story a week

Driving Range

Posted in Fiction by clachnit on January 14, 2010

Lying there, with her eyes closed, what she heard was what you’d expect: traffic and a sparrow chirp from time to time. She was waiting for the other sound: In a Sunday’s stillness, every now and then, with no particular rhythm, the thwack of a club hitting a ball.

After a while, she opened her eyes and stared up at the pink-champagne fabric that lined the car’s interior. The pattern was something floral, which would have clashed with the tan and brown hound’s-tooth upholstery if it had been more pronounced.

Thwack.

She sat up and looked out through the windshield. The golfers were lined up along the edge of the grass, each one with a club and a bucket of balls. They’d twist and hit and watch the ball arc into the air and then out of sight.  Sun glinted on the clubs. A thwack, a laugh. And then quiet.

She leaned forward and saw that her mother’s eyes were closed, but she was not listening to anything, it seemed to her. Wrapped in a Kelly green coat with three-quarter-length sleeves, her mother was breathing fast. Her chest shuddered. It might have been a kind of sob, but she made no sound.

At night—at three o’clock in the morning–silence was nice, and she was thankful for it. It would have been a relief, then, when she was trying to sleep, to hear nothing, rather than the tenth replay of “Red Rose for a Blue Lady.” Her mother loved that song, and played it over and over, singing along at full volume, a water glass of Tyrolia in hand. Why the neighbors never complained, she had no idea.

But here, in the car, after Mass, when they should be home having breakfast, this silence made her stomach hurt. Her mother hadn’t said anything since they’d pulled over and parked here, at Sunny Acres.

After about fifteen minutes of sitting there, with no explanation, she had asked her mother:

“Can we go home now?”

“In a little while.”

Her mother hadn’t said anything else. She asked a couple times more during the first hour, and then her mother stopped answering. Stopped hearing, maybe. So she stopped asking. There was no point in making her mother mad.

But if her mother did get mad, winding up like a dust devil until she was spewing all those words, familiar, but still sharp, how useless a girl she was, and fat, and not nearly as smart as she thought, maybe someone would notice. Maybe someone would finally wonder why this woman in a green coat and a little girl in a pink skirt and sailor-collared blouse had been sitting in their Chevy Impala at this driving range. For three hours now.

Why a driving range? There was nothing for either of them to do. They didn’t golf. She didn’t, anyway. Maybe her mother had once. She seemed to remember a picture of her mother, on a golf course when she was young, with a man her mother said was named Warren.

She had no books, no transistor radio, none of her usual defenses. Sleep was another thing that worked, sometimes. She had tried that in the second hour, without success. She lay back on the seat again though, listening. Bird. Traffic. Thwack. Then a sharp inhale from the front seat, and the click just before the engine started.

She sat up. Her mother slapped the gearshift into reverse and the car lurched out of the parking space. Somebody honked.

The car bumped down the hill. Her mother braked hard. A right turn, a couple miles along Redondo, then a right and another left, and they would be home. Her father was probably awake by now.

The car idled there. A honk behind them. She recited the directions to herself: right, right, left. Home.

Another honk behind them, more insistent this time. Her mother flicked the turn indicator and pulled out, taking a fast, wide left into the street.

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