This car is too big for our abbreviated family. Dad drives and I sit in the back where he can see me, as if I would budge, just the two of us since the accident that cut us in half. Beside him is empty. Beside me too. He has a metaphorical way of holding the wheel at twelve o’clock with his left hand backwards like he’s ready to make a hard right, or fighting a skid, like he’s shaking his fist at the highway, ready to flip the bird. I’ve also noticed how in parking lots he pulls in beside any woman alone, and how we always end up in the checkout line with the cutest cashier. Maybe he thinks I don’t notice. Maybe it’s part of my education. I do like how he tells them what we’re up to, so they’ll know he’s a single Dad buying game cartridges with his son. When they smile it’s partly for me and I get gum and batteries. Suppose he told them more, like who was driving the night of the accident. Just once I’d like to see that. We’re survivors, Dad and I. We flew through that moon roof side by side. The medical examiner thinks I slipped out of my belt and there’s no evidence otherwise. If I hadn’t been climbing over the front seat, I would have been belted in, like now, like Mom and Junior were. Dad doesn’t wear one. He doesn’t look over where Mom would be sitting. He never forgets she’s gone. Well, once, when their song came on. But sometimes when a car stops short in front of us, he reaches back to touch my brother, when I’m the one who’s sitting here. I don’t get it. My brother doesn’t need protecting any more.

Copyright © February 21, 2007 David Hodges

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