Road Trip

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Flash Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Garth tries to be the thing that his teenage son Toby can rely on when there is nothing else.

Submitted: September 20, 2011

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Submitted: September 20, 2011

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The road was winding and empty as Garth made his way uphill, trees packed in tight knit forests on either side of the street. He pushed his foot down on the gas, urging the car forward against its whining protests, he felt like he was sitting inside an aging old man, waiting for its brittle bones to break.

He listened carefully to the words coming softly from his son’s lips. He sat in the passenger seat, staring intently, as if he were concentrating rather hard, on the page in front of him. The ceiling light in the car lit it up like a lamp to the outside world, making them glow as they flew past dark houses down long driveways, looking like ghosts passing at night.

Garth was uneasy, his hands tightening on the wheel. The words were soft, but they weren’t comforting like he remembered them being, they were rushed and monotone as if the reader didn’t know what he was really reading at all, just reciting words from a page. He bit his bottom lip, debating whether to say something or not. He could see the stress wrinkling Toby’s forehead, but he knew he wasn’t thinking about the book, knew he wasn’t just concentrating, or even hearing the words he was reading.

“Toby.” He finally said, interrupting his constant, steady stream of words. He looked up, his forehead staying scrunched up and his face looking no more relaxed than before. He paused, mouth open, unsure how to continue, silence filling the car but for the soft road noise. He let out a deep breath. “You’re not doing it right, you sound like you’re reading cue cards, it goes like this, ‘It wasn’t the hardest thing he had ever done but it was close, it was damn close and he hoped he’d never have to do it again. Sarah was lost, she was lost to him for sure and he wasn’t sure he had the strength to get her back or if really, in the long run, he should even try.’”

Toby stared at him and swallowed, his forehead unbunching just slightly in surprise. “You can recite lines right out of this thing?” He raised the worn and beaten looking book into the light and Garth nodded almost solemnly.

“I could practically recite that whole thing, and you’re ruining it by reading like some kind of machine.” He blinked and stared back down at the pages, looking suddenly distressed. Garth felt his jaw go tight as he sensed how stiff Toby had become in the seat next to him.

Toby opened his mouth to keep reading but his voice didn’t come out. His throat was tight and painful and he closed his eyes and took a deep breath and ignored how much they stung and how hard it was to breathe because he wanted nothing more than to ignore everything else that was happening.

“We’ll be alright Toby.” Garth breathed quietly in the cool air. He nodded vigorously in return but kept his eyes closed, turning his head down and resting his cheek on his balled up fist and feeling hopeless and lost and like there was nowhere. Like they existed in nothingness, with nowhere to go back to, and nowhere to travel forward to, and no place to land when they finally ran out of gas. “We’ll be ok. Things might not be the way they were, they may never be again, but we’ll make it, we always do.”

“Yeah.” Toby managed to croak out in return and Garth felt that familiar clenching fist around his chest at the sound of his son’s voice. This shouldn’t be happening, God this shouldn’t be happening, and not to Toby, for goodness sake Toby was the only one who had nothing to do with this mess and it seemed like he was getting the brunt of it all, he was just a teenager, just had to stand by and watch everything crumble around him with nothing to hold onto to keep him steady, to make him feel safe. Garth tried to be that, he needed to be that. He put his large hand on Toby’s shoulder and squeezed tightly, gaining a tiny noise of acknowledgement in return.

The sound of the road grew slightly more hushed as the speed limit decreased and Garth took one more deep breath and started reciting. He knew everything wasn’t word for word, and he was probably getting some of it pretty wrong, but it felt like the only thing to do. He didn’t take his hand away and Toby held on for dear life, his hands still clenched in matching fists, one resting in his lap now, gripping the book tightly, and the other supporting his head. He held on tightly to the words that filled the car, taking in every familiar sound and grounding himself with his father’s voice, and the familiar feeling of a comforting hand on his shoulder, not letting himself float out into nothingness, but forcing himself to hold on to what he had.


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