Hearing about my best friend dying from a collision with a drunk driver on the road didn’t stop me from ever cracking open a can while I was driving on the deserted highway of my town. Just like it never stopped me from getting buzzed while on my way to pick up my little sister from school that day.
There was never a reason to worry about what might happen. I’d always been a talented driver. A record that anyone would boast over. No speeding tickets. No accidents.
I thought I was invincible, someone who could react under the influence, become just like any other shitty driver on the road.
I cracked open the can next to me, sipping on the suds that foamed at the top. I drank enough so that I was buzzed, but not drunk. I was happy, but not stupid.
I pulled up to my sister’s school, and everything seemed fine. Normal.
“Hey, Butterfly,” I called my sister.
“Hey, Jerk-asaurus,” she smirked and hopped inside.
My sister was on the right side of six years old. She’d never thought she was too cool to wear two ponytails, never thought she was too cool to carry around a Dora The Explorer backpack. I thought to always cherish these moments with her, before she finally would become a teenager, leaving her innocent and magnetic personality behind.
“Why are you always late?” She complained.
“Because you’re always early,” I said.
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
I squinted my eyes and smirked before shifting the truck into gear. “Are you sure you’re only in the first grade?”
“I’m in kindergarten, remember?”
“Oh. RIght. My bad.”
I took out a piece of gum from my pocket, trying to hide the stench of yeasty beer from my sister. There must have been at least six cans that I’d hid underneath her seat, and some made that clinking metallic noise as we jetted off back onto the highway.
“So what’d you learn today?” I asked.
“Yea, learn. What’d you learn? You know, the reason why you went to school today?”
“Oh, riiiight,” she rolled her eyes. “Well I learned how to avoid silly questions from my brother today.”
“Don’t be fresh, butterfly.”
My sister and I were close. And whether or not we’d ever chosen to be close was always up for debate, since Mom was always working at the diner, and Dad was too busy ditching on his family for a full decade now.
I was sixteen years old, but I thought I was a mature sixteen years old. I could hold conversations with adults with relative ease, and talking to the head cheerleader at my school never seemed to be a problem for me.
Maybe I was just a cocky kind of kid. Someone who needed to get his teeth kicked in and learn his lesson about where he stood in his place in the universe before it was too late, before I became too set in my ways.
Butterfly didn’t seem to mind me too much, though. Butterfly didn’t seem too concerned whenever she’d catch me drinking while driving her home from school. She probably figured that if Mom ever found out, she’d have to take the bus home, and that seemed just about as worse as riding in a boozed up truck with her brother.
To say that I was boozed up on this day would have been an overstatement, though. Six beers into my trip didn’t seem enough to get me where I needed to be.
“You mind if we stop at the corner store?” I asked Butterfly.
“I need to pick up a few things.”
“This for Mom? For supper tonight?”
“Or are you just going to pick up some more of your… medicine?”
I laughed hard. “Where’d you learn that phrase?”
“You told me it, remember? The last time we drove to the cornerstore.”
“Really?” I tilted.
“Well,” I shrugged, “Do you mind?”
I glanced over at her, watching the reaction that I’d seen a bunch of times in the past. She obviously looked disappointed, maybe even a little bit upset. She had a scar on her cheek, from when Mom accidentally dropped her on the floor once, and it always turned a different shade of red whenever she was upset. The darker the shading, the more upset she seemed.
“Are you mad?”
“No,” she mumbled.
“Would you prefer I not stop by the store?”
She said nothing back to me. She only kept her eyes peeled forward on the dry and heated road ahead.
I thought for a moment to skip the trip, or maybe push the trip off until Butterfly was safely at home. But the store was right up on the road ahead. And gas isn’t cheap when you’re a sixteen year old with a serious alcohol problem.
The day was hot outside when I pulled off the side of the road, into the dirt parking lot of the corner store. The dust would cloud around the car if it hadn’t rained in a long time. And the heat that was brought on by this day seemed to be only compounding the dust that blanketed the front windshield.
“You want anything?” I offered softy.
“No.” She crossed her arms.
