A Ride For Family
I would need to get a new air freshener. The smell of my Uncle’s cigarettes left a smell in my car that never seemed to go away. The Cavalier didn’t have air so during the summer I had to open the windows, but somehow the smell still stayed in the car.
“When did you get a car, kid?” he asked, blowing cigarette smoke into the small car.
“I got it after I got my license.” I said. The stop and go traffic on the expressway made me nervous. The brakes were going in the car, so every time I stopped I had to put extra pressure on the brakes.
“Where’s your mom?” he asked.
“She’s working. She had a meeting this morning and couldn’t put it off to come pick you up.”
“Of course.” He took another drag of his cigarette and blew the smoke out the window after holding it for a moment.
He adjusted his glasses, and looked over at the construction workers. He pulled his baseball cap down a little to shade his eyes. A few strands of his ponytail mostly grey that reached down to his armpit blow in the wind, flying back in my direction.
I remember each of his daughters asking him to cut the ponytail off, so that he would look nicer at their weddings. He refused and wore his hair down instead on their wedding days, thinking it was more formal.
“Is Jesse gonna press charges?” he asked. “I can pay for the window.”
“I don’t know. I haven’t talked to any of the cousins in a while.”
“You should have come hang out with us last night then, kid. I’m sure they miss you.”
“No, thanks. I really don’t like to hang out with people if they’re gonna be drinking.”
We were halfway through the construction zone. I just wanted to get home. I shook my leg in between each spurt of movement.
“Want ice cream before you drop me off, kid?”
“No, thank you. I stopped and had lunch before I came to pick you up.”
“Come on. I’ll pay.”
We got through the construction and I focused on the road, not bothering to give him an answer, and turning up the music. I pushed the Cavalier to go a little over the speed limit. He threw the butt of his cigarette out the window and waited a minute before he got the beat-up pack of cigarettes out of his pocket again.
“Don’t ever smoke, kid,” he said, taking out another stick.
“Do you ever do anything dangerous, punk? Do you go out to parties? Drink? Get high?”
“Wow. Live a little, kid. You’re too mature for your age.”
“I would rather not take that risk and do something stupid.”
“Understandable, kid, but you’re gonna get an ulcer at 20, at the rate you’re going. Worrying about everything. Where do you get that from? Your mom doesn’t give a shit about anything.”
I got us back into town and took a deep breath. “Where’s your bike? Where do you want me to drop you off?” I asked.
“I left it at home. I got a ride from one of the girls last night. Just take me to your grandmother’s.”
The rest of the drive was in silence. Him sitting there looking like he didn’t have a care in the world, and me gripping the steering wheel tightly. When we pulled in front of my grandmothers house I saw his bike next to the door to the basement.
“Thank for the ride, punk.” He opened the door and turned back. “If you talk to your cousins, tell them I’m sorry. They’re probably not gonna want to talk to me for a few days.”