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Family Outing

ISSUE:  Autumn 1976
Sunday afternoons my Father drove us
down the highway in the old blue Dodge.
He always sang. We passed
the slaughterhouse and pinewoods,
the Bloody Bucket nightclub and its neon sign
and crossed the red Ochlocknee River.

“My head is splitting,” Mother said.
My Father gave her thigh a pat and sang, “I want
red roses for a blue lady.”
Bubba and I drew imaginary lines dividing
the backseat. The sweaty baby fussed and
Mother wiped his mouth, then painted
a scarlet cupid’s bow across her lips.

My Father smoked a cigarette and I was carsick, watched
the highway rush away beneath my feet, the hole
that rusted in the car floor growing
bigger every year.

When I looked through the front windshield
sometimes I saw the highway in the distance shimmering
like water and one night
I dreamed the river rose, the bridge washed out,
and we were on it.

But riding with my Father, we never
reached mirage or water on the road,
just marks of rubber where a car
had skidded to a halt or the flat skin
of a rattlesnake. My Father
said that I’d feel better soon, he’d stop
at the next filling station for a Coca Cola.
“We’ll pour Tom’s Toasted Peanuts in our drinks,” he
I leaned into the wind and closed my eyes.


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