Mary Strachan Scriver

Jun 13, 2021

3 min read

PROLOGUE TO A LONGER STORY

Thanks to Andy Best

“You’ll have to drive,” his father said, knowing full well that he wasn’t even a teenager yet and his foot only reached the pedals if he reached with his toes. Then his father passed out, sprawled over onto the passenger side.

Pulling out from under his father’s weight, he pushed open the door and went around to the driver’s side door, pulled the seat as far forward as he could. He knew how to do lots of things, had even practiced in the parked car, watched his father over the many miles he had been pressed into riding shotgun though there was no shotgun nor any other kind of gun but only his ability to witness and possibly in case of an incident to testify. His father driving drunk had many near misses and at least one accident but hadn’t killed anyone — so far.

It was night and they were far to the north. The sky was full of commotion — aurora borealis, comets, falling stars, the moon moving so slowly, and luminous clouds making patterns. At first he drove as slowly as the moon.

Then a strange things happened: the car enveloped him, made him part of the large purring composite of parts, so that he was only eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. The car didn’t travel down the road but the road ran under the car like a conveyor belt, as much calling as guided.

At first he had felt he was alone but as the road went down the parted forest of dark trees, he saw the lighted eyes of animals all along the way, all of them approving and seeing him as a precious son on a mission to save his benighted father, seized by drink, downed by despair.

There was no traffic. The vehicle was a spaceship traversing the galaxy, leaping through the vacuum of no space except that of the air in the car. He rolled down the window and let the arctic air come in with its menthol stay-awake scent and the pine smell of the forest. The road was the milky way.

This had never happened before but it seemed as though it had. He knew it would happen again and again until someday he was as tall as his father and shoved him out from behind the steering wheel so he could take over. By then he knew the name of the nearest town to the camp they were going to, but he didn’t stop there. It was closed. They didn’t sell whiskey anyway. His father had packed boxes of the stuff. It was another binge, a flight from reality.

Once, before he was really grown, his father had become psychotic and enraged. It was winter and dangerous to be on the road, but the old man had driven perilously onto the ice of a lake and left the youth there alone, saying he would not be back. At first the boy was frozen, standing still, with only the sky which was also inanimate, still as death. Then he remembered that first time he drove.

This time it seemed that a spaceship materialized out of the crackling air and scooped him up, sat him at controls he barely understood how to operate, some of them almost out of arm’s reach. But it was not alien, rather welcomed him and enclosed him in protection. By the time his father came back — the headlights of the car approaching, then being cut back to only parking lights before it finally stopped — he didn’t care anymore. It was an intrusion, not a rescue.

The spaceship never left him. When he was old enough to own a motorcycle, it joined him, wrapping as tightly as leathers black as night, and humming joyfully in his ears. It was like a lover that would never leave. Ahead of them were many adventures and they went there willingly as partners.