed in the breeze. There was no sign of Father or Mother. The doorknob squeaked as she turned it. Jeremiah coughed and sat up. “Mama?”

“Baby, we’re going to run across the grass. Can you do that?” She smiled at him fearfully.


“Yes, right now. Are you ready? You must be quiet.”

“A game?” he asked, rubbing his eyelids.

“Yes, a game. Who can run the quietest. Let’s go.”

He got up and took her hand as she pulled the door inward.  Jeremiah screamed when the sunlight hit his face and body. “Baby, we have to go!” she whispered frantically, yanking his arm. The car was only a dozen yards away. She picked him up, but he flailed and kneed her hard in the stomach, still screaming. Gasping, she dropped him against the door. Glancing toward the big house, she saw the screen door open. The Toyota key ready in her right hand, she dragged Jeremiah a few feet, but Father was near enough that she could see rage on his face.

She let go of the boy’s hand, backing away. “I’ll come back for you!”

“I don’t care!” he screamed, his tears dripping onto the ground.

She ran, something she hadn’t done in eight years, and found the Toyota’s door unlocked. She shoved the key into the ignition and turned. As Father banged his fist on the hood, she shifted into D and stomped on the right pedal.