Rainy Ride Home

She was drunk again. My brother and I both loved the beach but usually not the ride home.  Tahiti Beach was a small private beach with a canteen, a small lagoon and Mom’s friends were regulars. After 10 minutes at the beach, the rest of the day was spent in little boy heaven.  Exploring the tidal pools next to the beach.  We discovered horseshoe and fiddler crabs, leopard rays, tiny Sargasso shrimp, … The creatures from the shallows fascinated us, as our mom drank beer, sunning with her friends until it was time to go. It was an exhausting sunburnt day for all of us. The rain came down hard as we left the beach. On the way home, Mom steered our little blue Corvair across the busy intersection into the 7-11 parking lot. Pat and I waited while she when inside.

An old Desoto, like my grandpa’s car pulled up next to us. Grandpa’s car gleamed. This one was dented and rusty all over. A big man dashed inside.  A boy, my brother Pat’s age, moved into the driver’s seat. He was bouncing in the seat turning the wheel pretending to drive. He saw me and waved.  An even younger girl crawled over him to see who was outside. I could see her blonde pigtails.  When he pushed her back the fight started.  As they were fighting, one of them must have done something, as the Dodge slowly left the curb, rolling back.

The big man and my mom were talking by the cash register. Mom talks to everyone when she is drinking. The big old Desoto was creeping slowly towards the intersection. I honked the Corvair’s horn, hoping my mom or someone would hear it. But I could barely hear its sad little squawk over the rain. Now, I had to look over my shoulder to see the big car, a car length behind us. There was movement in Dodge but I could not make out what they were doing.  Time seemed to move slowly…

Inside, Mom and the man kept talking.  If the Desoto kept rolling, it would get smashed in the busy intersection. I didn’t know what to do! I honked the stupid horn some more and pounded on my window. All that did was wake up Pat in the back seat.  Frightened by all my noise, Pat joined in as I started to yell, “Mom!” … hoping she could hear.  Finally realizing what I was shouting about, Pat began to cry, and I made up my mind.

I opened my car door and ran back to the Desoto.   I yelled, “Move!!” as I opened their door. They stopped fighting and moved to the other side of the big seat. I jumped up into the driver’s seat and slammed my foot down on the clutch.  Nothing happened!!  Through the open doors, I could hear my brother Pat, screaming now, “Mom!” and then “Come back!”.  But we kept rolling back.

It seemed like forever since I jumped into the downpour before I finally stopped the Desoto.  The old car’s horn sounded as loud as diesel truck, compared to our horn. My mother and the man both looked up, surprised by the sound and sight of the honking car stopped at the edge of the road. They started to run.

The man got to me first. “What are you doing in my car, boy?!” His kids were crying next to me.  Still terrified, I blurted, “Your car was rolling back. I tried to call you but you couldn’t hear. I had to do something!” Only then did the man notice that I was standing with both feet on the brake petal. He reached in and pulled the parking brake all the way out. I jumped at the ratchet sound it made. “I don’t know what to say son. Thank you for helping us. Now, climb on out of there and let me move this thing back into its proper place before we get hit.” He smiled, stepped back and I got out of the car. 

Mom was mad.  Not at me but still mad. She had slipped running in her flip flops.  She had a skinned knee and her beach cover up was filthy. No one said a word, as we returned to our car. The man and his kids watched us, standing together at the door to 7-11. They waved.  Tires screeched and cars honked, as Mom pulled out without looking.