Monday, March 29, 2021

New Short Fiction by Lex Pennington

One Last Drive

 I took it out for one last drive, but one could argue that the last drive was a long time ago before I knew that what I was trying to hold onto was already gone. My wife told me to sell the piece of junk already. She said that it had seen better days, but I still think there’s some magic in it. Every time I touch the steering wheel, I think of those last days of summer when we were all friends, and the only thing I cared about was if we had enough money to see the next movie.
 I can practically see Steve leaning over the seat in his cloud of cigarette smoke shouting at me over the radio to change the station already. He never did like the The Beach Boys like I did. Sandy, my wife, always rode in the passenger seat next to me, where she’d kick her shoes up on the dashboard just because she knew it drove me crazy. The scuff marks are still there like the memories.
 I passed the shopping mall that used to be the theater. I know that if I looked, there still might be some decades old popcorn kernels stuck under the seat. When we went to the drive-in, Marty always rode in the trunk, so he wouldn’t have to pay admission. Then, he’d jump out like some magic trick once we pulled in, thinking he was the smartest person in the whole world. 
 I’d lost track of them somewhere between the good old days and the life after that. I guess sometimes the best people you know are only meant to be a memory for the majority of your life, so that the time you actually knew them seems more special. I know I wouldn’t be able to picture them as old men even if they were standing right in front of me. They’d always be those kids in the back of my car, all grease, leather jackets and denim, and cigarette smoke. 
 Down the street I turned by the Dairy Queen that I took Sandy to on our first date. I’d been asking her forever, but she was always “busy”. It was spontaneous when we finally went. She said “Lets get ice cream”, while we were waiting for the others to get out of work or sneak out of the house, and she didn’t have to twist my arm. She sat across from me with a vanilla cone, dripping ice cream on the seat when the leather still looked new. It was the first time we ever went out without the others, and I soaring with joy until she declared that we were only friends and threatened me not to put my arm around her.
 When I swung around by the diner where we’d blow our change on jukebox songs, I started thinking what the car would sell for. How do you put a price on memories? How do you explain why you never fixed the passenger window that’s jammed because it was funnier to hear Sandy shout about it being broken in the heat of summer?
 I didn’t have an answer by the time I got to my street, but I knew as soon as I saw Sandy outside watering her flowers. I rolled down the window like I was still eighteen and leaned my arm on its edge. 
 Sandy looked at like me in her unamused way like she did on our first date. “I’m surprised that piece of junk even runs.”
 I motioned my hand for her to come over to me. “Come with me for one last drive.”
 I was surprised when she didn’t argue and came by the passenger door. 
 “I was gonna come out and open the door for you,” I said.
 “Why’s that?” she said, getting into the seat and slamming it shut. “You never did before.”
 I laughed when she kicked her shoes up on the dashboard.
 “Where to next, Sandy? The junk yard?” I asked, pulling out of the driveway.
 She stared out the window for a long time. I could still see her the way she was when I met her, the brown hair sweeping her collarbones, dark eyes rolling at my bad jokes. 
 She shook her head. “Lets get ice cream.”

- © Lex Pennington 2021

Lex Pennington is currently a college student majoring in Creative Writing. Her passion for writing is fueled by reading, and she tries to read at least twenty books every summer. Besides books, she loves movies, the beach, and her dog named Ella.

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