Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Van

Well, folk’s the morning rush is in full swing. Traffic is heavier than usual because of all the events in the city this weekend. The Taste of Nashua has got Maple Street Blocked off from Downers all the way up to Highland Ave. You don’t want to be anywhere near that mess. If that wasn’t enough there are some major road work delays on 93 South from exit 42 all the way to the state line. It’s even getting down to one lane in places. Needless to say if your headed south on 93, your gonna be seeing some delays. If you’re taking the turnpike, be careful. We’ve got a report this morning of an oil truck spill on the eastbound side at about mile 76. There are clean-up crews on both the eastbound and westbound sides of the turnpike. If you are on the pike bring the books on tape ‘cause it’s going to be a slow one. Traffic is expected to be heavy until the early hours of the evening tonight.
As always we remind you that if you feel tired, use rest stops and exits accordingly. Buckle up. We care and it’s the law. If you like coffee drink it. It is better to be safe than asleep at the wheel.
Jeff feels tired just sitting in the driveway. The house is dark and still and looks empty like no one has lived there in years. Sounds of nighttime at its end emerge along the corner of the street: someone starts up a lawn mower down the block, car doors slam in their driveways. Jeff shuts his window and turns up the traffic report on the car radio. Static invades his head. He feels sore. It’s way too early for all this noise. Jeff turns off the radio and scratches at his beard.
The turquoise shine of the van looks brand new. The wash Joanne took it to earlier really helped, but Jeff doesn’t know why she did it. Dirt and bugs are just going to be covering it again later on anyways.
The floor of the van is clean for now, but at the beginning of each vacation, the floor is always clean. Within hours of leaving, Fortune litters the backseat with empty chicken finger boxes and soda cans, blankets and books.
By the end of the trip Joanne always has a stack of celebrity gossip magazines that reach up to her knees on the floor in front of her. If Jeff could he would stack a pile of cigarette butts on the floor in front of him but because of Fortune, Joanne never lets him smoke in the van.
The plastic material of the seat is sticking to his shirt with sweat already. His seatbelt is a little to close to his gut. The van is getting hot inside, so Jeff rolls his window back down. He unbuckles and readjusts and buckles again. The van is packed, Joanne locked all the windows, Fortune made sure all the curtains of the house were pulled.
Taking the rear view mirror in his hand, he pulls it to his eyes and puts the van into reverse. Joanne has a crossword puzzle out on her lap and is already biting the eraser of her pencil. Fortune stares at his fathers eyes in the mirror from the backseat. They pull out of their driveway and into the street.
The sky moves from darkness into sunshine. As Jeff begins driving he realizes that the headache he has is the type of headache that always follows a night of waking up alone downstairs on the couch without a t-shirt, the TV still on. He pulls down the driver side visor to block out the sun. His head feels as if it is about to burst. One hour ago he woke up to Fortune in his face. His son handed him a bowl of Lucky Charms. Jeff ate the whole thing without sitting up.
He touches Joanne’s thigh with his hand. Her muscles are tense and her thighs feel bigger to Jeff than they once did. She takes the pencil from her mouth, pushes his hand away and writes something down in the blank spaces of the crossword.
Fortune watches as the world moves sideways by his window. The van bounces over a curb. It hits the street so hard that it nearly scrapes against the asphalt. A loose pebble strikes the bottom of the van. Fortune thinks that someone is trying to break in so he reaches over and locks his door. Then he hugs his pillow and shuts his eyes. Then he loosens his grip on his pillow just a little bit because even though the noise is gone he is still worried.
The van stops to wait for a group of children playing baseball in the middle of the street. Jeff honks the horn. The horn hurts his headache. The kids scatter. Fortune watches the children run down the street. They look like they are moving super faster as the van picks up speed and continues down the road.
Fortune takes two of his fingers and points them down on the small, rubber edge at the bottom of his window. The neighborhood passes by: houses with newspapers in their mailboxes, the community pool where he did his first cannonball, the blue stop sign that David Thompson of the 8th grade shot up with paintballs, Hannah Leigh’s house and the diner that makes the best chocolate milkshakes ever.
Fortune has never had a chocolate milkshake with Hannah at the diner. The only person Fortune has ever had milkshakes with is his mom but she always gets strawberry and Fortune hates strawberry.
His fingers look like a man running through the neighborhood along the window. Lifting up his hand, he soars over a building. He jumps over the diner and lands safely in a lawn next to a fire hydrant. The fire hydrants in Fortune’s neighborhood are painted red with a little yellow around the top. Fortune jumps again and passes over a strip mall with one leap of his fingers.

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