a short story by me
Dad took me driving for the first time the day after I got my license. I was thrilled by the simple action of turning the key in the ignition, though I’d done it plenty of times before. I suppose it was different that time only because of the shiny new piece of plastic that said I was now a perfectly legal driver. That license meant a sort of freedom I was only too happy to oblige. Now, with Dad in the passenger seat next to me, I backed out of the driveway and followed the directions he gave me.
Here’s where things get interesting. You know how your parents sometimes take you driving in a small town on your first go, or out in the country? That way, there’s no pressure on hitting other cars or peoples’ pets or people themselves. You can focus on the act of driving: pressing the pedals, turning the wheel, keeping an eye on your mirrors.
For my first time driving with my license, Dad took me to downtown Kansas City.
If you’ve never been to downtown Kansas City, let me give you a mental tour: there are buildings, there are streets, there are gangs, and there are pimps. After nine PM, you’ll see a lot those last two. I’m not kidding; go see for yourself sometime.
Anyway, we’re driving around, I’m stressing out a little, and it’s getting dark. You can tell, because all the whores and crack dealers start coming out to get to business. I sneak a look over at my dad and he’s just leaning back, the picture of ease. Just as I begin to entertain the thought of asking him if I can just turn around and get us back home, he sits up straight, a devious gleam in his eyes.
For the record, I knew something was up right then. I just didn‘t know if I should even try to do anything about it. Too bad I didn’t.
“Kyle,” Dad says, looking across me out my window. “Stop here.”
So I stop, pulling over a bit to get out of the way of oncoming traffic. I let out a breath, steel myself, grip the wheel, and turn my head to the left. As it so happens, my dad had told me to stop next to a bar. A biker bar, by the looks of it. With tough bikers. Like, those huge dudes with a million tattoos of skulls and hearts with MOM written in them. And they’re all sitting there talking about their Harleys and all the beer they’ve drunk.
I turn my head back around. Dad looks at me. “Kyle…are you ready for this?” I start to shake my head no, I am definitely not ready for what he’s about to do to me, whatever it is, but he reaches across me and rolls down my window. He takes a deep breath… and then he yells at the top of his lungs: “HARLEYS ARE FOR FUCKING FAGGOTS!”
His head whips around to me and he yells in my face “Drive!” before he drops back in his seat and I step on the gas. In my rearview I can see we’re already being followed by six huge guys on bikes (Harleys, of course.) and I can tell, even in the mirror, that they’re pissed.
So I’m going fucking ninety in downtown Kansas City, trying to outrun a bunch of pissed bikers, with my dad grinning like a maniac in the passenger seat. If I pass a cop, they’re going to think the both of us are high.
I drive like a lunatic for who knows how long, trying to make sure I don’t get ripped apart by raging bikers while I consider throwing open Dad’s door and letting him fall out. That way, the bikers might get preoccupied with him and I have a chance to get home alive.
I don’t do that (though I’m still thinking about it) and I finally stop the car three miles out of town. I feel like I’m having a heart attack as I unlock my door and practically fall out into the road. Dad comes around the front of the car and lays a hand on my shoulder as if he is about to part with some ancient wisdom. He says “Kyle, I hope you learned a lesson.”
I explode. “WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU TRYING TO TEACH ME?!”
His grin returns, all seriousness gone from his face. “Don’t let assholes into your car, son.”