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March 20, 2017 Fiction

The Drive

Brendan Mathews

The Drive photo

The parents come home tired, they come home smiling, they come home angry, they come home drunk.

The moms ask, how did it go? The moms ask, did they give you any trouble? The moms say, thanks for giving up your Saturday night. The moms ask, how is soccer? How is track? How was the play? The moms ask about early decision. The moms get dirt on teachers, on other girls, on other parents’ kids, on other moms. The moms say, really? The moms say, that’s too bad. The moms say, I had no idea.

The dads go the bathroom. The dads piss loudly. The dads have already taken off their coats and need to pull them back on. The dads stand at the door, waiting for the moms to stop talking. The dads shuffle through bills, fives and tens. The dads do the math. The dads fold the money. The dads say, here you go. The dads say, do we need to include hazard pay? The dads say, you’ve earned it.

The moms look like moms. Or the moms look like they don’t want to admit that they’re moms. Or the moms look the way the girls want to look, when the girls are moms. The moms hope the girls are looking at them and thinking: option three. 

The girls pack up their homework: calculus, French, chemistry, English. The girls have a big exam coming up. The girls have a paper due on Monday. The girls are reading Hamlet. The girls are reading Persepolis. The girls are reading Antigone, The Scarlet Letter, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, The Awakening, The Bluest Eye. The girls say, thank you. The girls say, no problem. The girls say, any time. 

The dads drive. Always, the dads drive. The dads turn the radio up. The dads change the station. The dads change the station again. The dads say, this one’s an oldie. The dads say, do you like Vampire Weekend? The dads say, I think I danced to this song at my prom. The dads say, you ever listen to the Velvet Underground? Or the dads turn off the radio. The dads don’t want to be judged. 

The dads don’t know that the damage has already been done. The girls have seen the tapes, the DVDs, the websites. The girls have ransacked the history folder, the search terms. 

The dads say, I played football in high school. The dads say, marching band was a big deal at my school. The dads say, all the kids in drama club were gay. The dads ask, didn’t you go to France last summer? The dads say, God that would be nice. The dads say, I had a friend who spent a semester in France. The dads say, I hear every beach is a topless beach. 

The girls answer politely. The girls are good at talking to dads, talking to moms, talking to adults. The girls will be visiting colleges soon, where they will be interviewed by other moms, other dads. The girls know it’s important to practice. 

Or the girls answer in single syllables: yeah, I guess so, I don’t know. The girls like the kids. The girls read stories, play make-believe. The girls let the kids play with their hair. But the parents? The girls think the parents are almost as bad as the teachers. Almost.

The dads say, college applications, huh? The dads say, they really are the best years of your life. Or the dads say, where you go to college doesn’t matter. The dads say, it’s where you go to grad school that matters.

Or the dads sit in silence. The dads stare at the road.

The girls text. They text their mothers, on the way home. They text their friends, b there in 10. They text their friends, Marnie is such a beeyotch. They text their friends, the drive...ugh. They text a boy, so close to being busteddddddd!!!!! They text a boy, i told u they come home earrrrrrrrrrly. They text a boy, there wont b a next time.

The moms clean the kitchen, the moms check their email, the moms straighten up the couch. The moms find the girls’ earrings under the cushions. The moms are going to have to talk to the girls, and to the girls’ parents. Or the moms will say nothing, and the moms think about when they were girls, dating boys who were not the dads. The moms think about good boyfriends, bad boyfriends. The moms wonder if the girls snoop. When the moms were girls, the moms always snooped. The moms wash their faces. The moms put on t-shirts, the moms put on pajamas, the moms put on flannel nightgowns. The moms fall asleep before the dads have returned. Or the moms stay up. The moms think about waiting in bed naked, to surprise the dads. The moms hear the car in the driveway. The moms think again about when they were girls, and ugh, the drive.

The dads sit in the car, waiting for the end of “Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out,” or “Jack and Diane,” or “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” The dads haven’t heard this song in years. The dads look at the stars, and every pin-prick of light could be a sun surrounded by strange worlds full of dads, moms, girls, kids. But the dads are tired. The dads are whipped. The dads should not have been driving. The dads go inside.

image: Bryan Bowie