Road Trip

Road Trip


It’s summer, I’m twelve, and my friends Amy and Kyle and I are walking along the railroad tracks on the edge of town.

            The three of us have been hanging around together all summer, waiting for something to happen, without quite knowing it’s already happening. One thing I do know is that I like Amy more than I can tell anyone. Not Kyle, and absolutely not Amy.

            We’re balancing on one of the metal rails like tightrope walkers, seeing who can walk the longest without slipping off, when Kyle shouts hey look, jumps off the track and breaks into a run, down through the long grass, toward the trees. Amy and I follow, like always. Kyle has a sixth sense for good stuff, for things our parents don’t want us getting into.

            This time he’s found an abandoned car half-buried in tall grass. It was maybe green once but now it’s pretty much rust brown all over. I think it looks like a big brown turd shit by a giant rusty robot, but I don’t say that because it probably qualifies as stupid or gay in Kyle’s book. Most of the car’s windows are busted and gone. A couple of the doors too. The tires flat or missing, the seats split open, the yellow stuffing inside bulging out like giant bug guts.

            Kyle gets to the driver’s door before me, wrenches it open and slides in behind the wheel.

            I hesitate, annoyed that he’s beaten me to it. Again. That’s how it’s been all summer, and from the stories Kyle tells us about the things he did in his old town, he’s beaten me to pretty much everything else. He says he’s driven his dad’s truck lots of times. He says he’s smoked pot, and he drinks booze all the time at home and his parents don’t give a shit. He says he did it with a girl once. That last one he told me when Amy wasn’t there.

            So here we are again, Kyle ahead of me. I’m about to walk away as if I couldn’t care less about this piece-of-crap car, then Amy jumps in beside Kyle.

            I stand there, then I climb into the back seat.

            It smells funny in the car. Not bad, exactly. Just ... funny. Like cinnamon sprinkled over musty old clothes.

            Amy’s in the front seat with Kyle.

            “We’re the Mom and Dad and you’re the kid,” Kyle says to me over his shoulder. “So fasten your seatbelt and shut the fuck up.”

            We pretend we’re on vacation. We bounce up and down on the creaking seats. We point out the windows and ooh and ahh at imaginary sights like stupid tourists. Really hamming it up. Gosh, honey, this sure is a fun trip! Holy crap, is that the Eiffel Tower?  I thought I told you to go before we left!

            Then Kyle pretends he’s driving drunk, slurring his words and lolling his head around, and Amy pretends to be angry at him.

            “Pull over this instant! Do you hear me?”

            “I’m the boss of this family, woman, and I’ll do whatever I feel like. So shut your stupid fat ass.”

            Kyle sounds like he really means it, but Amy laughs anyhow. When it’s my turn I make some whiny annoying little kid noises that make them both chuckle a little, but my heart isn’t in it and I give up pretty quickly. It’s risky to bail on Kyle’s ideas before he’s done with them—he calls me a pussy and a faggot whenever I do, in front of Amy—but this time it’s okay because Kyle is really into playing the Dad and he doesn’t notice. Now he roars that he’s goddamn sick of this useless family and he’s going to drive us all off a cliff. We plead and shriek.

            Then Amy shrieks for real.

            “A bee!”

            There’s a bee in the car.

            “A bee!”


            “Where is it? Where is it?”

            We scream and duck and laugh. The scared kind of laughter. The bee buzzes around our heads, bumps against the roof, frantic, then it zips out one of the broken windows and it’s gone.

            “Ohhhh thank God,” Amy breathes, and she leans her head against Kyle’s arm. She’s never done that before and I want her to still be playing the Mom, but I know she isn’t. They’re just sitting there like that, not saying anything.

            And now it’s like I’m not here. I’m somewhere else watching a TV show and in the show, it’s Kyle and Amy by themselves in the front seat, going somewhere without me. I sit and watch them like they’re really driving away and leaving me behind, but I’m the one getting smaller.

            “Wait,” Kyle says, sitting up suddenly. “Listen.”

            There’s a humming from somewhere. It’s muffled, not loud, but I know what it is: that big angry sound made by a whole swarm.

            Kyle and Amy look around.

            “What the hell is that?” Kyle says.

            “Where’s it coming from?” Amy says.

            I know what Kyle’s going to do even before he reaches in front of Amy to lift the latch of the glove compartment. There’s enough time to stop him with a shout, then I remember they’ve already driven away, and I’m not here.

Thomas Wharton 

Thomas Wharton is a Canadian writer of fiction for adults and younger readers. His first novel, Icefields, won the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for Best First Book, Canada/Caribbean division. A collection of short fiction, The Logogryph, was shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. His most recent book is a story for children, Rutherford the Time-Travelling Moose. His work has been published in the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and other countries.


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