Car Ride

by Paul de Denus

Get up, he says. He has my coat, tells me to put it on. Over my pajamas. Slippers too. Where’s mama? I say. Sleepin’, looks away down the dark hallway, hurry up.

Out the kitchen window, snow is falling. He turns, a finger against his mouth, pointing up like number one, quiet. My doll doesn’t have a coat, only a floppy hat. I squeeze her close, a gasp of air.

It’s dark in the car. I sit in the back. We drive away and he doesn’t say anything, doesn’t say where we are going. A box of Trix is on the seat next to me. Fruity shapes with the funny rabbit on it. My favorite. We pass blurry lights along the roadside. Then just black. Snow sticks to the windshield. The car turns a lot. He doesn’t say anything, smokes a cigarette. It’s quiet for a long time then we stop.

He turns around in his seat and looks at me. I can’t see his face. He has a shadowed shape. He sits like that for a while. I sometimes think his face is moving, different. In the shadow, I can’t tell. I look at my doll. Her face is shiny. Her eyes are white, wide. I can’t tell his eyes. The cigarette glows orange when he puffs it, a smoke halo around it. After a while, he opens his door and gets out. I’ll be right back, he mumbles. Out’a gas. I feel the cold air against my feet, my pajama legs. He leans in and points at the clock near the steering wheel. Know your numbers? Where’s mama? I say. Do ya? His voice is mad. I nod. He says when the number changes from eleven to twelve he’ll be back. He slams the door.

The number on the clock is one. I don’t know why he hasn’t come back. He said he would. It’s snowing again, bigger. I wait and another number changes. The wind moves the car, pushes across the windows, comes through the doors. My doll’s face is sparkly crystal. I can see my breath. My eyes won’t stay awake. The number on the clock changes again. He said he’d be right back.

Paul de Denus writes fiction because non-fiction sounds complicated. He lives in his head in Virginia. 
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