“Not even a Lollipop?”
“How about an ice cream bar? On a day like today, you can’t say no to an ice cream bar, Butterfly.”
“Well I’m saying no right now.”
She was pouting. She was upset with me, her brother who didn’t seem to take her safety seriously. I understood.
But I didn’t stay.
I climbed the stairs that led inside, those archaic and wooden steps that had seen the likes of every person, from every corner of life. I’d once heard that Elvis made his way up these steps once. He’d hopped his way up using both feet. Uh-Hup. Uh-Hup.
I used just one foot to climb them, though, as I made my way inside.
I grabbed a six pack of the South’s finest lager in the state. I used the allowance money that my Mom would give me for school every week. If she’d ever looked at my skinny bones frame, she’d probably guess right away what I was really spending her allowance money on every week.
The kid behind the register counter knew who I was, and he knew that I wasn’t even a half decade from the legal drinking age. But I also knew that he owed me a few favors, ever since that time he needed help picking a fight with his school bully.
We both nodded towards each other at the register with the same expression.
“Thanks,” I said.
He gave a few taps on his eye, the same eye that had been bruised the day we both fought the three hundred pound bully (we just barely won).
“You got it,” he smirked at me.
“You need to use the restroom?” I asked Butterfly before we left. “I gotta go pee something real bad right now.”
“I bet you do,” she said while glancing away from me.
She was still upset, and that scar that lined her cheek looked about as red as rudolph’s nose.
“Don’t be mad, Butterfly.”
“I’m not mad.”
“Yes, you are.”
She huffed back to me. “Can’t we just go home, now?”
“Sure, just as soon as I hit the restroom real quick. I’m about to explode right now.”
I watched her a moment, her consistent stare out the side window. I knew that she deserved better, or at least something normal. But what could we do? It wasn’t like this entire town wasn’t a complete shit-hole to live in, anyway.
We were just getting by in life, the only way we knew how.
“I’ll be back in a jiffy,” I told her.
I left her in the truck again, holding the plastic bag filled with six cans of beer.
I’d never let myself drink while driving Butterfly anywhere. That’s where I seemed to always draw the line for myself.
Behind the store was where the rusty old bathroom was. There was never a lock on the door, which was always a welcoming sign for hobos or people looking to get a quick lay in private. It smelled something awful inside, but it was the only place I could down a few beers without someone watching.
I’d mastered that art of shotgunning, of gulping down the beers in record timing. There must have only been a minute that passed before three full beers filled the capacity of my stomach. And it wouldn’t take about another ten minutes to feel right again. To feel like there was something to be happy about.
I tossed the crumpled cans to the side, getting myself ready to drive the rest of the way home. I splashed some water on my face before I left, just to cool myself from the sweltering heat outside. It felt refreshing, a good mixture with the feeling of being buzzed.
I was back outside before long, heading back to my truck with my head ducked down low.
There was a cop that’d pulled up next to my truck, probably just heading inside for some ice tea or something. He seemed to exit his car right as I opened my door. He tipped the brim of his hat towards me, happy as a clam. I grinned a gentle nod back, hoping that my eyes would pretend to be normal just one moment here.
He didn’t think anything of me, which I know now that I wished, with all my heart, that he had. I wished that he’d at least ask me how I was doing on this sweltering hot day, and then maybe he’d noticed the slur of my words, the swaying of my hips, the blood in my eyes.
I wished that he wasn’t the one who’d arrive first at the scene of the accident, where he’d find my truck wrapped completely around a telephone pole. I wished that I couldn’t hear his whispering cries into the lifeless body of the Butterfly who laid next to me. His tears dropping as he brushed the hair that hid the scar on her cheek.
But above all else, I just wished that it had been me, the jerka-asaurus. I just wished that it was me, instead of my scarred little Butterfly.
© Copyright 2017 Michelle Audet. All rights reserved.
Paste the link to picture in the entry below:
Paste the link to Youtube video in the following entry:
Cannot annotate a non-flat selection. Make sure your selection starts and ends within the same node.
An annotation cannot contain another annotation.
There was an error uploading your file.