Tuesday, October 11, 2011

What's a Father to Do?

First published in Flash Fiction Offensive (2010)

Pervis leaned down and scowled at his son, Tommy Joe, through the open window of the '74 Barracuda.

“Listen up for a change, boy,” Pervis said. “This is important. If the ‘shine don't get to the buyer today, we're gonna lose the house.”

Pervis grabbed Tommy by the shoulder.

“Look at me. Now remember. You go down to Sutter’s Creek, take a left on highway 59, and head toward the Miller farm. If the police spot you, cut across the corn field and turn left onto County Road 27. You got that?” Pervis could tell by the look on Tommy Joe’s face the boy hadn’t heard a thing. He was more interested in the dashboard of the ’74 classic.

“Pay attention, dang it.” Pervis cuffed the shaggy head of his only son. “You’re seventeen. It’s time you start helping out more, but you got to listen to me, you hear?” Pervis felt like he was talking to a pile of dead branches.

“Now this here is a specially designed automobile,” he said, pointing to a toggle switch on the dash above the radio. “That there's connected to the booster. If anybody catches up to you, just flip the switch an' hold on. No, don’t flip it now.” Pervis loved his son, but wondered sometimes if the boy had manure for brains.

“This handle by the seat is for using if you know the police is gonna catch you. Pull it back to open the tank in the trunk holding the 'shine . And see that pack of cigarettes on the passenger seat?" Pervis pointed to the Marlboro box. "If you have to dump the load, light one before you pull the lever, then throw it out the window when the dumping’s done. The police can’t hardly arrest you if the evidence is burnt up.” Pervis retrieved a baggie from his coveralls' pocket and tucked a wad of tobacco in his cheek. He could tell he was going too fast.

“Okay then. Once you get to George’s Hollow, you go straight to Uncle Frank’s. He’ll take care of transferring the 'shine to another vehicle and getting it into Kentucky."

Pervis paused. He hoped he wasn't making a mistake, but what choice did he have. He couldn't do it anymore, not with the arthritis in his knees, and his regular driver, Cletus, was in jail for driving drunk.

“You got a full tank of gas, plus the nitrogen booster. The tires are balding a little, so be careful on those dirt roads. I don’t want you running into some big old oak out in the middle of nowhere. Don’t play the radio too loud. You don’t want to draw attention to yourself. And don’t stop at Anna May’s to show off. You can do that on the way back. Are you hearing me?”

Tommy looked out the window, a smile on his face, and said, "Can I go now?"

“I know this is exciting for you, getting to drive the 'Cuda and all, but you got to take this serious. You’re the only chance we have of saving the house.”

Pervis placed his hands on the roof and waited until Tommy Joe started the car. “God go with you, son. Your mother and me are relying on you.”

Pervis jumped back as Tommy Joe stomped on the gas pedal. The ‘Cuda fishtailed along the rutted driveway, its tires spitting pebbles into the air. Pervis took off his cap and ran his hand through thinning hair. He shook his head and slapped the cap against his leg before heading toward the house. It was time to tell his wife to start packing.

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