Monday, December 27, 2010

Long Stay by Jenny M. Lapekas

My father begins in the middle of the lot, close to the hangar. He is thorough as he scans the cars in one general sweep of his oval eyes. The blue sign seems to sigh arrogantly from boredom. LONG STAY CAR PARKING. Scott Henderson’s black Bentley sits dazed, bugs still springing within the vehicle’s frame. Scott is a stockbroker and will never know my father’s hand will have opened his German-made door. My father’s fingertips are soft pads from years of swimming in chlorine and murky springs, orange shorts and shiny whistle wavering above confused mud and clay, in search of lost swimmers who have become aquatic corpses that haunt the dark waves. These are the same hands that look like maps to me, interstates and turnpikes scattered between cornfields and water; a confusing sort of math.

By the time Scott recalls his error, he will resent the ground that passes beneath him. As Scott sits at a press conference in Miami, he has no idea that my father, the man who, as a boy, collected train sets, will have flicked a simple plastic switch and dutifully noted that the car’s headlights die down. In my mind, my father sits in his Chicago home, a small boy, crashing his toys together and waving to me from a bright red caboose. Scott will return to his hotel in a bit and never discover that because of my father, his car will start the first time the jagged key turns; and he will be returned safely to his family.

My father steps out of the car, one shiny loafer at a time, positions his captain’s hat, so brave, so pronounced, straight and tight around his head. The golden wings glisten on his lapel as he intently tosses his heavy coat over his arm and straightens his frame. His tie escapes from his black jacket and flaps sharply in the warm breeze; the one with small globes and smiley faces printed on it. My father moves and searches for more twin lights begging his attention. These are the headlights others so carelessly, so humanly, forgot to turn off.

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