John Fulton


When the boys’ father came to pick them up at their mother’s and take them for the day, he was not driving his green Ford truck but a red Porche that could not have been his. “What do you think, boys?”  His voice was huge with aggression and enthusiasm and with a sudden love for himself. He was wearing his monkey suit from the garage where he worked and had the smell of metal tools and the strong flammable odors of oil and gas and gin on him.

Standing out on the lawn, the boys’ mother was still wearing her pink night gown, ripped and coffee-stained on the sleeves. It blew in the wind and made her look fragile and discarded like a candy wrapper. “What do you think you’re doing? That car’s not yours.  Boys,” she said, “you’re not going with your father today.” But the boys were already in the car, their eyes looking out at the woman through the dark glass that was made for speed. When she advanced, their father pushed her and she tumbled over the burnt yellow grass and before she could stand again the little green house had disappeared and the man and his sons were driving on the freeway towards the mountains above the city, then in and out of the tunnels that pierced the mountains until the buildings and streets of the city were tiny, like sutures, in the valley below.

The interior of the car had an expensive, feminine smell, a light perfume of leather and freshness. As the man drove, he talked about the car as if it were a beautiful woman who needed him to do something great, something heroic for her.  “Listen to her purr, boys,” he said.  “We’re not going to let her down. We’re going to give her all we got.”

Their mother no longer loved the man.  Both boys knew that, even the smaller one who was not yet five.  “Where are we going to, Daddy?” this one asked.

“Oh no you don’t,” the man said. “I’m happy!  Happy!” He said the word as if hammering on it.  “And I’m not going to let you sour pusses ruin my fun, you hear?”

The boys kept asking him that same question, but their father only answered them with the figures of their acceleration. “Ninety,” he said. “One-hundred. One-hundred-and-ten. One-hundred-and-thirty-five.”

The speed pushed the boys back in their seats and pressed against their skins like a firm caress, a preparation or a warning for something painful that would soon come. The windows began to tremble and the car beneath them shook as the man held it in a turn and the mountains and the other cars fell behind them. They had passed the timber-line and huge treeless lumps of snow rose above them.


Gist Street Reading Series
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